Friday Question of the Day – Do You Feel Safe on Metro?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Beau Finley

From Metro Transit Police yesterday:

“Metro Transit Police today arrested two juveniles, one male and one female, on felony charges stemming from a February 5 assault of another juvenile aboard a Green Line train.

According to the complaint, the two respondents were traveling with a group of other juveniles when they surrounded the victim. The two respondents, who were known to the victim, began punching and kicking her as the train traveled between Gallery Place and Shaw-Howard stations. At Shaw-Howard, the victim exited the train where she was met by responding Transit Police officers, offered medical assistance, and transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The two respondents, both 15 years old, were taken into police custody today following the issuance yesterday of a juvenile custody order by D.C. Superior Court. Their names are being withheld due to their age.”

It seems like every week I’m getting one (or more) reports of some sort of assault on metro. But I’ve personally never witnessed anything like this. I know in previous discussions folks have mentioned problems at Gallery Place Chinatown when schools let out. So I want to put a poll up today to get better understanding of the reality. In reality – do you feel safe on metro (not from metro muck ups but from other passengers…)? Have you been threatened or seen someone else threatened or harassed aboard metro? Let’s include buses and trains.

104 Comment

  • Absolutely not! We need more transit police.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Mostly. Not 100%, but mostly. Honestly, I worry about my safety much more on my ~0.6 mile walk home from the metro when doing it after dark than I do in the metro system itself. I have been robbed at gunpoint twice on my way home (once in 2006 and once in 2013).

    • This. In spite of all the horrifying incidents, I still subscribe to the “strength in numbers” theory, which means I’m probably safer on metro than anywhere else. I live in the Brightwood park/16 street Heights area, and as a general matter I just don’t walk around after dark, particularly near Georgia Avenue. The crime issues are still very real.

      • Strength in numbers is good in theory, but around here, you’re usually outnumbered by the aggressors, and everyone else is either too busy filming it or doesn’t want to get involved. So if a pack of teens ever decides to target you, you’re pretty much SOL.

        • HaileUnlikely

          I agree with you there, however, I figure, when I’m in a big crowd, there are lots of other people around who likely look more target-like than I do for some reason or another. And if anything happens to me, it is unlikely that my bloody body will go literally unnoticed for very long. However, when I’m the only person on the street in the evening, if a group of teens wants to target some random person, I’m a lot more likely to be that random person.

    • Reading things like this make me wonder if I have a false sense of security in the neighborhood. Living in Brightwood, I’ve never felt unsafe walking around at night, even alone.

      • NH Ave Hiker

        Same, I never feel unsafe walking around my Petworth neighborhood at night (or running, as I’ve had to do it after dark all winter). Not that I’m ever unaware of my surroundings and vigilant, as I know anything could happen.

      • I’m not suggesting it’s a war zone or anything. On any given night, the odds of something happening are objectively low. But it’s there: broadly speaking, the rectangle bounded by gallatin, 5th street, Longfellow, and Georgia has a lot drug activity, both selling and using. Kennedy and GA is a lousy intersection, as is much of Jefferson Street. There are also stretches of Georgia that are poorly lit and next to vacant lots. It just doesn’t feel right.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Agreed. The area where I live is safer than average in terms of incidence of violent crime. However, the vast majority of people in my neighborhood come and go by car. I’m often the only pedestrian in sight for the final 5 blocks of my walk home. Thus, if there are youngsters out there looking to rob somebody, I have an above-average chance of being their somebody.

      • I try not to walk in the neighborhood by myself after dark. There just isn’t enough foot traffic and it feels isolated. That said, the crime reports list muggings at all times of day, so it doesn’t seem as though the time of day makes a huge difference. Last night I was walking home around 9 pm, and that’s when the gunfire described in the next Popville post was happening. I agree that there are some real safety issues in the area.

    • Agreed. Although I haven’t been robbed, I don’t feel safe walking the 1 mile from Petworth metro headed North, but I walk it anyway.

    • SouthwestDC

      Yeah, I didn’t see a good response for my feelings about this (mostly I feel safe, and I’ve never witnessed any incidents).
      I’ll wear headphones on the metro or bus, but take them off the minute I step outside. Even with all the foot traffic near my home station, a lot of robberies still occur there.

      • Prince Of Petworth

        The 100% yes was a terrible choice of words on my part – I meant “safe on both train and bus” – I definitely mucked up the answers but still think the poll gives a decent visual of how folks feel.

  • This would be fine if you didn’t “prime the pump” with the police report.

    Actually my answer is compared to what? Driving in the the DMV–plenty of horrible drivers and Virginia seems to take the award for worst traffic engineering)? The NY subway in the bad old days (rode it quite often)? The L in Chicago late at night (surprisingly not a problem–I used to live there)? Marta in Atlanta (people who who are anxious about Metro would freakout on Marta).?

