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A principal has egg on her face…

June 14, 2016, 6:10 AM

As someone who was on the receiving end of some pretty unfair punishments in school, and having witnessed school officials blatantly flout the rules on a number of occasions, it’s good to see someone get called out for a punishment that’s out of step with policy.  This was the culmination of a controversy regarding several students’ drinking alcohol on prom night at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School‘s senior prom, and the reversal of a decision that would have prevented them from attending their high school graduation.

The situation, as I understand it based on a Bethesda Magazine article and a Washington Post article, began with a policy set at the school level regarding consequences for students’ showing up for prom while impaired by alcohol or other various substances, or becoming impaired by the same over the course of the evening, encompassing the prom itself as well as the official after-prom party.  The school’s policy was that anyone who either was caught drinking at prom-related activities, or showed up to same already drunk, would not be allowed to walk at the school’s June 1 graduation at DAR Constitution Hall.  This is supported by a prom guest application document from the school’s website, where the relevant section, near the bottom of the second page, reads:

Students and/or guests who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, inhalants, illegal drugs or controlled substances will not be admitted to Prom or After Prom.  Students attending Prom or After Prom who show signs of being under the influence of such substances, or who are found to be in possession of such substances during either event, will be subjected to the consequences set forth in the B-CC Student Handbook, and their parents will be notified.  If the student is part of an athletic team or other school-sponsored activity, the coach/sponsor will be notified as well.  Note that any senior who is determined to be under the influence or in possession of such substances when arriving at or during the course of Prom or After Prom will not participate in the on-stage distribution of diplomas at B-CC’s graduation ceremony.

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This is a problem where the biggest step towards a solution is not police, but signage and paint…

March 12, 2013, 10:16 PM

According to an article on Patch.com, since January 22, four pedestrians and one cyclist have died in collisions with cars in the eastern part of Montgomery County.  The cyclist was struck in downtown Silver Spring.  The pedestrian fatalities all occurred outside the Beltway.  One involved a woman’s being struck while on the sidewalk, and the other three were struck and killed while attempting to cross major arterial roads in the county – specifically, Columbia Pike (US 29), Connecticut Avenue (MD 185), and Georgia Avenue (MD 97).  Ken Silverman, an analyst for county councilwoman Nancy Navarro, created a map showing the location of the accidents.

Now in looking at all of this, I latched onto the fatalities related to crossing the arterials.  I am on each side of the pedestrian-driver coin in Montgomery County at various times, and so I am familiar with both driving around pedestrians, and walking around cars.  I have also crossed Georgia Avenue on foot many times.  In these instances, the Columbia Pike incident happened in the southbound lanes at the intersection with Oak Leaf Drive in White Oak.  The Connecticut Avenue incident happened at the intersection with Everton Street, in the Wheaton area.  The Georgia Avenue incident occurred at the intersection with Heathfield Road in Aspen Hill.  I looked at these areas, and there are some common factors in all of them:

  • All three incidents occurred after dark
  • All three incidents occurred at unmarked crosswalks (any intersection is considered a legal crosswalk in Maryland whether it’s marked or not)
  • The main roadway in all three locations is a six-lane divided highway with three lanes on each side
  • There are bus stops on both sides of the road at all three locations
  • There is street lighting on the side of the road where the incidents occurred (Columbia Pike and Georgia Avenue have lighting on only one side in these areas, and Connecticut Avenue has lighting on both sides)

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“Where is this train going?” takes on new significance with Rush+…

December 18, 2012, 9:37 AM

So in reading the Express this morning, I looked at Dr. Gridlock’s column on the DC Rider page. There were three questions: two about escalators, and one about destination signs at Franconia-Springfield.

I took issue with the answer to that third question, which went as such:

Q: I am a regular rider at Franconia-Springfield and am adjusting to most parts of Rush Plus.  However, the problem remains that trains pull into the station, turn off their destination signs, and you are left to guess whether it’s a Blue or Yellow Line train until about 30-45 seconds before they close the doors.  It’s particularly frustrating when it is cold outside and there are two trains waiting with their doors open.  Is there any way to persuade Metro to leave the direction signs lit?

