“It was very upsetting to be taken hostage by metro, with no questions asked.”

by Prince Of Petworth April 14, 2016 at 10:25 am 56 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user James Jackson

“Dear PoPville,

I reported this to WMATA earlier today. Were any other readers on this train?

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing about my very unsettling experience on the Red Line metro on April 13, 2016. I am very disappointed by the train driver/operator/conductor and would appreciate his/her response to my inquiry below.

QUESTION: Why did the train operator not make an announcement on the train to ensure that all passengers were ABLE to disembark at Silver Spring prior to heading straight for Brookland with no interim stops? It was very upsetting to be taken hostage by metro today, with no questions asked.

In the afternoon I boarded a Red line train at Chinatown which stated that it was terminating at Glenmont station. It made it to an above ground stop between Silver Spring station and Forest Glen station. Then suddenly the train started moving BACKWARDS down to Silver Spring. There was a quick announcement about offloading and the train being placed out of service, BUT the doors on our train car #3205 NEVER OPENED. Then the train kept moving south without making stops. Finally, just north of Brookland station, a fellow passenger pressed the intercom button to inquire and the train conductor effectively told him that it was his fault that he did not off-load at Silver Spring.

Pray tell, how were the passengers of car #3205 supposed to disembark if the doors never opened? Thank you in advance for your reply.”

  • anon

    hostage? I guess it is a presidential election year, so hyperbole is expected.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree. I think the OP has a legitimate beef here, but the use of such dramatic language detracts from it quite a bit.

      • I was expecting something soooo much worse.

      • textdoc

        +1 to Haile and Justin.

        • ChenChen

          +1 to all above

    • Josh

      LOL. That was my first thought too.

    • Tony

      This is not hyperbole at all. The communication from Metro’s train operators is HORRID. Half the time you can’t understand them and they couldn’t care less about it. I would be horrified if this happened to me.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Whether bypassing a stop is tantamount to being “taken hostage” is independent of your or anyone’s general satisfaction with Metro.

        • Tony

          I think you don’t understand the OP’s issue because of your concern with the OP’s choice of terminology. The train she was in more than just ‘bypassed’ a stop. It bypassed several stops. Things like this don’t happen in places where people know how to manage rail systems.

          • HaileUnlikely

            “The communication from Metro’s train operators is HORRID,” even if true [and I am inclined to agree], is not of the general form of an argument relevant to the question of whether or not “I was taken hostage” in a particular situation is accurate or whether it is hyperbole.

          • Tony

            Wow, I think you are way overthinking the syntax of this post. Have a great day!

          • Poor terminology is pretty much the underlying basis of hyperbole.

        • anon

          +1 for good grammar, syntax, and argument structure

  • spookiness

    Similar incident last week made the rounds on my Facebook and was on youtube.

    • Someone just tweeted me this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRgM_5QYEEQ

      • jf

        At first I thought the rider was being dramatic, but after watching the video I think I would be freaked out too. If a train was just bypassing stations with no indication as to when or where it was going to stop, it’s easy to think the worst.

        • wdc

          Like that terrifying scene on the boat in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

      • logancirclegirl14

        I had a train operator announce at the stop before my stop we would not be stopping at the next station. We blew through my stop with no explanation and the train stopped at the stop after mine. This is ridiculous.

        • llucas

          Trains routinely bypass one or two stops during rush hour when they are behind schedule. In my experience, the driver always warns passengers ahead of time so that you can choose to get off and wait for the next train. From your post, it sounds like you were told the train would not stop at your stop.

    • StilllookingfortheSilverLine(ing)yall

      Had similar situation. Although, mine was more annoying than frightening. I was waiting to board a train heading towards Largo at Tyson’s Corner station about a month ago, our train arrived but only half of the car doors opened so if you were standing on the wrong spot on the platform you missed the train. We had to wait another 15 minutes for the next train. I was pretty peeved so I can’t imagine how it would have felt to be a passenger on the OP’s train OR the people trying to get off at Tyson’s Corner that night.

  • Leeran

    Dunno what’s up with the comments above, but as a rider this sounds pretty bad. One more example of metro constantly putting us in ridiculous situations.

