From A To B: Riding Metro With New Eyes (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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From A to B: Riding Metro With New Eyes

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:22:33
Hey everyone, welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rebecca Sheir. And to kick things off on this part of the show, why don't we go to our weekly transportation segment from "A to B?"

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:22:55
And to get from "A to B," many of us here in the D.C. region use Metro, every week, every day, maybe a whole handful of times every day. And as we know, Metro is often in the news, quite often in fact. But because we're constantly going up and down those escalators, dashing from train to train, because we're on the inside, sometimes it can be a little difficult to get perspective on the state of our local transit system. Today, on "Metro Connection," we're talking, of course, about visitors so we decided to send WAMU transportation reporter, David Schultz, to find some visitors, people who'd be riding Metro and looking at it with fresh eyes. He found a few of these people just outside the Smithsonian Metro Station right on the National Mall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

13:23:41
Do you know which direction is the National History -- Museum of History?

MR. DAVID SCHULTZ

13:23:44
The National History Museum?

#1

13:23:45
Yeah. That's this side or this side?

SHEIR

13:23:47
And David joins us in the studio now. Hi, David.

SCHULTZ

13:23:49
Hey, how's it going?

SHEIR

13:23:51
Fantastically well, thanks. So, okay, you went out and spoke with tourists about what they think of Metro.

SCHULTZ

13:23:57
Yeah, I mean, living here in D.C., we hear so much about what goes wrong in Metro, from delays and adages to broken escalators to crime and on and on. At times, it can be difficult for even the most seasoned commuters to navigate the system and I wanted to see how D.C.'s tourists deal with this so I set up shop at the exit to the Smithsonian station. I wanted to get people as they were leaving the station, maybe get them to recount their nightmarish Metro experiences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #2

13:24:21
It's pretty good. It's fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1

13:24:22
I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #3

13:24:23
They tell you when the train's coming.

#1

13:24:24
I like the idea of not having to park, not having to drive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #4

13:24:26
Very nice, very nice.

#3

13:24:28
And it's very comfortable inside. It doesn't smell or anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #5

13:24:31
Much better than the New York City subways.

SHEIR

13:24:34
David, it doesn't sound so nightmarish to me.

SCHULTZ

13:24:37
Yeah, yeah, so much for that theory. The tourists I spoke with didn't just like Metro, they loved it. So have you guys taken Metro while you've been here?

MS. ANNIE JERSICK

13:24:44
Lovely. I love the Metro.

SCHULTZ

13:24:46
Really, you...

JERSICK

13:24:46
Wish we had it, wish we had.

SCHULTZ

13:24:48
That's Annie Jersick (sp?), she came to D.C. for a long weekend vacation from Milwaukee, WI. She says funding for transit was recently cut in her state and she's not happy about that, especially now that she's using Metro here.

JERSICK

13:24:59
Well, I think it's great that mass transportation is there and that we just moved a whole bunch of people in one train. So I think it's absolutely wonderful. Quick and it's great.

SCHULTZ

13:25:08
In the past few months, there have been a lot of weekend delays on Metro for track maintenance projects. But for Divia (sp?) Johnson, the delays are relative.

MS. DIVIA JOHNSON

13:25:14
We've been waiting about 10 minutes at each station we stopped. That seemed normal to me because in Boston, I've waited up to 30 minutes for a train to come.

SCHULTZ

13:25:22
Johnson is visiting her brother here in D.C. As she mentioned, she's from Boston where the transit system is called the T. Johnson says, compared to The T, Metro's trains are spotless.

JOHNSON

13:25:31
Depending on what train you're in on the Boston T, you have to be very careful because it's smelly and dank and stuff.

SCHULTZ

13:25:37
Are you going to ride the T differently and say, you know, I wish they could be, you know, be as good as Metro in D.C.?

JOHNSON

13:25:42
Well, yeah. I was telling him already, I wish they would have the boards that tell you when the train's coming.

SCHULTZ

13:25:47
So this kind of like raises your standards, you know.

SHEIR

13:25:48
Yeah, definitely.

SHEIR

13:25:50
Got to say, I'm sensing a trend here, David.

SCHULTZ

13:25:52
Yeah, a lot of people I spoke with said they wished their hometowns had a transit system like ours. That's one of the unique aspects of Metro. It plays a big role in the ongoing national debate over public transportation. Because people from all over the country ride Metro when they're here and that goes a long way towards shaping their opinions about whether we should or shouldn't prioritize mass transit.

SHEIR

13:26:11
So Metro is pretty influential in that sense then, yeah?

SCHULTZ

13:26:14
Yeah, definitely. But it's not just tourists whose opinions are shaped by Metro, there's another group of visitors to D.C. whose opinions also matter quite a bit, members of Congress.

MR. CHARLES GONZALEZ

13:26:23
I would say I use the Metro approximately once a week and the reason for that is that I don't really venture off the hill very much.

SCHULTZ

13:26:32
Charles Gonzalez is a democratic member of the House of Representatives. He's from San Antonio, TX, where the transit options are a little different.

GONZALEZ

13:26:39
No, I'm just been a big fan of Metro for many, many years. Obviously, I'm not a citizen of the District and such, but I've lived here long enough to appreciate the value of having this kind of public transportation available.

SHEIR

13:26:53
Okay, so Gonzalez sounds happy as a clam about Metro. But what about his colleagues? I mean, you talked about all those problems with Metro before, right, the track maintenance, the delays, is everyone in Congress as, you know, jazzed as Gonzalez is?

SCHULTZ

13:27:06
Well, I have to say, I don't think many of them have an opinion one way or another. And I spoke with dozens of congressional staffers for this story and most said their bosses never ride Metro. When they're in town, which isn't very often, they tend to stay within walking distance of Capitol Hill. Now, some congressmen won't even discuss Metro. I requested an interview for this story with Chip Cravaack, a freshman republican from Minnesota who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

SCHULTZ

13:27:30
But his press secretary rejected me, saying, and I quote, "People in Duluth don't care about Metro."

SHEIR

13:27:37
Fair enough, fair enough. But if we have any podcasts listeners out there in Duluth and you're tuning in right now, let me just say, we here at Metro Connection certainly do care about you. David Schultz is WAMU's transportation reporter. You can hear him on the show each and every week when he takes us "From A to B." Thanks so much David.

SCHULTZ

13:27:59
You're welcome and big ups to those Duluthers.

SHEIR

13:28:03
Duluthians?

SCHULTZ

13:28:03
Duluthe?

SHEIR

13:28:04
Duluth-ites.

SCHULTZ

13:28:05
Duluth-ites.

SHEIR

13:28:06
We'll look it up.

SCHULTZ

13:28:06
Yeah.

SHEIR

13:28:07
Okay.
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