A: I don’t see a good reason a train operator would need to turn off the destination signs, unless just maybe Metro isn’t sure where to send the train till the last minute.  What I’m thinking of here is that the operations center monitors the crowding on the platforms and could alter a train’s route – though unlikely.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

What “SPECIAL” really means…

October 3, 2012, 12:14 AM

This morning as I was taking the Red Line to work and reading the Express, I read the DC Rider section, as I usually do.  Today, they ran a rider Q&A with Dr. Gridlock.  One of the questions that was posed was about Metro’s destination signage, which I quote here along with Dr. Gridlock’s answer:

Q: Why doesn’t Metro label trains during their weekend shutdowns?  Several times this weekend on the Green Line, I saw passengers confused by trains that were only labeled “Special” with no color line identified on the front.  One lady rushed off a train at L’Enfant Plaza because she thought it was a Yellow Line train, and another guy was about to try to transfer because he didn’t know the train was going to Congress Heights.

Dr. Gridlock: I don’t see any good coming from labeling trains “Special.”  When Rush Plus began, Metro officials made such a big deal out of telling everyone to watch the destination signs.

I have a few concerns with this response.  First off, the response mixes up regular service with temporary service changes for track work.  Metro’s Rush+ is the regular service pattern during the hours that it is in operation, and comes with certain things like programming in destination sign information for the regular terminals if need be, maps, and permanent signage.  Service changes for track work are only in effect for a weekend, and thus what Metro has at its disposal is different, and it’s not always feasible to make things look like they do in regular service for weekend service changes.  Second, they leave PIDS completely out of the equation in the response.  And last, there seems to be a lack of understanding on both parties’ part about what makes Metro pull out that “SPECIAL” destination sign in the first place.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

I didn’t want to have this I-told-you-so moment, but…

July 18, 2012, 8:53 PM

You know, I really didn’t want to have the I-told-you-so moment that I had today.  But when it comes to Ride On in Montgomery County and those Navistar Champion cutaway vans, well, I called it right.

First of all, I am talking about these Ride On “buses”:

Ride On Navistar Champion cutaway, bus 5210

Yes, the cutaways.  What’s happened is that today, after yet another fire involving the Champions (bus 5208 in this case), County Executive Ike Leggett announced in a statement that the Champion cutaway vans would be immediately withdrawn from service – permanently.  This supersedes earlier plans to phase out the Champions over 18 months.

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As the snow stops, here’s what we’ve got…

December 20, 2009, 6:44 AM

Well, it looks like the snowfall is over. The snow has stopped, and the folks at Capital Weather Gang say that clouds will decrease during the day. Meanwhile, we’re pretty much buried in the white stuff, and here’s the proof:

My car has a foot or so of snow on top of it. That snow is expected to stay on there until at least some time tomorrow, because there's no way in hell I'm going anywhere today.
My car has a foot or so of snow on top of it. That snow is expected to stay on there until at least some time tomorrow, because there’s no way in hell I’m going anywhere today.

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I’m surprised that this made it through…

December 14, 2009, 7:48 PM

A friend recently referred me to a Dr. Gridlock column where Les Dorr Jr. of Frederick, Maryland wrote this:

Is Metro trying to increase public confidence by renumbering the 1000-series rail cars? I ride the Red Line every workday, and recently I’ve been aboard two very old, obviously 1000-series cars that had “4000” series numbers on the end doors.

Dr. Gridlock was very cordial about this accusation being slung at Metro, saying, among other things, this:

The 4000 series of 100 cars, built by Breda, entered service in the early 1990s. The 1000 series is scheduled to be replaced beginning in 2014. But the 4000 series also is reaching an important milestone: A midlife rehabilitation needs to be done over the next few years, at a cost of more than $1.5 million per car.

If I were going to fake a number in the Metro fleet, I would have picked something higher than 4000. Still, riders would see through it: The cars are very obviously showing their age.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

After a four-hour commute, I am home.

June 22, 2009, 11:55 PM

Today was one of those days where I was glad to be home again after work. Metro had its deadliest accident in its history today, with six confirmed dead as of this writing, as two inbound Red Line trains collided between Takoma and Fort Totten stations:

June 22, 2009 Metro collision
Photo: Carole Watson (WRC)

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

My comment made the newspaper!

October 29, 2008, 8:18 PM

I can’t believe it… my comment on Express‘s poll question got published! The poll question was, “Would you object to having your bag searched by transit police before riding Metro?” 54% said that yes, they would object, and 46% said that no, they would not object.