    • HaileUnlikely

      From the above, it sounds to me as if they had a reason to offload, the doors on one car failed to open, the driver presumably did not know that, and nobody attempted to contact the driver via the intercom until the train had traveled some distance in the other direction. Taking on blind faith that the OP’s assertion that the driver “insinuated” that it was their fault for not exiting the train when they were instructed to offload, then yeah, the driver should have been more professional about it (even if he still was not aware the fact that the doors did not open and still believed that the riders simply ignored his instructions to offload), but other than that, this sounds like a run of the mill inconvenience due to a routine mechanical problem, for which it is perfectly legitimate to be plenty fed up with Metro, but the OP’s note is really hard to take seriously.

      • Leeran

        Conductors can see when doors are not opening.

      • CPT_Doom

        I thought the whole point of having red lights over doors and having the operator stick his/her head out of the window was to actually see if 1) all the doors had opened and 2) ensure all passengers were off the train. If you’re unexpectedly taking a train out of service, especially if you are reversing course, you need to be very clear with passengers and careful that everyone is off the train.

        • Luckycat

          +1 about the red lights, that’s why they look out the window at each stop. If there was a legitimate reason to offload, I have even seen drivers walk the entire length of the train to make sure know one was still there as sometimes people fall asleep or are hard of hearing. Also, it is not clear how much time was given for passengers to de-train. If it was a fairly quick situation, the passengers in that car might have been a bit shocked at first and hesitant to act right away.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Fair enough. You raise lots of good points here. Still, I found the OP’s note to be too light on information and too heavy on rhetorical flourishes to take seriously.

        • Woodley Park

          Really? I thought it was for ADA – so deaf people knew when the doors would close.

          • textdoc

            That’s what I figured too.

  • Let’s not lose the forest for the trees…

    • logan

      It’s pretty important when writing a customer service email to keep it short and to the point. Most email drones aren’t going to read and effectively respond to a three rambling paragraphs that start off with a hyperbolic hypothetical.

      Just a tip for those who need to communicate effectively in the future.

      • Philippe Lecheval

        Exactly. This should be about the concise transmittal of information, not trying to impress your English professor.

        • anonymous

          Trust me, this phrase will not impress any English professor.

  • wdc

    I was on a bus once that had to detour around an accident. The bus went to a parallel street and the driver wouldn’t let anyone off til she was back on her regular route. I don’t know if she couldn’t figure out how to get back, or if she was on a power trip, or what, because she would not respond to my questions, or my request to get off the bus, even at red lights. I ended up a full mile away from where I wanted to be, in an area I didn’t recognize, and as I was brand-new to DC and didn’t know my way around well, I was pretty shaken by it all.

  • andy2

    You waited till Brookland to buzz the driver? If you were taken hostage then you were clearly suffering from Stockholm syndrome for a while.
    As soon as you notice a safety or security issue – let the driver know – don’t wait four stops!

    • anon

      Beastie Boys new song. Don’t Buzz till Brookland.

    • FridayGirl

      In OP’s defense, I’m pretty smart — and I’m not sure that I would have thought of the intercom right away either. I don’t understand why everyone is SO CRITICAL of what people do in a situation when one has presumably not been in that situation themselves and thus has no clue how they would actually respond in real life. It’s a recurring theme on here.

      • TKM


      • anon

        +1 so much hate. I sympathize with the OP, and I too would want an explanation.

      • Anon Spock

        Having been in the situation (offloaded, no lights flickered and a garbled intercom) I went one stop before hitting the intercom. One skipped stop seemed amiss to me. It seems very strange 1,2,& 3 skipped stops didn’t seem amiss to the op. Intercoms are clearly marked too.

  • Josh

    The Taking of Popville 123

  • stacksp

    Sounds like the train conductor admitted to the mistake here. Not sure what else to say.

    • wdc

      In what way did the train operator admit a mistake? The way I read it, he blamed the passengers for not getting off the train.

