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“Ladies and gentlemen, I have just defeated Metro’s bag inspections.”

December 12, 2012, 10:40 PM

As summed up in this tweet, this evening’s commute was definitely a memorable one for me.  The ride itself was uneventful, but the events leading up to it demonstrated major flaws in Metro’s random bag inspection program (which has been discussed in this space in 2008 and in 2010) and proves that it will never catch anythingEver.

My evening commute got started as it usually does.  I packed up my stuff, walked over to Dupont Circle station, and went down the brand new south escalators.  Coming down the escalator, I noticed signage at the bottom that indicated that Metro was doing its random bag inspections.  That was a first – I’d never seen one of those happen in person before.  There were two Transit Police officers standing behind a table, swabbing people’s bags.  No one said anything to me.  Then as I headed toward the faregates, the female Transit Police officer standing in front of the kiosk stopped me and said that I had been selected for screening.

I was a bit surprised about that.  I figured this would be just walking by and watching as Metro unnecessarily slowed people down on their way home from work.  I never imagined that I would be the one getting chosen for extra scrutiny.  I knew that I wasn’t going to take this one lying down.  My exact words to the officer were, “I am refusing the search,” and I went back up the escalator.  According to a quote from Metro in a 2010 Washington Post article on the subject, a person who “refuses to submit their carry-on items for inspection will be prohibited from bringing those items into the station.”  Note that.  Since I refused the search, I was, based on information provided to the public, prohibited from bringing my blue work bag onto Metro, which contained an umbrella, my by-then-empty lunch container, my transit log book, a set of keys, and a few various odds and ends (mostly junk – I really need to clean out my bag).

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Categories: Commuting, Security, 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

A train ride with far more excitement than you might expect…

September 19, 2012, 9:21 PM

This is also why, when I’m traveling on a public mode of transportation, the idea is to leave early so that I can be at the boarding location in plenty of time, just in case anything goes wrong in the process.  Today was one of those days where something went wrong.  I described it as a “clusterf—“, and I think that was putting it nicely.

First of all, though, to set things up: I’m in Stuarts Draft right now, and I went there on Amtrak’s westbound Cardinal.  To get there, my plan was to take the 51 from my house to Glenmont, and then take the Red Line to Union Station. Initially, things went well.  I caught the same 51 that I usually get to go to work, and caught my Red Line train.

And then things went downhill from there.

The Red Line was having a power problem on Track 2 at Brentwood Yard.  Thus they had to single track through the yard, during morning rush hour.  Whenever you hear “single tracking” and “rush hour” in the same sentence, by the way, that’s never a good sign.  So at Glenmont, we sat for several minutes before we started the run – much longer than usual.  Then we proceeded to Wheaton and held again.  No hold at Forest Glen.  Then we held for about ten minutes each at Silver Spring and Takoma.

And then things got worse.  There was a second power problem on the Red Line at Van Ness-UDC, with single tracking over there, too.  Lovely.  By this point, Metro was telling people in the e-alerts to consider taking the Green Line.  That’s when you know it’s bad.  With two areas of single tracking, I bailed at Fort Totten and took the Green Line.

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Renovations at Union Station!

July 25, 2012, 2:16 PM

This is my traditional posted-from-Club-Acela-at-Union-Station Journal entry, because I’m going to be on a train to Chicago with my mother within the hour.  Should be fun.  However, at Union Station, I was surprised to see a lot of netting and scaffolding in the Main Hall.  Last time I was at Union Station, which was in October for the anti-Walmart demonstration, this wasn’t there.  From what I can find, this scaffolding and netting is for ceiling repairs necessitated by damage from the earthquake that happened last August.

In any event, it’s pretty neat looking, seeing all of this extra hardware in what is otherwise a very clean looking Main Hall:

Lights under the scaffolding around the statues on the west side of the Main Hall.
Lights under the scaffolding around the statues on the west side of the Main Hall.

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Categories: Amtrak, Washington DC

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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While preparation is good, I really don’t want to have to use it…

July 16, 2012, 11:19 PM

So I’m going to Chicago with Mom in a little more than a week.  Like every time we go to Chicago, we’re taking the Capitol Limited both ways, and we’re going to be taking the “L” to get around the city.  So far, it looks like it’s going to be a fun trip.

And then of course, you’re welcome to place your bets on how long it takes for a CTA employees with a chip on their shoulder to harass me about photography in the system.  Recall that last year, a CTA employee at Fullerton station made a scene about photography.  Additionally, I was harassed about it at Howard station in 2010.  I occasionally get the same crap from WMATA employees in DC, but I have learned that I can shut them down fairly easily just by standing up to them.  I have found that CTA employees are a little tougher to crack than the DC folks, but my lack of access to Chicago transit (living in the DC area and all) makes it harder to figure out what quickly shuts them down.

Now going into this, I have two things in my favor.  First, I have the official CTA photo policy from their website.  It states:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

Large cameras, photo or video equipment, or ancillary equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. are prohibited (except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA).

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from entering, photographing, or videotaping non-public areas of the CTA’s transit system.

