Tag Archives: commuting

Short people represent!

So, according to The Express (who I think lifted the story from their parent paper, The Washington Post) metro is testing out different styles of straps and handles on the metro trains for short people.

Now, the article says that they are testing these on the orange and red lines, and have been for a bit of time. Seeing as how I ride both the orange and red lines every day, twice a day you would think I would have run into these by now. But I haven’t seen a single one of them and now I’m on the lookout for them.

I can’t believe it’s take Metro this long to figure this out. I’ve been consistently frustrated with the trains since I started riding in April because I’m just barely too short to reach the overhead bars at all. If I’m not near a vertical bar, then I can’t stand there. I know some people have the balance to not hang onto things, but I’m not one of those people.

So I’ve had a few extremely frustrating moments trying to find a place to stand where I can reach, but at the same time trying to be one of the only people who actually tries to move away from the doors after boarding. What is especially bothersome is the new metro cars, which have a lot fewer vertical bars to hang onto. I end up getting on those and trying to wedge myself towards a wall or something solid just to try to stay upright.

Now, the handles that are in most of the buses I ride aren’t actually that useful either, but at least they’re something and if Metro actually put these in it would make it easier for me to move away from the crowds and find a place to stand. I do encourage them to get the metal handles instead because the cloth straps would need replacing so much faster, and would end up getting a little stained and funky if the carpets on the metro are any indication.

If this would make people actually move towards the center of the car like the benevolent voice tells you to, then my commute would be so much easier.

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What’s this wet stuff?

I don’t know how or when it happened, but at some point everybody that lives in the D.C. Metro area lost their ability to deal with any kind of precipitation. I realized this when I was just driving, because the roads suddenly clogged and everybody either slowed down to 25 miles per hour, or they sped up and put everybody’s lives in danger. Nobody was going cautiously but not impeding traffic.

Today I realized that public transit doesn’t know how to deal with it either. Now, normally I’m not all that grumpy about a little bit of rain while I wait for the bus. But the storm that’s blowing through right now is very cold, very windy, and very very wet. So I just wasn’t in the mood this morning.

Since my umbrella turned inside out before I got twenty feet from my front door, I though maybe I could walk to a nearby bus stop that had a shelter instead of standing at the curb like I usually do. But I racked my brain and couldn’t come up with a shelter on the right side of the road within walking distance. By the time I could have gotten to one, I would have been just as soaked as if I had waited.

Once the bus arrives, I have to hope that it’s a bus driver who actually waits for people to sit down before he pulls away. Two or three times a week I end up falling into my seat because the driver is in such a hurry. But when you couple that with the fact that the floors are soaking wet, then it’s a recipe for disaster.

While I’m discussing the floors, exactly why are bus floors all designed the way they are? It’s like they’re making a show of being anti-slip, but in fact they’re designed like a runway for your shoes. When you add water to the mix, it just gets dangerous.

Every other bus has some problem with the windshield wipers. They seem to actually get rid of the water, but in this erratic way that makes me think they’re about thirty seconds from stopping.

It all makes me wonder what the bus system in Seattle is like. Where do they stash their umbrellas? How do they keep from getting the seats wet when the people in raincoats sit down? Are they smart enough to make sure the bus windows don’t leak and spray water on the commuters?

Do they have rugs on the bus so people don’t slide around?

I won’t even get into how the metro train had two seats out of commission because they were covered in water (how does that even happen) or that flooding made delays on the orange and blue lines this morning.

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Step back, doors closing.

In Japan, they have these men on the train platforms with white gloves whose sole job is to cram as many people onto the trains as possible.

Today was probably the first time in my life that I really wished that somebody was shoving me to get somewhere faster. Because if somebody had shoved me from behind, then I wouldn’t have held the guilt from being impolite and shoving the businessmen in front of me.

I don’t understand what it is about the metro that makes people suddenly approach the speed of bored cows. It doesn’t matter what’s happening, getting on the train, getting off the train, funneling onto or off of escalators…there are only two speeds possible for commuters.

People are either shuffling and looking disinterested (or possibly lost, but those are tourists, and I mostly forgive them) or running and shoving others. Neither of these behaviors is really good for the flow of traffic. What happened to knowing where you were going and just GETTING there?

