Normal Situation Leads To Abnormal Chaos

12 01 2010

For a while now, the DC Metro has been sticking to its inconvenient, shorter six-car trains during rush hour, instead of the longer, more accommodating eight-car trains. This shouldn’t be news for anyone who frequents Washington’s ever-troubled underground public transportation system. However, yesterday it seemed like everyone on the Gallery Place/Chinatown Red Line platform in the direction of Shady Grove; had no idea how the DC Metro has been operating as of late.

Let me give you some background as to what six-car trains during rush hour means. It means that no longer do the normal eight-car length filling up the entire length of the platform. The trains with two cars less, end about a third shorter the entire platform distance. From a passenger’s viewpoint, this means more hustle to get on the train if you are coming from the direction of the rear of the train. In such a situation, everyone rushing from the train’s rear direction all crowd into the last car, since it is the closest in proximity, and thus assures passengers get onto the train in the limited time slot allotted when a train enters a station.

Yesterday evening around 6 PM, the Metro platform for the Red Line towards Shady Grove at Gallery Place/Chinatown experienced complete and total chaos due to the normal six-car rush hour situation. I don’t know why yesterday was especially bad, but it was insane.  Six-car trains kept coming to the platform, and instead of the enormous overflowing horde of people moving all the way down to the front end of the platform to make room for everyone, those coming to the train (basically everyone was approaching the train from the rear end) all scrambled to get onto the caboose car of the train. Well thanks, people, that was no help.

This caused the massive crowd of people at the rear of the platform to just bunch up like a broken Slinky and cram together, barely moving forward. I couldn’t really see from the mosh pit I had become a part of, but I could imagine that those trying to exit the train at this point, had quite a difficult time getting off the train without a) being trampled by the entering crowd and b) falling off the platform onto the train tracks.

After two trains had come and left the platform, and my jammed mosh pit barely moving at the pace of a slug, I decided that there had to be another way of getting on a train without having to leave the station. As I squeezed my way out of the crowd, I  heard some frustrated people say how they were just going to take a taxi instead of deal with this inane chaos.

I made my way up to the above Verizon Center exit to get a glimpse of the insane crowding situation. I discovered a much smarter path to the trains I had been trying to get on. I crossed over to the platform for trains going in the direction of Glenmont. As I walked along the near-empty Glenmont platform, I watched another Shady Grove train come and more insanity ensuing. There was a lowly Metro guard barking at the crowd to move all the way down the platform, to which there was basically no response from the crowd. When I got to the end, I crossed back over to the Shady Grove side, took an escalator down, and viola! I had safely gotten to a magically empty part of the Shady Grove platform safely and in a pretty mellow fashion.

I wish people were not so narrow-minded when taking the Metro. It did not take much time or creativity to simply walk the length of the opposite platform to the other end and then cross back over to the Shady Grove side. If more people did that, there would be far less crowding for one narrow platform. Come on, people!

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