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from impeding customer traffic flow, obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, blocking doors or stairs, and affecting the safety of CTA, its employees, or customers. All photographers and videographers must fully and immediately comply with any requests, directions, or instructions of CTA personnel related to safety concerns.

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Categories: Amtrak, CTA, Photography

Schumin Web after dark…

July 8, 2012, 7:38 PM

And apparently my life after dark, at least last night, was a bar, two buses, and four Green Line trains.  So cue up the “Fireside” music, because here it is.  I went into DC in order to hang out with Christina, a friend and former coworker, one more time before she moves to Hawaii.  I’m quite happy for her, because she’s wanted to move to Hawaii for a long time.  However, I’ll miss her in DC.  That’s why this evening was special.

Getting there, though, was a little more exciting than I expected.  The bar where we were going to was The Passenger, across 7th Street NW from the convention center.  I considered this to be a good opportunity to go see some of the new Rush+ signage that Metro had put up, that would include new station names and slightly different train movements.  I had originally decided to go in on the Green Line to avoid a shutdown on my neck of the Red Line, but after a heat kink fouled the Green Line on Friday evening, the planned shutdown on the Red Line was cancelled and it moved to the Green Line instead.  I didn’t realize that there was a shutdown on the Green Line until I got to Greenbelt station, but decided to just roll with it rather than get back in the car.  It’s okay, you see.  I did, however, spot an amusing license plate on the way in at Greenbelt station:

"CIAO BB"
“CIAO BB”, a play on “Ciao, baby!”

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Categories: Friends, Washington DC, WMATA

Safety is important on Metro, but let’s not tiptoe around the elephant in the room…

June 18, 2012, 11:05 PM

So I was at Judiciary Square station today on business, and noticed a few new things in the station:

New wall-mounted camera

Three-way camera mount on top of the PIDS screen

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Categories: CTA, MBTA, Security, WMATA

Well, if being civil makes me a Metro apologist…

May 7, 2012, 11:27 PM

So apparently, my being civil and reasonable on the Twitter when it comes to all matters Metro makes me a Metro apologist. Go figure.

Today, you see, I finally decided that enough was enough when it came to certain “transit advocates” on the Twitter, and unfollowed them. Specifically, I unfollowed @MedievalMetro and @unsuckdcmetro. In both of these cases, there may actually be a point somewhere. But that point is lost in all of the other stuff that they post that is somewhat off message. In MedievalMetro’s case, I think that their main thrust is safety and maintenance concerns. However, they come off as ridiculing Metro, rather than making a point. For example, this tweet, discussing a staircase that was barricaded:

#WMATA even struggles with stairs. #maintenance Columbia Heights. http://twitgoo.com/5ppwz5

That particular one was enough for me to challenge them on it:

@MedievalMetro Without any other context, I can't make any judgment based on this photo. What's your point? #wmata

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A new geeky shirt and a 30-minute Metro ride inspire me to have some fun…

March 16, 2012, 10:02 PM

Today, I wore my new Power Rangers shirt out for the first time:

Power Rangers!
Photo: Mykia Mahan

This is similar to the Power Rangers shirt that I owned before, except that this new one is a smaller size, and has slightly different styling. I am quite proud to place the old Power Rangers shirt in with my “second tier” clothes. It’s too big for me, which is just as well, because I am getting smaller, after all. Then on different styling, this shirt, unlike the first one, falls victim to an error that many Power Rangers toys and such had: emblems on the center diamond.

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Commuter, railfan, transit nerd, and photographer…

March 5, 2012, 11:34 PM

And this past week, it seemed to all come together. Twice in the last week, I was interviewed on things related to Metro.

The first was for a three-minute video, where a group of Corcoran students interviewed me as a Metro commuter. They also interviewed Chris Barnes, aka @FixWMATA, as a vocal Twitter user, and then Metro chief spokesperson Dan Stessel representing Metro. That was actually a lot of fun to do. About a week and a half ago, I was approached about the possibility of appearing in the short video on Metro. I agreed, and so then on Monday the 27th, the group producing the video met me at my apartment complex. There, they wired me for sound, and filmed me on my commute and we talked about commuting via Metro. I am a daily Metro and bus rider, and one of the things that I shared was that I do have my commute down to a science. I know exactly what time I need to be at a given point in my commute in order to make my connections and then get home at the time. I also shared how since so many people take Metro, if the Red Line is going to be messed up, then a lot of people in the office will be affected.

Then the video also shows my particular geekish side, as they got a good shot of me doing my little transit log book, writing down the number of CAF 5188.

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Categories: WMATA

The rule on pricing at Tysons II is, “If you have to ask, you cannot afford it.”

March 4, 2012, 4:17 PM

This weekend was certainly a blast. My mother came to visit, and we went to Tysons Corner on Saturday.