What especially irks me is that these people who are shuffling and trying to look bored then stand two inches from the edge of the platform, or subtly push in front of you when it comes time to board the train. I queue up politely, but I’m not going to stand at the edge of the platform because the next unenthusiastic woman in expensive shoes is liable to shove me off in front of a passing train (without looking up from her book club selection). So every day about three people get in front of me despite how long I’ve been standing and waiting.

Normally, this isn’t a problem, I don’t really care as long as I’m on the train.

Except this morning, I arrived at the platform about three minutes before the train did. No problem there, that’s what you get when you have to transfer trains. But the problem here was that for some reason, a minute before the train arrived a huge glut of businessmen arrived at the platform.

This morning, the businessmen were making such a big show of being disenchanted with the world around them, absorbed in their newspapers and far too good to do mundane things like care about the metro train. So they shuffled slowly into the car, leaving me standing on the platform waiting. The overhead voice asked them to please move to the center of the car. They shuffled. They stood. They made it onto the train and continued to read, oblivious to the people waiting behind them.

The door dinged that it was closing as I was stepping across into the train. I’ve actually been two or three steps away when it dinged before and still made it on just fine, but this time the guy in the suit in front of me stopped moving. He got on board the train and just stopped dead.

So I have a split second of trying to decide if I’m going to shove him, or if he’ll remember he’s supposed to get out of my way, and the doors close on me. As in I’m standing in the center of them, desperate to get onto the train and unable to move because this guy (who never turned around, glanced my direction, or too his eyes off his precious Washington Post) couldn’t imagine that maybe I didn’t want to get bruised by the door slamming on me repeatedly.

I don’t care how much you think you’re above the commute that you’re on, you’re not above your fellow passengers. Get out of their way, get where you’re going, and then maybe everybody will be much happier.

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Elections over, go home

When I lived in the rural area where I grew up, there were quite a few signs that would crop up around election days. Any person who had a candidate they supported would put up a sign in their yard. Large signs, small ones, yards were full of them.

But they were only in people’s yards. Once you got into town, there might be a sign in a business’ window, but they were kept to property that was owned by someone.

When I moved to Northern Virginia, it was in September. Suddenly, not long after, I started spotting these small election signs in the median. I was confused, I knew from different dealings back home that signs weren’t allowed on public/state property. I assumed the rules were different up here, and I was not happy about it. Before the end of October, the median was littered with signs. And it wasn’t like home, where one sign for each candidate they supported was in place in one area. Every five feet was a sign for the same person.

Did they think I couldn’t see the first one? Were they afraid they would get taken down? Then, a day later, the opposing candidate would come along and put signs on either side of the existing ones, tripling the ugliness. Then another volunteer would drive by and the signs would double again.

There is no other way to describe this practice: it is an eyesore. It is wasteful. It is in short, one of the most disgusting displays of political idiocy that I have ever seen. The money and manpower spent on those signs could do so much good, and instead it’s rusting and fading on a median in Tyson’s Corner.

A recent news report cleared up one issue for me: these signs ARE illegal. When you vote for a candidate who puts up a sign in a median or right-of-way you are voting for a criminal. The fact that everybody does it changes nothing for me. The fact that they promise to take down the signs after the election doesn’t change it, especially considering that a handful of signs always remain for months. They become even more litter on our roadsides.

VDOT says that they can’t enforce the restrictions on this kind of signage. They don’t have the manpower or the money to deal with it. So I say if people don’t like the signs they need to make a point: they need to stop voting for people just because they saw their name at an intersection.

People wouldn’t do this if it didn’t work. I wonder, if a candidate made a big stink about not putting up those kinds of signs, made a platform out of not creating litter and waste, would they get elected? I would probably vote for them.

I also wonder, if regular citizens who are tired of this went through and started pulling up the signs themselves, would they get into trouble? If we started a group that regularly pulled up signs whenever they found them, would that be considered a help or a hindrance? If you said that the candidates could come pick up their signs, would it still be considered theft? If you took the signs back to their headquarters with a note that said, “You seem to have placed these signs illegally. I’ve taken the liberty of clearing up for you, please follow all rules and statutes for signs in the future” would they get the hint, or cry first amendment?

There’s an election every year in Virginia. I’ve lived here through three Novembers, and I’m already sick and tired of this issue. But what in the world can be done about it?

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