- (Photo: WMATA)
This past week is bad for Metro riders — a revelation that WMATA hadn't maintained its supply of 46 defibrillators as a rider died of a heart attack and more than a 100 new ones sat in storage; a "minor" derailment of a Metro train in Northern Virginia; and today, the Metro Board votes on a fare hike that'll hit us to the tune of a couple hundred thousand dollars a day collectively. Transit knows how to hit us where it hurts.
But when Metro derailed a train a little after 7 p.m. at Rosslyn two days ago — on a train with 1,000 riders aboard — I noticed one new feature about how Metro communicates disaster. WMATA kept releasing press releases about the state of the derailment throughout the evening but the transit agency also featured a new red alert banner over the rotating images in the center of the page. I liked seeing the new way of displaying problem updates. Metro has struck a delicate balance in how it showcases information on its homepage, with an instinct to promote its positive sides publicly while still acknowledging problems (like with the AEDs — the agency submitted a press release on the topic but you better believe it didn't show off the release in its homepage news box of six cherry-picked stories. All those tend to focus on track work, Rush+, and more servicey dimensions of Metro service). WMATA has also attempted to create new channels for updating riders of commuting problems with its MetroAlerts system in recent months.
But now we've got the Breaking News Metro Problems Banner. Let's hope we don't have to see it too often.