    • I agree that the way the question is phrased and the choices of possible answers make this poll a little skewed.

    • “Virginia seems to take the award for worst traffic engineering”
      YES. Yes yes yes. I’m convinced the majority of their planning was done by blind people or people that have never driven in their lives.

  • I want to say yes, I feel perfectly safe in regard to the other passengers on the train, but if we take the actual riding of the train into account, then the answer is no.

  • It’s not that I don’t feel safe, it’s that I feel extremely annoyed and I am afraid how much people can take with this annoyance. It seems like most people would agree that it’s the kids/tweens/teenagers/young adults that are the issue.

    Their motive in life, especially on the metro (more specifically the green line), is to get attention by talking loud, cursing, listening to music without headphones, etc. I know the repercussions if you, God forbid, try to show them your annoyance with their actions by giving them a “look” (mean-mugging I think might be a better way to describe it). This little action can cause an emotional explosion by the youngster and I can see how it can easily lead to vulgar altercation leading to a physical one.

    I know it is best to just ignore the offenders, but it is seriously offensive sometimes by their flamboyant actions and complete disregard and respect for others. I know I sound like my parents, but when I was their age, I know for a fact that my friends and I never, ever acted like this. Sure, we were probably annoying at times, but not on this level…

    • So intervene or not intervene? It seems the higher our collective tolerance for this buffoonery the more we only enable and encourage it, including the occasional violence that it results in. Also, I did plenty of stupid things as a kid, including fights with other kids, but time after time my mind can’t even wrap around the idea that kids would consider violence against an adult an option.

  • I feel safe from physical violence on the metro, but not from sexual harassment. About a year ago in the afternoon during the week, I got on the last car train on redline at Chinatown and a man sat directly across from me and began to masturbate. I alerted the conductor/driver and the guy left the train at the next stop. I too left the train at the stop following and reported the incident to the station manager. The station manager just shrugged his shoulders and said that happens all the time and that there was nothing he could do about it.

    Since then I only get on the first car, no matter time of day or week, or line. I feel safer in the first car from sexual harassment and physical violence, but just because it’s the first car doesn’t mean that neither of those than can happen there. I just feel safer there.

  • I answered 100%yes, because it was more correct than the other answers. But I don’t feel 100% safe. It’s probably closer to 85 or 90% and it’s equal on both modes of transit.

    • Agreed – nothing really captures how I feel which is – I’m very aware of the risks and the need to be alert – I don’t feel 100% safe, not at all (especially not as a woman traveling alone) but I don’t feel “unsafe” enough to pay for uber/alter my habits.

  • I do feel safe generally. I don’t use metro frequently though because I find it unreliable and expensive for what is delivered. Since it’s been snowy/icy a bit lately I’ve been riding the bus and the metro more and I haven’t noticed anything that would raise my level of concern. I’m thrilled to be back on my bike though, it’s faster, cheaper and while the safety is probably a toss up it’s at least more fun than being crammed on a red line train with half of DC.

    I also don’t wander around with my phone or my ipad in my hand on the metro, but I don’t do that on the street either, so I don’t take any risk avoidance measures in the metro that I wouldn’t more generally speaking.

  • jim_ed

    I do feel safe on Metro. That said, due to the atrocious safety record, terrible weekend headways, the relative reliability of the bus, and the narrowing of the price gap between Uber and a trip on Metro, I rarely take Metro anymore. So while I don’t find it unsafe necessarily, the safety issues certainly add to its increasing lack of utility.

  • I only ride to get to the occasional meeting, and it’s during the school day when (most?) of the kids are in school. I would probably find a reason not to run in the after-school hours, unless I really had to.

    I’m not worried about Metro incidents, but rather just the kids.

  • binntp

    Not 100%, but pretty safe nonetheless. Actually, my biggest safety concern has little to do with personal violence, but rather being a pedestrian and getting mowed down by haphazard drivers.

    • agreed. I do not feel safe on metro (individual violence, equipment malfunction/operator error, and terrorism are concerns, in about that order) but I feel just as likely to be injured walking, biking, or driving/riding in a car. Metro isn’t perfectly safe, but it’s about equally safe in my mind as other ways of getting around.

  • I have never been witness to anything like the assaults described here, but I have seen enough groups rowdy groups of teens/unstable individuals on Metro that I felt it was only a matter of time. It was a large contributing factor as to why I dropped Metro altogether in favor of commuting by car to work (that and the constant break downs). It was the awful homicide in July that really did it for me- it happened at my stop.
    And yes, I agree with the above post that driving can be somewhat hair-raising as well- especially in the afternoon with all the angry MD drivers rushing to get home, but I still feel more in control of my surroundings than if I were at the mercy of Metro.

