In mass transit news, here in North Carolina, plans apparently are moving ahead for new projects: light-rail in Durham and Orange Counties, and commuter rail in Wake County. In Charlotte, works continues on extending a light-rail line.
Meanwhile, the latest news from New York’s subway line is a crash today that disrupted subway trains across the Big Apple. Delayed train service is nothing unusual, either. Earlier this month, the city’s transit agency released a report admitting three-fourths of the subway lines are usually late, and five lines are late more than half the time.
Also in the news, a long series of transit hassles in Washington, DC’s Metro subway continued today, leaving riders fuming. Of course, they were likely in a bad mood anyway, because on Sunday fares went up and service was cut.
Remember, these are the two of the best-known mass transit lines in the country. Backers of mass transit point to them as examples of what mass transit can do for a region.
Really? People who have looked at them closely have a less rosy view. New York-based Vanity Fair posted an online article about the subways there being “hell on earth.” The most vivid fact: some riders grow so desperate about being caught in stalled trains that they pry open the doors to walk on the tracks. With the electrified third rail there, and other trains possibly appearing, that could be fatal – but some riders are willing to risk death to get out of stalled trains.
Meanwhile, commuter rail travel will also be Hades-like in New York this summer. Repairs to lines connect to Pennsylvania Station has hundreds of thousands of rail commuters preparing for “a summer of hell” as their daily trips are disrupted.
But Washington’s mass transit may be even worse. Today’s snarls are typical in a system which has suffered from equipment malfunctions, a couple fatal. All this led one publication to proclaim: “Let’s face it: Washington, DC’s Metro is the worst in the world.”
To be fair, the Reason magazine web site rushed to the Metro’s defense. It isn’t the worst subway in the world, the writer concluded. It was merely a “national embarrassment:” plagued by high labor costs and an unsatisfactory work force, incompetent management, a counterproductive fare schedule, all leading to the ongoing equipment failures and delays, with little sign of improvement.
A quick look at the news will show an array of other mass transit problems and disappointments across the nation, even as North Carolina cities are laboring to create their own mass transit systems. Meanwhile, rapid changes in technology are raising the possibility of new kinds of public transit. Is it too late for NC to hit the brakes on its mass transit plans?