Saturday, December 03, 2005

Metro Changes Afoot

The Washington Post reports on coming changes to the DC Metro system:
  • The "doors closing" voice will be replaced:
    Many train delays are caused by riders dashing into cars at the last second. "The message and the door chime have become a little like the yellow signal on a traffic light," [Jim Hughes, Metro's acting assistant general manager for operations] said. "The purpose of the chime is to tell people to step back, that doors are closing. But our customers hear that, and they run to get on a train... It's got to be a different voice, something that sounds different, because right now it's background noise."
    Changing the voice isn't going to help. Even the voice of James Earl Jones would only confuse people for a few days before becoming the new trigger for launching themselves onto already crowded trains. I would prefer encouraging passengers to push those people back off the train. There will be another train in 2 minutes, relax.

  • Floor markers will show people where to crowd the platform:

    To help smooth the emptying and loading of trains, Metro will test platform markers at Union Station, Gallery Place-Chinatown and Metro Center. The markers will indicate where to line up with rail-car doors once a train pulls into a station. The idea is to get people ready to board before the train arrives and out of the way of exiting passengers. Although most riders wait at the sides of the doors to give passengers room to exit, plenty of people plant themselves directly in front of the doors. A brazen few try to muscle their way on while people are getting off...

    Platform markers assume a train is going to stop at the same spot every time, something Metro has had trouble delivering [because] Metro trains routinely overrun platforms.

    I've had to shove people out of my way several times in order to get off a train, but I doubt these will help either. Currently, people line up all along the platform, spreading out fairly evenly. When a train arrives they head for the doors and most do a good job of keeping the doors clear. I can just imagine the people that will be bunched up at the markers if they think they know where the doors are going to be. They'll be impossible to get by.

  • There appear to be two good changes coming. Escalator patterns may be changed to better accommodate passenger flow and riders will be educated about how to use escalators:
    On its 588 escalators, Metro intends to paste large stickers that say "Stand to the Right," a cue to out-of-towners that Washingtonians are not content to just stand and ride but often walk -- or run -- on the left side. Metro has more escalators than any transit system in North America, and the conflict between those trying to walk on the left and those standing in their way has become a daily aggravation.
    Apparently similar signs were taken down because of fears that they might actually work:
    Until about seven years ago, Metro escalators had metal plaques that read "Stand to Right." But an internal task force decided that those signs implicitly encouraged people to stand on the right and walk on the left, which Metro managers said was unsafe. So they ripped the signs off -- which cost time and labor but did not stop anyone from walking on the left.


Paul said...

BART in the San Francisco Bay Area made these changes years ago...and it has worked well. People know where to stand and line up while waiting for trains. This makes it very nice during commute times. Also, our trains say "Doors closing...please stand away from the doors" followed by some audible "chimes"...and this seems to help the problem (unless of course the people don't understand English).

Nick said...

Hopefully the lining up will work, but I'm concerned that the platforms aren't deep enough for that to work well.

Maybe BART riders are less strung-out than folks in DC. We have a similar message and people hear it and run. I never have because I'm conscious enough of my surroundings to know that there will be another train along in mere moments - and it will probably be empty.

April said...

On the Metro system it does seem that "doors closing" means "run up the elevator and throw yourself through the door".