    • Driving is not just “hair-raising”, it’s statistically at least 100 times more likely you’ll be killed or injured behind the wheel than on a train.
      This isn’t just you, Humans are unfortunately very bad at evaluating risk factors involved in daily activities. I’d urge you to reconsider.

      • I’m not sure the data exists to support conclusions regarding the overall risk of injury or death from all causes for a whole trip door-to-door, driving versus transit, that could be used to compare equivalent trips. The risk of a car crash resulting in severe injury or death is much lower in the city than it is in the suburbs and in more rural areas. No doubt riding the metro from Columbia Heights to Gallery Place is safer than driving in from Gaithersburg, but I’m not so sure that driving from the spot in front of your house in DC proper to your precise destination entirely within the borders of DC proper is statistically safer than, say, walking half a mile to a bus/train stop, riding it, getting off, and then walking another half mile to your destination. Heck, in DC proper, about half of the people killed in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians, and if for the purpose of assessing your own driving risk you exclude drivers killed while drunk, high, or fleeing from the police, the number of car drivers killed in crashes in DC proper is very small. After factoring in risk of being killed in a car crash or being a victim of a crime while walking between home and the transit station, I’m not sure this holds up, and if it does it’s by a hair, not by anything like a multiple of 100.

        • Came here to say this. Thank you for explaining it better than I could. I live in the Cap Hill area and work downtown. My commute is in-city only, with traffic going no more than 10mph at any given time. I’m sure the risk of a fender bender is pretty high, but a fatal crash is not very likely under those conditions.

        • I’m guessing you didn’t actually look at the data to formulate this paragraph. In 2015 26 people were killed in traffic accidents. If you look at this map ( which covers 2008-2013 those deaths are distributed throughout the city. In 2015 2 people were murdered on WMATA. In each of the two previous years nobody was murdered on WMATA property in the entire region.
          There are plenty of ways to die in a car accident in the city. The number of terrible accidents on seemingly slow city streets on this site alone should alert you to that possibility.
          You are right that aggregate statistics do not accurately reflect trip level risk for individual commuters, and that the walk between the metro and the house matters too. But this post is about risk in WMATA facilities specifically. So focusing on that for the moment, I feel confident saying that for every single person on the region their trip level risk of death is at least twice as high when driving vs. when taking metro. The average is probably closer to the 100 I cited above.
          Both you and the anon below are simply demonstrating the extent to which humans inability to assess risk cloud their judgement. This NY Times article has an interesting summary of the phenomena:

          • Prince Of Petworth

            There is a lot more to risk than simply car deaths vs metro deaths.

          • HaileUnlikely

            For the leg of the trip that is actually in the metro system, you are clearly correct, Petworther. However, for people who walk significant distance to/from the station, the risk of being injured by a car or a victim of a crime while walking to/from the station is also a part of the overall risk of the trip, and it makes the analysis a lot more complicated. Many crimes that occur outside if the Metro system, as well as some instances of pedestrians injured or killed by cars, involve victims who had been walking to/from metro. If you live next to the station and work next to the station and don’t even have to cross the street as a part of your metro trip, then metro is very much unambiguously safer than driving. However, for a person whose round-trip “metro” commute also involves 2-3 miles of walking to/from stations, the analysis is a real lot more complicated than just tallying up deaths in the Metro system itself.

          • “There is a lot more to risk than simply car deaths vs metro deaths.”
            That’s absolutely right. I definitely think metro should be safer and the city in general should be safer. But I also think people are confused about the nature of risks and tend to overestimate some risks while underestimating others. I deeply appreciate your coverage of crime in the city and advocacy for a safer DC. That said there’s often a lot of hyperbole on these issues from some voices, which I think is ultimately counter-productive to the cause because it makes public safety advocates too easily caricatured. It’s a thin line to walk.

          • Adding that according to your poll so far 420 people (27% of responders) apparently don’t feel safe anywhere on metro. That illustrates my point perfectly because it is an objectively ridiculous and completely wrong opinion to have.
            Metro could and should be safer. But saying you feel safe “not anywhere” on metro is incomprehensibly stupid.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            You can’t tell people how they should feel. This isn’t coming out of a vacuum. Look at how many people have seen people threatened/harassed. And ps tell me I’m stupid for feeling a certain way to my face. I’ll be at Boundary Stone March 13th – donate $50 and I’ll get you an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.

          • Just for context: according to metro there are around 712k system entries on an average weekday an metrobus carries around 460k rides. Metro recorded 1654 crimes on metro facilities, about 2/3 of which are larceny (mostly pickpocketing) in the entire year. I would really like to see those numbers reduced and people are right to ask for better safety on metro. On the other hand, you are staggeringly unlikely to be the victim of crime on metro.

