Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

How to respond to Metro madness? Foul-mouthed tech genius

September 16, 2011 - 03:52 PM
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Embarking on a WMATA journey can, at times, result in frustration.

How best to respond to the train delays, the broken escalators, the single-tracking, the scheduled track maintenance, and so on? Some would keep their mouth shut, stoically grinning, bearing the burden in the same of public transit. Some would complain to friends. Some would tweet their rage.

And then there's what Joey Brunelle did: create a website, Facebook page, and potentially one day an app called "How Fucked Is Metro?"

Good starting question — it's one on many Metro riders' minds. What does the website do? The concept is simple. Go to the page, click one of the Metro lines arrayed on the page, and then receive information on how fucked that particular line is at any particular moment. Choose the Green Line, say, to find out "The Green Line isn't fucked." The site gives ostensibly real-time information about how many lines are in service as well as the wait times at different locations.

The web designer called it a "fun side project" and described the reaction to the project as "overwhelmingly positive." The folks behind the T reached out to him with their positive reaction; from WMATA he's heard nothing.

26-year-old Brunelle is the lead web designer for Goose Rock Design, founded in 2007 to serve small businesses and web clients.

"I actually live in San Francisco," Brunelle told me. He has lived in Boston before, however, and spent his first year of college in D.C. around 2003-2004. "Someone made a similar site — but not quite as pretty — for San Francisco."

Thus he felt inspired to create "How Fucked Is the T?" to sum up his frustration over the Boston public transit system. Both sites were founded in late spring of this past year. Brunelle makes sure to warn us on the site: "I'm still tweaking the algorithm that determines 'fuckedness.'" He encourages patience and common sense. Brunelle said that designing the websites was relatively easy. Boston's transit agency provides the data he needs. WMATA does not provide the same information about the whereabouts of individual trains, but he was able to "guesstimate" those locations with an algorithm.

No app is planned yet, although Brunelle welcomes the possibility. "Maybe one day," he told me.

So far there's been a healthy enough bit of buzz around the sites earlier this year, but I hadn't heard about or toyed with the site before. But I didn't have to look twice to be drawn in now. The expletive-bearing name is eye-catching.

Never fear, however. For those with fainter sensibilities, there's also a safe-for-work version of the site called "How is Metro?" Somehow the title lacks the same ring though, doesn't it? This sanitized version will tell you things like the Red Line, traveling in the direction of Shady Grove, "looks decent." The NSFW version of his site continues to get about 200 to 300 hits a day, he told me, and he's happy to provide the service to the people of D.C. His sister still lives here, after all.

Both "How Fucked is Metro?" and "How Fucked is the T?" collectively sport nearly 3,000 fans on Facebook. Alleviate your transit frustrations by checking them out today.

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