“I have noticed lately people getting ‘stuck’ in metro stations because either their card is not working or all the fare gates are screwed up”

Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

I have noticed lately people getting ‘stuck’ in metro stations because either their card is not working or all the faregates are screwed up. that is only one part of the problem. the second part is the station managers being god knows where. so people usually just stay…..stuck…and wait. hoping a manager will show up to help.

people can call it breaking the law, but in every metro station, there is an ‘emergency gate’ – – it swings open. you don’t need a smart trip card or anything. if there is a crowd of people, then it starts to back everything up. it does not have to be that way. You got places to go? You don’t have time to wait around? the ‘emergency gate’ is your friend. JUST GO. I have used it, and I have helped people (mainly tourists) use it to get down to the platforms.

We all just want to get from point A to point B. It shouldn’t be so damn hard.”

Ed. Note: If you do use an emergency gate, you’ll have to talk to a station manager at some point before your fare card will work again.

35 Comment

  • Well, yeah. This is pretty much Metro 101.

    • it should be metro 101, but I have noticed people dont know. especially tourists. they just stand around and wait. I once was putting money on my card and saw a family standing around the faregates. I observed them for a good 5 minutes waiting for a manager to show up. I finally walked over and asked if they needed help. they said “we cant get by….” so I said “go through here…” and showed them.

      as for some of the other comments: eventually yes, i agree, you will have to fix the problem, but it shouldn’t be a problem in the first place. station managers should be there at all times to help people. it’s ridiculous

      • Emmaleigh504

        My station has a lot of tourists, and not enough managers. Our managers are always around and help (I’m lucky to have such nice station managers), but we don’t have enough. So I step in when I can and help. Sadly, it seems some tourists don’t believe you unless you have a metro uniform. Dude, read the message, you need more money on your farecard! I’m not making this up, I’m not trying to con you out of money. dumb-asses.

        • LOL.

          I feel like the point of my post was missed by a lot of comments i am reading.

          i’ll try again: if there isnt a station manager to help you, then just use the damn emergency gate. no use waiting.

          it’s not just about the smart trip cards not working. I’ve seen stations where every gate is red all across and you cant get out. so i’m like “oh yeah, this works real well. morons”

          metro sucks basically. 😛

          • Emmaleigh504

            My reading comprehension is really bad lately, sorry. If there’s no manager I just go through the gate too.

          • In fairness it wasn’t exactly the most concise and focused piece of prose.

  • phl2dc

    Yup. I approve. I refuse to be stuck at a Metro station because the station manager is god-knows-where.

  • You’re just borrowing against your future self by doing this. you’ll either have to talk to a station manager, or it will charge you the max fare.

  • Escalators, fare machines and fare gates I feel like this summer are for the most part broken. You name it, Farragut North, Farragut West, Georgia Ave/Petworth, Columbia Heights, just terrible.

    • Stadium Armory! After the 7/4 Foo Fighters concert, all the spectators had to go through only 2 working gates. The line outside was huge, but once inside the station, trains were leaving literally empty because customers didn’t have the possibility to enter the station in an efficient way… Pathetic…

    • Don’t forget about the air conditioning. Still completely broken at Farragut North and Farragut West, only recently fixed at McPherson Square.

  • From the point of view of someone who has used other metro systems, the issue of charging different fares for different distances is what causes this problem. On other systems you just pay when you enter (which is something like the minimum far in DC, so metro is just trying to soak the suburbanites), so there’s not bottleneck to get out of the station. So, this problem was stupidly built in from the beginning.

    • Charging based on how much of the system the rider uses is a very progressive approach to fares. If drivers had to pay for how much road they used they would be less likely to move to the far off suburbs and commute in. Unfortunately, this a very confusing approach to most people, especially tourists used to driving on “free” roads. WMATA could do a lot to better communicate how the pay system works.

      • Doesn’t this already happen to some extent? ie, drivers who drive more pay more in tolls and gas and wear/tear, which *should* be an individual financial incentive to drive less… In any case, I agree that it’s completely reasonable to pay more if you take metro farther. You’re using more system resources. I have lived places where even the buses are like this–you have to scan ‘out’ again when you get off the bus and it charges based on how far you rode. I will say what irks me about DC is inability to transfer between bus/metro. I wouldn’t object if I was still charged more at the end based on the total length of my trip, but to essentially have to pay 2 fares when many other cities have other systems… ugh. One of many, many reasons why I rarely take the metro. (I’m one of those evil bikers, not one of those evil drivers)

        • You get a discount of I believe 50 or 75 cents to transfer from rail to bus of vice versus when using a smartrip card.
          For bus-bus you get 2 hrs of unlimited transfers.