          • “You can’t tell people how they should feel.”
            Ha. Maybe I will stop by the HH sometime.
            But I strongly disagree with this statement. Media coverage can and does tell people how to feel and shapes they way they do feel. People feel afraid because they hear a consistent barrage of information about crime on metro. What they don’t hear is that crime rates are near historic lows and that on an average day almost 1.2M people use metro facilities and assaults happen on average once every 3 days.
            People should report on violence on metro and advocate to reduce it, but it should be done responsibly and in context. I don’t think the hyperbole about crime helps anyone.
            As the NYTimes article points out, poor risk assessment has costs. The article they cite estimates 1,000 additional deaths in auto deaths were cause because people drove instead of flew after 9/11. While you can’t force people to feel a certain way you should give them accurate information about risk and try to help them make informed decisions.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Thank you for starting that diatribe without calling me an idiot first. You have some decent points but you are really just completely at the other end of the rose colored spectrum. Yes of course people need perspective – but to not acknowledge the uptick in crime, harassment, quality of life issues is idiotic. There I called you an idiot too. What we need is to admit that things are going in the wrong direction and address the problems rationally. I dare say a middle ground between all is fucking roses and the sky is falling. Even if quality of life is better than the good old 80s. And I was going to call you an idiot again but it really doesn’t add to the discussion now does it?

          • You’re definitely not an idiot. And I strongly feel that both DC and WMATA need to do more to make our city and transit system safe. I absolutely agree there’s a middle ground in the discussion of crime and generally think your coverage of the issue is well rounded. I want nothing more than to never hear another gunshot in Petworth and have noted here in the past that the public health effects of gun violence go far beyond victims of gun crime.
            That said, I was a little alarmed that apparently 27% of readers never feel safe on metro. That tells me there is very substantial misperception about the likelihood of being the victim of a crime, which also has negative and dangerous effects (I’m thinking specifically of an excellent editorial you published here two weeks ago).

          • I think what Petworther is saying is that people may _feel_ unsafe, but that the actual risk is lower than they perceive it to be.
            Like with how people (generally) feel more nervous about flying than driving — the numbers support that flying is safer, but because people have some element of control in a driving situation, they _feel_ safer than in a situation where they have no control whatsoever.
            That said, there’s been an uptick in well-publicized incidents of violent crime on Metro. So it’s not surprising that people feel less safe than they did before.

          • Also, if it wasn’t already clear I definitely don’t think you’re an idiot and rarely disagree with you. Thanks for all your work over the years to make Petworth and DC a better place to live!!!

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Thank you. For the record, I don’t mind disagreement – I just prefer it to be respectful.

          • Petworther – Want some data? Ok. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 23 deaths in car crashes in DC proper in 2014 (most recent year of data available). Of those, 9 were drivers of cars, 1 was a passenger in a car, 3 were on motorcycles or scooters, 10 were pedestrians, and one was on a bicycle. Of the car drivers, 5 were legally drunk, an additional 2 tested positive for PCP, 1 tested positive for a drug called piritramide (a narcotic similar to morphine). That is to say, in the most recent year of data available, the number of drivers of cars who were killed in DC proper while neither drunk nor high was exactly 1.

          • Too bad you can’t have equal respect for all of the commenters who disagree with you.

  • I choose 100% safe because it is the closest answer. I’ve lived in DC for 13 years and haven’t had a safety problem on metro. I guess for me, this is compared to my year and a half living in France where I was groped 3 or 4 times on metro, saw a man visciously beating his wife in a bus with nobody but me trying to help (I always wish I had done more), and caught a thief in the act of trying to steal my wallet from my bag and when I yelled at him, everyone on the train just stared at me instead of helping. Mentally, I know terrible things happen on metro, I see the police reports, but I still just feel pretty safe. Annoyed sometimes by loud/annoying passangers, but safe.

  • I personally feel safe, but I’ve seen others attacked and cornered by groups of teenagers on the platform at Gallery Place. Sometimes it’s kids beating on other kids, sometimes it’s kids messing with and assaulting an adult. That probably should make me feel the opposite of safe, but I guess I just have enough self-preservation mechanisms (keeping my distance from groups of teenagers, switching cars if things are getting tense) that I don’t think of it that way.

  • NH Ave Hiker

    I feel about as safe on metro as anywhere else in the city. I’ve never personally witnessed any of the random violence but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen at any time. I guess I’m just always trying to stay vigilant and aware of my surroundings.

    • This, pretty much.
      I don’t think I’ve ever felt unsafe inside a Metro car — the only times I’ve switched cars, it’s been because someone was playing loud music. (Or because the air conditioning wasn’t working or there was a strong smell in the car.)

