MS. REBECCA SHEIR
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
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
Do you know which direction is the National History -- Museum of History?
MR. DAVID SCHULTZ
The National History Museum?
Yeah. That's this side or this side?
And David joins us in the studio now. Hi, David.
Hey, how's it going?
Fantastically well, thanks. So, okay, you went out and spoke with tourists about what they think of Metro.
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
It's pretty good. It's fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1
I like it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #3
They tell you when the train's coming.
I like the idea of not having to park, not having to drive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #4
Very nice, very nice.
And it's very comfortable inside. It doesn't smell or anything like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #5
Much better than the New York City subways.
David, it doesn't sound so nightmarish to me.
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
Lovely. I love the Metro.
Wish we had it, wish we had.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.?
Well, yeah. I was telling him already, I wish they would have the boards that tell you when the train's coming.
So this kind of like raises your standards, you know.
Got to say, I'm sensing a trend here, David.
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.
So Metro is pretty influential in that sense then, yeah?
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
But his press secretary rejected me, saying, and I quote, "People in Duluth don't care about Metro."
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.
You're welcome and big ups to those Duluthers.
We'll look it up.
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