      • stacksp

        Looks like I misread the second to last paragraph. He actually indicated the passenger made a mistake instead of himself making a mistake. Legit gripe, carry on…

      • textdoc

        The pronouns in this case (“he”/”his”) are ambiguous. I was thinking that the writer _probably_ meant that the driver was blaming the rider… but it could also be read as meaning that the driver admitted fault for not having offloaded the train.
        “[A] fellow passenger pressed the intercom button to inquire and the train conductor effectively told him that it was his fault that he did not off-load at Silver Spring.”

        • stacksp

          Ok so yeah, I’m not crazy lol. Textdoc sees my confusion lol

  • Tom

    This hasn’t happened to me on the Red Line, but I’ve been on a Yellow Line train bound for Fort Totten that *magically* turned into one that terminated at Mount Vernon Square. I find it much more troubling that it seems to have completely bypassed Takoma and Fort Totten after reversing in the pocket track.

  • JohnSmith

    The potential multi-month shutdown of the system should resolve all of Metro’s issues, including this problem. I kid, I kid. But in all seriousness, it is just another example of how Metro’s customer service continues to deteriorate, in addition to the failing infrastructure. I was hopeful that the new head of metro was going to really make some serious changes and revitalize the system and I’m still holding out hope. That being said, I would not be shocked at all if it turns out those were empty promises to scare up some cash. We bought a second car in November for the sole purpose of avoiding metro because I no longer consider it a safe and reliable form of transportation. And yes, I know I’m a a-hole for putting another car on the road but it makes sense for our situation.

    • west_egg

      I remain confident that Wiedefeld is working on a plan that will result in numerous positive changes. It’s supposed to be ready in a few weeks or so. In the meantime I heard a story on WAMU this morning with sound bites from this week’s testimony on the Hill — let’s just say Evans was accepting precisely zero $hit from Congress. Good for both of them.

  • Cam

    I would have been quite upset by this situation, and I don’t find the OP’s language offensive or uncalled for in the least. That was a big blunder by Metro, and riders deserve much better. Communication is indeed terrible with Metro, and mistakes like this absolutely should be taken seriously. I’ve lost trust in Metro and avoid it to the best of my ability, but I don’t have a car or unlimited funds, so I do use it. I’ve had bad bus experiences, too, including a driver recently who when I asked if he stopped at a particular intersection, said simply, “I don’t know.” Not helpful. Not confidence inspiring. Not even polite.

  • Anon Spock

    Similar happened to me. Me and 2 others couldn’t hear the garbled message saying they were offloading (sparse train, so it wasn’t obvious). I hit the intercom on the way to the yard, and the driver yelled at me and said intercoms were only for emergencies. Apparently heading to the yard didn’t qualify.

  • Anonymous

    You made it all the way to Brookland before someone raised the alarm? Huh.
    In any case, every time I’ve seen trains turn around, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an employee do a walk-through (with the doors closed), presumably to make sure no one is on the train. If they didn’t do this then I’m guessing someone made a huge mistake.

    • FridayGirl

      Yeah, whenever I’ve been on an offloading train, they’ll at least flick the lights on and off several times along with the announcement — which clarifies things a little more.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, that too. But now that I think about it, I have actually witnessed a situation where a train was offloaded, not everyone got off, and they didn’t do a check.
        It was a train reversing direction at Mt. Vernon Square. An announcement was made, the lights and doorbells flashed and dinged, and everyone got off the train except one guy who was just in a world of his own I guess. The doors closed and the train pulled off with the one guy on it; of course the train stopped on the other side after turning around, by which time the guy realized what was going on and he got off.
        Contrary to what people are saying above, there’s really no way for the driver to know if everyone got off the train unless someone does a walkthrough.

        • JohnH

          Guessing the walkthrough may take place if the train is actually going out of service. If it’s just literally turning around to go the other way, maybe not.

  • anon

    we can all agree that this situation definitely would be scary and sucks, BUT it’s sort of comical to read this headline now, after hearing about the passengers that were truly stuck in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom today, possibly under the Potomac River, right? Perspective.

    • FridayGirl

      HAHA! I just heard about that and came back to PoPville to see if anyone said anything about that….


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