  • For me, the issue isn’t so much that I don’t feel safe, as I don’t feel comfortable on it. I’m old and cranky enough to remember when people never ate on the Metro, when people from other cities would comment on how great DC’s subway was. I remember reading about Fawn Hal getting a ticket for eating on the Metro being glad (plus, as a life long Dem, screw her). Now when I get on the Metro, I’ll see discarded chicken wings and soda bottles all over the car. I’ve witnessed incidents of little shits being little shits and harassing people without a cop in sight. I’ve been stuck in tunnels on overcrowded trains. And through it all, I just get this overwhelming sense that no one cares, no one in Metro, and no one in government. Somehow this sorry state has just become the new norm. I had hoped streetcars might take some of the pressure off the Metro, but we saw how that was implemented.

    • You nailed it. It feels like no one cares about the safety, efficiency or cleanliness, and that translates into a less-than-pleasant experience.

      • Thanks, although its riddled with typos. It’s not just the Metro, I just feel that across the board there is far too much comfort with where the city is. Yes, it’s not like it was 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we call it a day and settle in. We have a lot of work to do and if leadership isn’t going to lead, then the affluent are going to drive to work, button up in their homes and wait for economic forces to push out working class residents while Metro crumbles even more. We don’t need lip service, we need action. In the short term that means cops in the cars enforcing the rules, big and small: no more fare jumping, no more eating, and no more roving mobs terrorizing people. In the long term, it means figuring out the governance of Metro across administrative boundaries, figuring out the funding for infrastructure repairs and figuring out other forms of mass transportation to take pressure off an overloaded system. Yes that’s all hard work, yes that will take years, but the longer we take the harder it will be. I want a leader in my city to say this is my vision and this are the specific steps to get there and I want that leader to say that current state of Metro is bullshit and needs to be fixed.

  • I think the poll illustrates why in real terms, metro’s ridership has fallen back to 2004 levels, despite the cities population growing 10%, and the regions growth increasing 6% during that same period…also a period where transit ridership in the nations largest rail transit systems (NYC,Boston, Chicago) have all seen significant ridership increases.

    It is called a “death spiral” and metro is in it.

    • I’m sure safety is a part of it. But almost all of my friends who are long time DC residents (10 years or more) have gone from daily metro users to rare if never and none of us have made that choice due to safety. For all of us it is the loss of reliability and the complete death of weekend service that has changed our commuting habits. I’ve never felt unsafe on metro. But I live 3.5 miles from my office and have a lot of 7 and 8 am meetings. To get there by metro with the expectation of being on time I have to leave at least an hour before I need to be to the office. I can walk there in that time, and walking is free. I can bike there in 20 minutes and it is almost free given the sunk cost of bicycle ownership. Riding the metro on a good day is marginally faster than walking, and slower than driving, biking or running. So why deal with it?

  • Question: Cost aside, why don’t metro cars have a CCTV system? Not expecting it to be monitored, but passive surveillance, plus those “smile, you’re on camera!” signs *might* serve as a slight deterrent/allow for these types of things to be on official record and not just cell phone video.

    • Some Metrorail cars and Metro buses _do_ have cameras, but I’m not clear whether they’re hooked up to a CCTV system per se. And I think someone commented here that there’s no standard procedure as to how long the footage is retained before it’s overwritten.

      • As of a couple of years ago, the security cameras on metrorail were mostly non-functioning. The cameras on buses, on the other hand, are functioning and are frequently used in the prosecution of crimes (I know this from jury duty).

    • It’s my understanding that all new 7000-series trains will have them.

  • I feel safe, generally, until I don’t feel safe at all. That’s the challenging part about Metro. I can go days on the Green Line without seeing bad teenage behavior (which can be downright frightening if not simply annoying), and it lulls me into thinking everything is fine. Then, I see something or have a close call that reminds me that I’ve let my guard down and that the consequences for a lack of vigilance — like not moving to a different train to avoid rowdy teens before sitting in the tunnel waiting for the track at Convention Center to clear — can be very real. Also, Metro makes you feel there’s safety in numbers, but I’m not sure that’s actually true. Do you really think riders are going to intervene, cops will appear or teens who scatter and run knowing there are no consequences will care one way or the other? I feel safer walking, because I have more control and options.

  • I do not feel safe but it’s not because of kids. It is because of Metro. Overcrowded platforms, train malfunctions, and the absence of working intercoms on many train cars create another tragedy waiting to happen. Yesterday on my commute I could not make out a single word from the train operator because of static on the intercom system. In the event of an emergency train passengers will be almost completely alone and unable to communicate with anyone outside of the train (no cell service in most tunnels).

    And while the kids don’t make me fear for my safety on Metro, I have been assaulted by them once, and threatened with attack. I also had my phone and wallet stolen on the Blue line but that was years ago when I was new to the city.

