March 16, 2016
How Did Washingtonians Fare Without The Metro?
With Washington’s Metro system entirely shutdown on Wednesday, we interns –Will Warren and Billy Koch– used the event as an excuse to escape our shared cubicle at WAMU and spend some time outside. We caught a bus to our first destination, Farragut Square, to talk to office workers about their morning commutes. Billy was having a “mixed emotions kind of day,” having walked from his apartment in Woodley Park to the WAMU station. Will was exceptionally chipper, after biking to work for the first time.
We expected to meet more Billies than Wills. We anticipated grouchy, sweaty Washingtonians, still steaming from mornings stuck in traffic, packed Bikeshare stations and blistered feet. What we found felt more like a snow day, with sun and cherry blossoms in place of sleet and frost.
We met Pam on the bus to Farragut Square. The metrocalypse was certainly an inconvenience –taking the bus more than doubled her regular trip– but she seemed understanding. She was glad WMATA was protecting riders and loudly declared, “as long as the weather’s fine, I’m fine.” Agreed, Pam.
Farragut Square was full of the office workers we’d been seeking, but grouchy, they were not. Amongst the food trucks, we ran into Greg, whose company gave him the day off. “I feel kinda lucky,” he told us.
Even if Greg was enjoying his day off, he said that some people weren’t. Tourists, he explained, are the true victims of the metromaggedon. With that in mind, we turned to the one place you can always find tourists, Metro or not: the White House.
We found Sarah Roach’s fifth grade class with their noses pressed against the fence to the Obama residence. Even with a gaggle of fifth graders in tow, she said the Metro shutdown “wasn’t anything for us to worry about.” Their tour company booked them a bus to help them get around town, she explained.
Finally, feeling defeated in our quest for disgruntled commuters, we flagged an UberPool back to the station. UberPool allows users to share rides with others headed in the same direction –for often a small fraction of the typical price. As we climbed into our urban chariot we met our co-rider Deena and driver Henri. Deena, a regular Metro rider, was traveling with us to Chevy Chase to run some errands. Though she was inconvenienced she remained positive about the situation: “I think it helps that there is no snow, the sun is out, and the weather’s beautiful.”
Henri, a driver in Baltimore, was apprehensive about driving in Washington D.C. for the first time, but Uber encouraged him to head down and help people in the wake of the Metro shutdown. Having some riders interview his other customers wasn’t exactly what Henri was expecting, but he loosened up during the ride. Before we left he told us, “I’m going to carry that confidence and keep driving.”
For all the bellyaching on Twitter, we still couldn’t find anyone who was actually irate. Seriously, where were all of our cantankerous Washingtonians? Maybe they were too shy to speak their minds on microphones? Or maybe the truly incensed were still stuck in taxis somewhere on 395? It’s possible, but maybe people didn’t mind the opportunity to get outside and soak in the city as much as they thought they would. We’d even venture to say that some people enjoyed it. As long as we can still ride the Metro, that is.
Writing, reporting and photography by Will Warren and Billy Koch