Does the future of Houston's Metro = the current reality at DC's Metro?I'll open by saying I was a mild supporter of the Main St. light rail line, and mostly neutral on the expansion plan (it has its pluses and minuses) - but nightmare articles like the one below bring serious pause. It's all too easy to imagine Houston Metro in the same place in 15 years...
washingtonpost.com - OFF THE RAILS
Efforts to Repair Aging System Compound Metro's Problems
By Lyndsey Layton and Jo Becker, Washington Post Staff Writers
Washington's world-class subway system, which for three decades has shaped the metropolitan region and delivered thousands of commuters to work on time, has fallen into a decline -- and mismanagement has been a key factor, records show. Trains break down 64 percent more often than they did three years ago, and the number of daily delays has nearly doubled since 2000. Although the vast majority of trains are on time, more than 14,400 subway riders a day are inconvenienced by a delay or a mechanical problem that forces them off broken trains.
Metro officials have spent nearly $1 billion in recent years to turn around the nation's second busiest subway system, but internal records show that the projects have created new problems. To ease chronic crowding, Metro purchased 192 rail cars at a cost of $383 million. But the agency tried to rush the cars through production and often missed mistakes made on the assembly line. And on average, the new cars need major repairs almost as often as the oldest ones in the fleet.
Metro is spending an additional $382 million to rebuild rail cars bought in the 1980s. Officials failed to closely monitor the repair work, didn't catch mistakes and ignored warnings from auditors about the lack of supervision. The refurbished cars are now breaking down far more often than those that haven't been overhauled.
And a $93 million project to renovate 178 escalators has managed to make many of them worse. More than a third have been breaking down more often than they did before, a Washington Post analysis of Metro statistics shows. The project follows a failed attempt, also costing millions, to improve the aging machinery.
The article goes on into great depth on management problems at DC Metro, and this is just the first of a four article series. Here's the summary of the future articles:
Quite the depressing and scary litany. It's really hard to have good management at a public agency, and transit is a seriously complicated and expensive business with billions of dollars at stake, especially rail transit. Amtrak's a mess. DC's a mess. NY, Chicago, SF/San Jose, and LA all have serious problems with their transit agencies. What makes us think Houston Metro can buck this trend?
Washington's world-class subway has fallen into decline, and nearly $1 billion spent on projects to upgrade the system has not improved service.
As the number of derailments, rail breaks and other safety concerns on Metro has risen sharply, records show that many incidents could have been prevented if managers had heeded warnings from experts and employees.
MetroAccess, the transportation program for the disabled, has been plagued by poor service, rising costs and dishonest drivers and riders.
Even as Metro officials complain about tight finances, they continue to spend millions on projects that have little to do with the core mission of transporting customers.