    • “I do not feel safe but it’s not because of kids. It is because of Metro.” Some of this, too. Every time I’m in a train that’s stopped in a tunnel for an extended period of time, I get a little anxious wondering if it’s going to turn out like the debacle last January.

  • Mostly. But I’m more afraid of being stuck in a tunnel in between stations for a long period of time than I am being jumped by teenagers. Overall I feel safer on the bus.

    • I don’t feel safer on the bus at all. If something happens, there is no where to go (i.e. can’t jump on another car to defuse a situation, get off train onto crowded platform). If you exit the bus and they exit the bus with you, that’s bad news at a deserted bus stop. I’ve seen equally shady stuff on the bus (although usually weekend nights) from teens as I have on the metro.

  • Maybe 7 or 8 years ago I remember being on an orange line train running through the middle of the city in the afternoon rush hour when a guy who was clearly not all there mentally started screaming in the face of an older man seated on the train. The seated man had done nothing to provoke the incident and was trying to act calm but he was getting rattled and shifting, but could not get up to move because of where the yelling man had his body.

    No one on the train was doing anything. Everyone had their blank stares on 100%, hoping that the man wouldn’t yell at them too.

    I walked to the call box at the end of the train and called the metro operator to tell him what was going on. The operator responded immediately, asked for the car number and a description of the man. At the next station there were police waiting to take him off the train.

    I am still rattled from this – not by the guy who was yelling, but by how little anyone else did to help out. Metro did its job but couldn’t know until someone pointed out the problem. Scream all you want about WMATA, but when you can’t rely on the people around you for help it’s even more concerning.

  • Most of the time yes, but in too many instances, NO. Something needs to be done about the teens and there needs to be more police presence. DCPS needs to stop pretending it’s not their students causing the trouble (looking at Kaya Henderson)

    • Adding a little more context. I ride the red and green/yellow lines every day. The Union Station-Noma-Rhode Island stretch (where I live) always tends to have troubling instances with teens. (1) guy stabbed to death on July 4, (2) man having his jaw broken, (3) smoke bombs being set off yesterday, (4) numerous other smaller instances of yelling/cursing/harassing riders. I was also on the train where a group of teens jumped the man during morning rush hour at Chinatown a couple of weeks ago. I’ve lived off the red line for five years, but have only seen problems more recently. It’s just frustrating and I don’t know that Metro or local gov cares.

      • In Philly a couple weeks ago, a guy shoved a stranger onto the tracks – yelling “Kill! Kill! Kill!” at her. It’s not just a DC thing.

  • A guy harassed me for standing in between him and his girlfriend while they were having a conversation across the aisle. I ignored him and moved elsewhere and he followed me and continued to scream at me even though I remained silent until they got off the train. Everyone else ignored us. Learned a valuable lesson not to assume that anyone will stick up for you on metro.

  • Not really anymore. Just this morning I got on an 80s bus with a man coming from the hospital who was very angry (at what, I’m not sure, sounded like the world) and spouting off all sorts of hateful and violent things against everyone – from his girlfriend or other family member who wouldn’t pick him up to a guy who works at Subway that he supposedly already beat up/harassed to white people in general. Normally I’d brush this behavior off but given everything that’s happened on transit and in the city in general, I couldn’t help but feel unsafe.

  • I wouldn’t get on a Metro train nowadays without a taser and a nightstick. And I don’t blame Metro for it at all – I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of our city council and the mayor. DC needs to pass a clear, unambiguous “stand your ground” law that states in no uncertain terms that you are not criminally or civilly responsible for any injuries, or even a fatality, that a criminal sustains while you are defending yourself, your property, or another person. It’s common sense – only an idiot would oppose it. Then we need to put an ad that says that in every single Metro car and station.
    The District is too worried about protecting criminals – no names or photos of juvenile murderers because it may hurt their feelings, unlimited second chances, and a catch-and-release judicial system – to keep decent people safe. That’s fine, but if that’s the case, they need to empower us to protect ourselves.

    • Where does the sentiment that you can not protect yourself come from? Is this shaped by personal experience?

    • Stand your ground only removes the duty to retreat. That isn’t changing the dynamic for self defense especially not in a metro car or bus. You have a right to defend yourself reasonably meaning you can’t shoot up the train car because a guy pushed you, for example.
      I will never grasp why people here feel that the law makes them helpless. You can always defend yourself against an aggressor. Third party law varies, but let’s say if you see someone getting beat to death or stabbed you’re most likely ok helping them out. What more law do we need?

  • I’ve been in DC for 13 years. I used to feel completely safe riding metro, including close to closing hours. I now no longer feel safe riding the metro late at night (beyond ~9), and when I see groups of teenagers I avoid being near them/getting in the same car.