The plan was for Mom and I to meet at Vienna. It made sense, since she was coming from Virginia, Tysons is in Virginia, and I could take Metro to meet her, thus only have to take one car out. And Vienna is somewhere that all of us were familiar with from countless visits to the DC area before I moved up here. So my plan was to take the bus to Glenmont and then Metro the rest of the way. First thing I learned was that Nextbus, while useful for the most part, is still very much not perfect. I left the house based on a prediction of a Y8 in 12 minutes, and so I headed down to the corner. It does not take 12 minutes to get down to the corner, but when I got there, there was no bus, and the bus that I was tracking had dropped off the screen, with the next bus not supposed to show up for 45 minutes, which would make me very late. So I ended up walking to Glenmont, because I knew I could walk there in less time than it would take to wait for the bus. I had never walked to the Metro from my house before. I had done from Metro to home many times, but never the reverse. The uphill walk was very good for working the calves, since my legs were sore by the time I got to Glenmont. I might have to do that more often. It was a good workout, and helpful on a week where I had missed a pool session.

Once I got to the Metro, I got a seat on a train, and all was well. Mom, however, for reasons that neither one of us can quite figure out, got turned around a bit, and so my lateness ended up working out for her. I don’t know if she missed a sign for Vienna or what, but she managed to get lost. No idea how. And it’s frustrating when she’s lost in an area that I’m not entirely familiar with myself. Usually, I can guide someone over the phone to get wherever they need to, but I’m not that familiar with the neighborhood around Vienna station. I know how to reach the station from both sides of I-66, I know how to get to Route 123 from Vienna via Nutley Street, and I know how to reach the shopping center with the Safeway and Micro Center in it, and I know that there’s a high school northwest of the station, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge of that area. So I couldn’t help her as much as I usually can, since she didn’t know where she was very well, and neither did I. Somehow, she ended up at Dunn Loring station, and told me as much. My response: “Good. Stay there.” After all, she managed to get to an Orange Line station, and so all was well. None of us quite know how she managed to get to Dunn Loring, though, since I would have expected, if she was going to land at a different Metro, to end up at West Falls Church, which is also very close to I-66 and easily accessed from there. Dunn Loring, not so much. I don’t even know how to get to Dunn Loring by car. Only time I’d ever been to Dunn Loring before is for railfanning, since I think station visits are just as important as riding in the first car.

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Categories: Family, Matthew, Shoes, Shopping, WMATA

“This is a Yellow Line train to Stadium-Armory!”

February 12, 2012, 7:47 PM

Yes, you read that right. This weekend, Metro ran an unusual Yellow Line service due to the need to shut down the Fenwick Bridge over the Potomac River to do track maintenance. Because of this, the Yellow Line ran between Huntington and Stadium-Armory, following the Blue Line’s normal route through Arlington Cemetery and Metro Center. And the destination signs for northbound/eastbound trains appeared as such:

Yellow Line to Stadium-Armory

Thus going through the downtown area, you had three services running along the C and D Routes through downtown: Orange Line, Blue Line, and Yellow Line. There was no Yellow Line service along the E and F Routes in the downtown area (so it was Green only through there), and service was suspended entirely in both directions on the L Route (the bridge).

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Categories: WMATA

Something funny about shooting photos in the Metro of people with no pants on…

January 8, 2012, 7:09 PM

Yes, today was the day of Capitol Improv‘s annual “No Pants Metro Ride”. It was exactly what it sounds like: people come in and ride Metro with no pants on. Basically, people have shoes on, are fully dressed from the waist up, and are wearing their underwear, but the pants are missing.

Now you may recall that I went to this event last year and covered it for Schumin Web, though the photos never got any further than a Journal entry for various reasons. This year, I went again, and I was once again out to photograph the excitement, while keeping my pants firmly on my body. Considering that I covered the event pretty well last year, I decided to make the photography more interesting for myself. Thus I shot everything in black and white. Black and white, you see, makes you look at things differently, and think differently as a result. Black and white photography makes you look at lightness and darkness and the play between them, while color photography obviously focuses more on colors. And like Big Mavica, the Canon won’t stay in black and white if you turn it off. You have to set it to black and white every time you turn it on. Trust me when I say I got really good at quickly setting the camera to black and white every time I powered it on.

So at 2:00, everyone met up at Hancock Park, which is a small open space in DC across the street from the north entrance to L’Enfant Plaza station. There, they laid out the course and gave some advice on how to do things.

Bruce (with the bullhorn) discusses the course, explaining how Dupont Circle is probably the furthest west that participants should go on the Red Line.
Bruce (with the bullhorn) discusses the course, explaining how Dupont Circle is probably the furthest west that participants should go on the Red Line.

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Categories: Events, WMATA

So I got a follow-up message from Metro about my photography incident…

November 28, 2011, 11:26 PM

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I was harassed by a Metro Transit Police officer regarding photography while riding on Rohr 1260. Today, I got a response:

Dear Mr. Schumin:

Thank you for contacting Metro. Every Metro employee is responsible for professional and accurate information. Metro does not tolerate conduct that falls short of that standard. The detailed information you provided was forwarded to a Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) Superior for review and investigation. Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention.

[I am deliberately omitting the standard paragraphs about calling or using the site]

Sincerely,

Jeannie Greene-Barr
Rail Customer Service

Case # 669011

“Safety is our number one priority”

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Categories: WMATA