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And this is why I should never be allowed to go to Micro Center unsupervised…

August 14, 2014, 1:27 AM

First of all, I apologize for my silence as of late.  I’ve been busy working on various things plus having some computer issues, and that’s caused me to neglect the website somewhat, save for changing the photo features and splash photos.

However, the good news is that I’ve received job offers from a few different area transit agencies (that I’m not naming) for the position of bus operator.  I should be starting training with one of them soon, once all of the various onboarding processes are completed.  From what I’ve seen, these are not quick processes, but they’re done correctly the first time, and I’m fine with that.  In deciding to become a bus driver, I realized over the course of the job hunt that my heart just wasn’t in it for more nonprofit work.  I also realized that I wanted a career, and not just another job, and I didn’t really have a passion for the issues that the organizations that I was applying to were about.  In looking at my interests, I came to realize that I had a real interest in starting a career in public transportation.  And a job as a bus driver is a foot in that door.  In pursuing that, I took a commercial driving course at Montgomery College over the winter, and I now hold a Class B commercial driver’s license with passenger and school endorsements, plus no air brake restrictions.  So life is good on that front.

I also had a big day on July 26, checking out the new Silver Line stations.  I received an invitation to ride the VIP train before revenue service began, and I brought my friend Matthew as my guest.  I’m going to do a full-on photo set for Life and Times for this day (along with a few other subjects in the photo set queue), so I’m not going to say much about it now, but we had fun.  I got to see a number of congressmen and other various elected officials, I got to talk to former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, and then Matthew and I rode the first revenue train from Wiehle Avenue to Largo.  Then after lunch, we toured the new stations on the way back from Largo.

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Listen to the 7000-Series accelerate…

April 28, 2014, 2:18 PM

This past Saturday, I went out to Lake Artemesia to photograph out there.  For those not familiar, Lake Artemesia is a manmade lake in PG County that may be best known as the big lake that you go past while riding up to Greenbelt on the Green Line.  I’m going to put the lake photos up on my Flickr page at a later date, because the highlight of this outing was, by far, in watching the 7000-Series railcars undergo some of their acceptance testing prior to entering revenue service.  This particular weekend, the Green Line was single-tracking between College Park and Greenbelt on track E2 (normally for service to Branch Avenue) for the acceptance testing, and the testing was occurring right next to the lake on track E1 (normally for service to Greenbelt).  Thus, this was a common sight near the lake on Saturday:

7000-Series train on track E1

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Categories: WMATA

The future is riding on Metro…

January 12, 2014, 10:52 PM

On Monday, January 6, at 10:30 AM, the future of Metro arrived, as Metro debuted its new 7000-Series railcars for the press at Greenbelt station.  First thing that happened is that they brought the train into the station:

The first 7000-Series quad set arrives at Greenbelt station

Once the train stopped in the station, the last set of doors on the trailing car (7006) opened, and out stepped Metro General Manager Richard Sarles to greet everyone.  As the train had come in signed as a Green Line train to Branch Avenue, the new canned announcements were running.  I only heard two: the line announcement and the door open announcement.  The voice is female, but it’s not Randi Miller, whose voice currently makes Metro’s door announcements.  The new voice is higher in pitch than Miller’s.  The door announcement, while in a different voice, is otherwise still the same: “Doors opening!  Step back to allow customers to exit.  When boarding, please move to the center of the car.”

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Categories: WMATA

Sometimes it just writes itself…

August 7, 2013, 11:47 AM

So I was looking at the Twitter last night after swimming, and I spotted this picture:

Hey @wmata - what kind of discounted fare does this guy have to pay? #NotSoSmartTrip
Source: Craig Sallinger

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Categories: Advertising, Amusing, WMATA

Tonight’s commute was definitely more exciting than most…

May 14, 2013, 10:09 PM

Yes, tonight’s commute was definitely more exciting than most.  You may have heard about the Red Line train that caught fire this evening at Silver Spring.  That was my train.  Apparently the Metro gods thought we all needed a little excitement in our commutes this evening.  And that’s exactly what we got.

The ride started out pretty normally.  I got the train at Dupont Circle, boarding Breda 3147 – the lead car.  I was doing Facebook, and noticed this man who looked like a very serious businessman in a suit with his tablet computer and all that…

...but he's playing Angry Birds.

…and then I noticed that he was actually playing Angry Birds on his tablet.

When we got to Takoma, the train operator powered the train down and left the cab.  My first thought was that he was being relieved to use the restroom, and that a supervisor would be taking over the train shortly.  But no supervisor arrived, and I was starting to get a little bit concerned about when we were going to leave Takoma station.

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Categories: Commuting, WMATA

“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

“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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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