    • this whole thing is crazy to me. I commuted on the red line from silver spring for five years from 1998 – 2003 and it was the most sedate (read: awesome) thing ever. almost like what I’ve experienced in Japan since then. Literally zero problems, violence or maintenance. If my perception of how things are today is correct, wow, what a regrettable mess.

  • I typically feel safe on Metro but am hyper vigilant. I will get off a car in a heartbeat if I get an uneasy feeling about a fellow rider(s). I use Metro infrequently so my experience may not be the same as others who utilize it often.

  • andy

    I don’t like situations with 3-plus teenagers on Metro yelling/talking/screaming/at each other and messing with passengers they don’t know. I feel like situations like that can be harmless but annoying or can escalate based on little or nothing. I have only seen that on the Metro, but it has happened probably 5-10 times, and I don’t like it.

    • SouthwestDC

      The teenagers horsing around always make me nervous, though the only time they’ve ever engaged with me was to ask me about my knitting project!

    • Messing with passengers they don’t know is never harmless. It’s called harassment and can be extremely scary for the victim, even if the teens resort to no physical harm. The problem with this city is that many people all across the spectrum make excuses (historic, racial, cultural, economic) and dismiss these types of behaviors, which only encourages more of them. Not surprisingly, many of these young adults will land in jail, because no one taught them right from wrong. In fact, the city and its leaders are encouraging (whether they want to admit it or not) these young adults to ignore the rules. I wish these teens luck in the future, because they’ll need it. Fortunately, I grew up in a place where people cared enough about kids — their own and those of others — to keep them in line. Structure and discipline are not a form of punishment. When done right, they’re an act of love.

      • You make a good point that I agree with – many of the teens in this city have not been taught how to behave in society. But teaching strangers …. about a month ago I was on Redline from Bethesda to Cleveland Park (pretty damn nice stretch of metro) around 3 PM and a group of teens got on at Tenley. One of the guys was standing by the door and blocking it as his friends ran around the car. A white women about mid 50s said to him “you can’t stand there and block the door”. He went off verbally and tried to get his friends involved. All the other people on the train, including quite a few healthy looking 20-30 year old guys looked away. She started to talk to the kid again, I looked straight at her, and gave a look and head shake that said “No, let it go”, which she did. Would not have surprised me if she had gotten punched.

  • I stopped riding metro a year or so ago mainly because it’s completely unreliable and I would often get stuck on trains or overcrowded platforms. I also have asthma so the incidents around smoke really spooked me. Now, I think I also wouldn’t ride it because of the safety issue. I sometimes ride the bus but have seen others harassed on the bus so it’s not completely safe. I mostly walk/cab around the city now. I wish our city officials cared more about the obvious lack of satisfaction with public transportation.

  • Been riding Metro for over 20 years and the system has gone completely down the toilet the last few. And no, I do not feel safe on Metro and have witnessed large groups of teens on many occasions engaging in everything from annoying and rude to threatening behavior. As opposed to when I first moved to DC and relied heavily on Metro, I only take it now to and from work at rush hour on weekdays, it is far too unreliable and unsafe at any other times or days.

  • As If

    i havent seen anyone being harassed or threatened, but i’ve seen groups of teens trying to get a reaction out of other passengers and these are the types of situations where things can go wrong very quickly. the thought of being in a train car when one of these groups decides to escalate things, combined with how frequently metro trains stop in tunnels for varying amounts of time, made me decide to avoid using metrorail altogether. its really too bad. things have definitely gotten nasty. i rode metro every day back in the late 90s to and from high school and never had any worries. i guess ~we~ were the groups of teens back then. we were probably loud, annoying, and obnoxious at times, but we never tried to mess with other passengers or be malicious in any way. maybe i’m over-stressing about it and i’m sure the likelihood of something happening to me is rather low overall, but the lack of transit police presence & enforcement is not reassuring.

  • It’s really interesting to me to see so many people say they’ve never seen or experienced anything, ever. I’ve lived here for 6.5 years and can think of multiple times I’ve been trapped in a train car when something goes down: in 2009 when I was on the green line heading into the city from Greenbelt and a fight between an older man and a teenager broke out; in 2010 when I was on the red line between Fort Totten and Takoma and two guys started fighting and one pulled a knife; even just a couple weeks ago I was on the orange line heading into the city from Arlington and a woman started screaming in my face because I didn’t take whatever she was trying to hand me (I didn’t notice until she started screaming, I couldn’t hear over my headphones and she was behind me).

  • I voted 100% yes, because I feel safe on both the trains and the bus. I’ve never witnessed anyone being harassed or threatened on either. I have seen people (some of these people clearly with some sort of mental health issue), talking loudly and the like. I’ve also witnessed groups (2 or more) of youth and/or adults talking loudly amongst themselves. I say this because to some when they see the above, especially if it involves people of color, they may automatically feel a sense of danger, but that’s not been my personal experience.

