Saturday, July 22, 2006

Riding the rails

Because of the high cost of gasoline, I (and a few thousand of my closest friends) have begun riding the DC Metro (subway) part of the way to work when I'm on the 2-10 PM shift. Unlike the joke that is the Baltimore Metro, DC's subway is actually a pretty good one, serving many parts of the city and suburbs. And after 30 years, it's still fairly clean; I feel like I have to bathe after using Chicago's subways.

Some random thoughts:

  • The fares, all told, aren't too bad. What nails me, however, is the $4 per day to park (there's no charge to park where I work, but there's so little available during weekdays). Oh, and by the way, to get out of a station during a weekday which isn't a holiday, you must buy a DumbSmarTrip Card to let you out of the lot, which costs an additional $5. To me, that makes no sense at all for tourists and occasional riders who come to the parking lot exit and find no cashiers. The cashiers and the contractor that provided them were let go after millions in parking fees were unaccounted for, and possibly stolen.
  • It's becoming increasingly difficult to find parking at Metro lots. Some days, every lot can be filled from Shady Grove (the stop closest to where I live) all the way into the Capital Beltway. (Pssst. Here's a list of Metro lots that usually don't fill up.)
  • It seems like another requirement to ride Metro is that you must have an iPod. Best I can muster is my minidisc player.
  • The stop near where I work just opened last year, but already one of the escalators isn't working. And I reckon there are very few stations where the escalators are all running at the same time.
  • I do like that you can see how long it'll be until the next train comes. When I get off at night, however, if I miss one train, the next may not come for another 20 minutes.
  • The downside? Metro lengthens my commute. I usually have to allow two hours from when I leave my house to when I arrive at work, just to be on the safe side. If traffic isn't a factor, I can drive to work in an hour. And that's why I think lengthening Metro out to my town wouldn't be beneficial; the ride would simply be WAY too long. Besides, the commuter train (not an option for me) doesn't have enough riders as it is; that's about a 90-minute commute IF the temperatures aren't too hot.