If you read the Express today and saw the three comments that they published on page 40, you may recall that “Ellen” indicated that Transit could go ahead and search them because they have nothing to hide, “CMJR” suspected that profiling of riders will occur, and a third by “BFS” sounded very similar in tone and idea to a Journal entry that I wrote yesterday, talking about throwing money down a rathole.

“BFS”, as you might have guessed, is me, as I posted semi-anonymously, using my initials. Here’s the page, with the comment circled:

Excerpt from October 29, 2008 issue of the Express

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

So Metro throws money down a rathole once again…

October 28, 2008, 8:23 PM

According to an article in today’s issue of The Washington Post, Metro has announced that they will be doing random bag searches in response to security concerns regarding the upcoming election and presidential inauguration.

Based on what I’ve read about it, including the Post article and WMATA’s press release, what they’re going to do is set up shop in a station mezzanine or bus stop, and count off a certain number of people such as 15 (I selected this number and will use it throughout this entry), and then stop the person who happens to be that unlucky fifteenth person to search their bags. It’s kind of like an adult version of duck duck goose, except the one who is “it” has a gun. The idea is that these random searches are being conducted to search for explosives, and will take 15 seconds to complete – about as long as a train station stop lasts.

So let’s poke a few holes in this idea, shall we?

First of all, searching every fifteenth rider or whatever does NOT provide any real security. You see, for every one you inspect, you’ve let another fourteen go by. Thus you’re only inspecting roughly 7% of riders. And so when you’re letting 93% of your riders go through uninspected, all you’re doing is wasting the time of the other 7% who you are stopping.

Additionally, the 15 seconds to conduct the inspection is about as long as a train takes to make a station stop. Therefore, being pulled over for the inspection could make the difference between making your train or missing it. During the evenings when train headways start to run around 15 minutes, that makes a significant difference between making it home at a reasonable hour or not. Just thinking about my commute, if I leave outside of rush hour, I have to take the Y bus home. I’ve had to wait more than 30 minutes for Y buses at Glenmont at times, due to the poor service that Metro provides on that route. Thus for a commute that normally takes an hour, it can get stretched out another 45 minutes just having to stand around waiting for the train or bus because you missed your intended train due to their “security” inspections.

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A prostitution ring in Dupont Circle station?

July 11, 2008, 12:13 AM

That just blows my mind. Two Metro employees are accused of running a prostitution ring out of the Dupont Circle Metro station. According to the July 10, 2008 Examiner article called “Metro manager accused of prostitution agrees to life skills, education program”, station manager Sharon Waters, dubbed the “Metro Madam”, and custodian Pam Goins were accused of “arranging sexual trysts for money”, even going so far as to use the station’s PA system to “facilitate an arrangement”.

You may recall that Dupont Circle is my work station. I go through Dupont Circle station twice a day every day, and have seen both female station managers and female custodians at the station. So now I wonder if it was anyone I know, since I occasionally talk to personnel in the station, especially if I worked late and I know there won’t be a Glenmont train for a number of minutes.

Of course, the PA system part really gets me. Have you ever heard Metro station PA announcements? They’re not exactly the gold standard for clarity. In fact, most of them are downright unintelligible, particularly the ones piped in from Central Control. The announcements that originate from the station manager’s kiosk are a bit better than the ones that come from Central, but still not exactly crystal clear, especially since the primary construction material in most stations is concrete. Too many announcements sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, i.e. completely unintelligible. Maybe those hooker announcements sounded a little better, but who knows.

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I found an article for the incident on U Street

December 19, 2006, 9:06 PM

I Googled it, and indeed I did turn something up. It turns out that what was going on over by the 7-Eleven at the corner U and 12th Streets was about a 51-year-old man shooting another 51-year-old man on the street.

What gets me is that at the time the incident took place, it was broad daylight, and U Street was bustling with people. Therefore, lots of witnesses around. I think I can attest to that considering there were a lot of civilians (as in non-cops) right there. I did not witness the actual event, just to make that perfectly clear. I didn’t see the shooting, and I didn’t hear the shooting. The closest I got to the action was the 13th Street entrance to the U St/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Metro station, which was nearly a block away. Police and ambulance units were already on the scene when I came out of the station.