What could it be like?

For those of you (and there are many) not fortunate enough to visit Washington, DC and ride the Metro, here’s what you’re missing.

Granted, it doesn’t go everywhere like the NYC subway does.  And you have to pay based on how far you ride.  Otherwise, the Metro is beautiful.

Just look in this video at things like the platform that lights up and blinks when a train is arriving.  The clean stations.  The clean trains.

I’m just saying.  We should demand better for New York.

Feel free to link to other nice subway videos in the comments.  We’d love to see them.

13 thoughts on “What could it be like?

  1. I used to live in Virginia at the end of the metro line before moving here to New York, and I have to say that I’ve often wondered why New York can’t seem to get it together. That cleanliness you speak of? My friends and I (being in high school at the time) often sat on the floor in the station – without fear of catching some exotic disease. Granted, we sat because the wait times between trains was often substantial during non-rush hours, and the trains are so clean because you’re not allowed to bring any food or drink at all – not even water, I kid you not, on them. However, every station is equipped with those flashing platform lights, and most even have digital signs to let you know how long it will be until the next train appears – oh and I haven’t ever seen a metro station that didn’t have escalators. Now, of course, the metro system has it’s huge flaws too – delays, cost, and the limited service area being the biggest downfall – but if you’ll notice, the trains and station are also not wallpapered with advertising. It’s definitely interesting to see all the differences. I’d love to see how other major cities stack up!


  2. It easy to keep things clean when they are closed for half the night. The 24 hour operation is what makes the NYC subway great, and also tough to manage.


  3. having large federal subsidies, less track and 8 hours of nightly downtime makes it a lot easier. i’m not saying NYC Subways can’t be improved. but looking for ideas in DC isn’t the way to go.


  4. I was just in DC a few weeks ago and I thought the exact same thing… their system is so clean and awesome. The stations are cavernous, and the platforms are nearly spotless — barely any garbage on the tracks. My friends told me that is due to a rule that does not allow food or drinks on the trains or in the stations… I wouldn’t mind that in NYC, because in my opinion the subways are so dirty that I almost never eat anything if I am taking transit somewhere. It’s just gross to put your hands all over the train or in the station, and then pull out some food to eat. Maybe the NYPD/MTA should enact no food/drink rules for our system as well? That would help keep things clean at least…

    DC also has electronic signs that update riders with the wait for their next train. Now I know that NYC subways and buses operate 24 hours a day, but seriously why can’t the MTA get electronic signs to tell us when the next subways and buses are due to arrive? The pilot program on the L Train has been in progress forever… how about a full system rollout sometime in the next 5 years? If it’s a cost thing, I would happily welcome as much advertising as possible in every subway station in the system to pay for that feature…


  5. Let’s not beat around the bush here either. The Metro is nice to look at, but as as serviceable subway system, it sucks. It doesn’t cover large swaths of the city; it takes forever; it has some serious serious flaws. I lived in DC for 10 months, and the Metro and I are enemies.

    But in terms of New York, the reason DC’s Metro is so clean is because they put the onus on the passengers to keep it that way. They ticket people who bring food or open beverage containers into the system, and while they’ve taken PR lumps for it, it’s worked. If New Yorkers took a little more responsibility for their trash and if the city was willing to institute and enforce littering fines, things would improve in the subways.


  6. @Kate: Yeah the clean factor is definitely a huge plus, and so is the modern technology. The lack of ads is also pretty interesting.

    @JC Frank: Agreed. But they also do a better job of cleaning it. And the not allowing food helps.

    @liamaa: Yeah in this case though, I’m not looking at the service itself. It’s not even a question that the 24 hour service, more lines, shorter waits, etc is better in NYC. I’m more talking about the stations, equipment, and technology…and the less grime.

    @JEF: Yeah I think you can compare. It’s ok that the subway here is over 100 years old, but if you haven’t made significant improvements over the 100 years, that’s not saying much. Sure, trains have been updated. But I’m talking about things like foot long paint chips falling off the ceilings. Tracks flooding with water. The fact that they cant figure out how to put LED message boards on the platforms to tell you when the trains are coming. Stuff like that can be upgrades made to a 100 year old system.

    @Benjamin Kabak: Yeah, I’ll refer to my previous comments here. I agree with you about taking personal responsibility.

    If only there were a way to combine the best of both. (The broad geographical reach, 24 hour service, and cheap fare of the NYC Subway with the cleanliness, better technology, nicer experience of the DC Metro.)


  7. I’ve lived in DC, and I wouldn’t trade the MTA for DC Metro. There are only like 5 lines in DC, and there are many, many places that the metro just doesn’t go. On top of that, it closes at night. Which means no homeless people living down there, and a solid few hours of empty stations and trains for clean up. It also means you’re easily stranded at night, and forced to pay for a cab.


  8. What 24 hour service? Is that with or without ‘Service Changes”?
    What broad geographic reach? Is that with or without ‘Service Changes”?
    The subway is a decrepit sewer with trains running through it.


  9. I’ll add a few pluses the DC Metro has that nobody mentioned. Smartrip (you don’t need to slide the card through the slot and fight with the turnstyle, you tap your wallet on the sensor and walk through.)

    Smartbenefits . (This means as a Federal employee, my commuting cost is paid by the government, many private employers participate too.)

    Not only the trains are air conditioned, the stations are too.

    By the end of 2009 the 20 busiest stations will have 3G cell phone service by 2012 it will be available everywhere in the system. link .

    National Airport is directly attached to the Metro system, with the Silver line (which is now a done-deal) Dulles will be directly attached by 2015. That will put a fire under Maryland DOT to extend the Green line from Greenbelt to BWI airport as well.

    I’ve never gotten the objection to distance-based pricing (and my friends from New York all think it’s evil when they visit DC). Metrorail runs through three different jurisdictions, MD, VA and DC, all of them pay into the system, since all of them are independent it makes sense that DC would resist a one-fair system because that would be a huge hand-out to residents of MD and VA from District residents who make shorter trips but would pay the same. As it is, people from MD and VA pay more because they travel farther. (On the subject, the 2$ fare is actually a huge subsidy that Manhattanites are paying to the bridge and tunnel crowd, I can’t see why they put up with it.)


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