    • That’s like saying, “I’ve never been in a plane crash so I’m 100% sure that plane travel is totally safe.” Does that make any sense given that you know planes crash sometimes?

      • By your logic, if you see something happen once it shouldn’t mean it happens “all the time” either…
        Anyone saying “I never feel safe on the Metro” is being just as dramatic.

  • I’ve experienced it firsthand, by making the grievous mistake of asking for a disability seat on a crosstown bus. The group of students sitting in the disability seating turned on me, catcalled me, told me to go to the back of the bus, and several of the adults joined in! It was unbelievable, and the bus driver did nothing. I did report it (I am very active on transit issues) but of course nothing came of that.

  • First you ask ” Have you been threatened or seen someone else threatened or harassed aboard metro?” and then the poll question reads “Do you feel safe riding metro?” which isn’t necessarily the same thing. Someone might have seen kids threaten other kids but the observer might feel safe because he’s an older guy. Or someone may have only heard of harassment happening and never observed it but still feel unsafe. Frequency of riding also matters as does time and place.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Well techincally first I ask “Do you feel safe on Metro” in the title and all. The poll answer in no way implies second hand knowledge of harassment happening – have YOU seen (not have you heard about). Anyway J – do you feel safe riding metro? Have you been threatened/harassed on metro? Have you personally seen someone threatened/harrassed on metro?

      • Perhaps I was feeling a bit picky and cranky before…

        Anyway, do I feel safe riding metro? Safe enough to keep using it even though I could drive. But there are other factors. I feel safer on Metro than I’d feel as a cyclist in traffic or as a pedestrian in many areas. I worry about getting trapped in 3rd Street tunnel when driving and there’s an accident and construction. On Metro, I’m more worried about mechanical issues and getting trapped in a smoky tunnel or pushed on the tracks from an overcrowded platform than I am of personal violence.

        Have I been threatened/harassed on metro? No.

        Have you personally seen someone threatened/harassed on metro? Yes, mostly verbal-only. Only seen it get physical within groups of people who all know each other, never a random attack.

  • One of the biggest issues for me is that out of the last six or eight times I saw a police officer in the Metro system (which even when I was a regular rider was only two or three sightings per year), half of the time they were doing those ridiculous security theater bag checks, and not doing anything to actually address the problem of safety.
    My worry about terrorism on Metro is exactly zero. It’s a soft target, like so many others in this city, and like most other DC residents, we’ve come to terms with that and the fact that there is a risk to riding the train, going to the fireworks on the Mall, or shopping or dining downtown. Of course, it helps that the last time any military from an invading force was in the city, it was the British, and that the city proper has had exactly zero terrorist attacks in the last 100 years+. Not one bomb, not one staged operation. Only a spree killer at the Navy Yard a few years back, and let’s face it, cities are now more unusual for *not* having had a mass shooting than the other way around.
    My concern is 100% packs of young people. At best they’re loud, unruly, disruptive, and unpleasant to be around, and at worst, they have physically attacked and nearly killed dozens of innocent, decent people over the last few years. It has gotten *exponentially* worst since the city started giving ALL of them unlimited, free access to the Metro system, so they can “go to school”. Newsflash: they’re not going to school. They’re going around terrorizing taxpayers, who paid for their damn ride! If the city lacks the sense to do away with this ridiculous policy, Metro should do away with it for them. I would actually be quite alright with Metro refusing access to unsupervised children altogether, although I know that isn’t possible.
    To any Metro executives reading this (and @PoPville, I hope you tweet them and suggest they do; the rest of these comments are valuable feedback to them), GET RID OF THE FREE PASSES FOR CHILDREN, or at LEAST restrict them to only working from the stop closest to their home to the stop by the school in the morning and the reverse in the afternoon and shut them down during school hours (you shouldn’t need the train if you’re in class), in the evenings and on weekends.
    Then, FLOOD the system with police. However many you have now, triple that number and let’s start there. Only when we’ve reversed the perception from it’s unusual to see an officer on an average day to it’s unusual *not* to see one either on your way to work or your way home will you really start seeing riders willing to come back.
    My car is very comfortable, safer than the train, and 100% hooligan-free. And the cost is about the same. Woo me back with serious security. It is the only way.

  • I only get on the metro if I’m running the Marine Corp Marathon or Army Ten Miler when there are a ton of runners riding too. Otherwise I will spend my lunch money on Uber. I am simply not savvy or experienced enough to deal with the houligans. And I can’t tell if these kids are seriously ready to get violent or are just mouthing off. Maybe they’re just telling jokes, but it’s hard to ignore when there are regular reports of violence in and around metro.

    • Living in a diverse city may not be the right thing for you if you only feel safe being around people who run marathons.

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