Monday, March 25, 2013

The DC Metro, or "This Sucks"

I was just in DC this past weekend to visit a friend while I looked into a nearby law school. I don't know if you've been there, but DC is kind of an inspiring and inspired place. The memorials are tasteful and beautiful and appropriately grand. It's hard to not be moved when you stare Lincoln in the face and read his Gettysburg address. Patriotism rises up in you as suddenly and forcefully as a tremble.

But DC's Metro sucks. I've been on a number of Metro systems—New York, Boston, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Rome, Athens, Toronto…—a whole bunch. Regular readers will remember that I collaborated with my brother on a short film that was a loving exploration of the unexpected places metros can take you. I adore and support public transit, especially the wild and wonderful bustle of a subway. I'm usually willing to forgive my inebriated co-passengers along with their oppressive body odor. I blithely skip over puddles of human excrement and rejoice at the cloud of nicotine that hovers around most metros. I'm usually giddy to hear the grating strains of a gypsy's accordion or the atonal shrieking of an amateur jazz saxophonist.

But DC's Metro sucks. It's oppressively lit by dim fluorescents, there's no relief from the dented concrete expanse, and there's the overwhelming and ever-present feeling that at any moment a shank is on its way for your ribcage.

DC's Metro sucks. The workers are cranky and unhelpful, signs informing you what to do when groped by a stranger are plastered across the walls, and the PA system periodically announces that we all need to be vigilant about abandoned bags, because…terrorists.

And DC's Metro sucks. The stops are awkwardly and inconveniently spread out, many of the entrances above ground are skeezy and more poorly lit than the subterranean dungeons they lead to, and you can never really make out what stop the announcer is saying.

But seriously, DC's Metro sucks. My day-pass kept getting stuck in the machines, the train doors take way too long to open and close too quickly, and I feel like I need to emphasize again the gloomy ennui that haunts the urban blight that is DC's sucky Metro.

It sucks.

When I was a kid visiting DC, the Metro was one of the first subway systems I ever used, so I didn't know just how bad it was by comparison. Compared to the world's great capitals, DC's public transit is horrifying and humiliating. To say it's the worst metro I've been on does a disservice to the word worst as an indicator of degree. It's so bad I can't begin to think of a second-to-last. No other subway I've been on deserves that disgrace.

And who designed this thing? Dante? What about all the beautiful neo-classicism that sits on the surface of the city? Why not some of that? What happened to L'Enfant's legacy? Why must the subway be a representation of all that is awful in bureaucracy? Where are the food vendors and the drink machines? Where are the sleazy magazine stands? Where is the LIFE that should fill the heart of a city's transportation?

DC's Metro. Sucks.

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