          While it’s not exactly the system you prefer, it seems to be virtually the same outcome. No?

  • Funny, last week mine wouldn’t work on an exit. The station manager was right there and just waived me out through the e-gate. Worked fine the next day with no intervention.

    • This is true. You don’t always need the intervention of a station manager to get your card working again. It seems that after a certain amount of time, a reset occurs, and your card works as normal.

  • A lot of people just mash their cards against the reader a bunch of times, never long enough for the reader to properly scan it, and then they get a big red light so they ask the station manager.

    I’ve shown hundreds of people how to do it properly (place card on reader, wait more than 1 nanosecond) so hopefully they remembered and don’t hold up the line or waste the station manager’s time anymore.

    • Oh, my favorite: “vigorously rub smarttrip on scanner” guy/gal

    • Emmaleigh504

      +a billion. Don’t move your damn card around, it doesn’t work that way, why would you think it does?

    • A lot of people are in such a hurry too, that they can’t wait to bum-rush the person in front of them and basically slap their card on the reader before the person in front is barely through the gate. This is jams up your card and you’ll either need to see the station manager then or when you to exit at the other end of your ride.

      • This doesn’t seem to be the case. For years, I’ve put my card down almost immediately after the person in front of me, and it works fine – just gotta know to look at the little LED screen to see if the remaining balance changed and it read your card.

        What bugs me are the people who wait until the fare gates close completely before even putting their card on the reader. It’s much slower. Basically, people could walk through almost at speed, and do – when there’s not a noob slowing down the process.

  • Honestly, all my recent interactions with metro employees went from total disinterest from their side to total disrespect and xenophobic insults, so if you don’t see a station manager, just consider yourself lucky…
    That kind of problem happened to me a couple of time… the problem is that if you exit manually (without card reading), your card is still in “exit mode”, waiting to charge you. So the next time you re-enter the system (“entry mode”) the card won’t understand and it will tell you to go see the station manager. A solution is, after exiting without card reading, just reinitialize it by card reading on a vending machine.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I’ve used the emergency gate more than once and never had to talk to a station manager the next time I used my card. It was like the first trip never happened. don’t ask me how or why, but the money was never deducted for the ride where I was “trapped”. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes I get lucky.

  • Happened to me at the Dupont Circle station a few weeks ago. Station manager nowhere to be found. After waiting a few minutes, I used the gate.

  • Turnstiles are the new escalators.

  • “Ed. Note: If you do use an emergency gate, you’ll have to talk to a station manager at some point before your fare card will work again.”

    Not if you use it at both ends of the trip, lol.

    But it is disheartening when taking a short downtown ride only to have to use the e-gate on exit when your SmarTrip won’t read and there’s no station manager in sight, and then find out you paid max fare on what should’ve been a min fare trip.

  • This happened to me last year when the Cleveland Park station was without power and they were just waving everyone through the open turn-styles because the card readers obviously weren’t working. I got to Farragut and the card reader wouldn’t let me out because my card had never “entered” into the system. After waiting for 5 minutes for a station manager, I finally walked through the emergency gate so I wouldn’t be late to work. At that precise moment, a Metro employee came hustling up to yell at me for fare-jumping and made me go with her back to the station box and have my card read. I could have sworn she was just waiting by the escalators to screw with me.

  • This could potentially be punishable as Failure to Pay Established Fare (D.C. Code § 35-216). People should probably exiting the emergency area to find a station manager but not leaving until they have cleared up the fare issue.

    • “…to find a station manager…”

      Yeah, good luck with that. Plus, 9/10 times they just tell you to use the e-gate anyway.

  • Me at Shaw last week, eventually “freed myself” too by going through gate. Metro dude was outside leaning near the escalators, smoking an electronic cigarette. Lectured me on how his hand are tied by Metro, his employer, and regaled me of Metro politics… blah blah blah, we no longer sit in the booth, blah blah blah. Um, shouldn’t you be near the inside of the station, doe?

    Dude, I just want to go get my Butter Chicken from Red Toque. (Who then gave me a regular portion, although I paid for the “large”. Eye yi yi. Days.

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