The Washington Metropolitan Region has fallen to second place, after Los Angeles, for the honor of having the most hours "on the road" annually for auto commuters.   We've been in first place before and it's usually LA that we are vying with for this tremendous honor.  But, hey, the Los Angeles region has around 18.5 million people compared to our paltry 6 million.  On the other hand, we do have the nation's second largest METRO subway system after New York City.  Our 181 mile long system racked up 215.3 million trips, or 712,843 trips per weekday, in fiscal year 2015.  

Around 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon, newly installed METRO General Manager, Paul Wiedefeld, announced that the entire system would be closed for 29 hours while inspections of the system took place following a series of electrical fires.  One Monday, shut down the McPherson Square station downtown for the day. 

Folks here in the National Capital Region are not happy.  More so from the lack of forewarning than anything else since we are used to seeing headlines about “problems” with the system pretty much all the time.  I just came back from a trip to my local 7-11 and I could see cars, trucks and busses backed up for about a dozen blocks on Maryland Avenue.  Maryland Avenue is a heavily used route for suburban Maryland commuters.  Many folks have apparently said “Fuck It.  I just ain’t going in to work  today."  The Federal Office of Personnel Management announced that Federal Employees may “telecommute” today, meaning they get to continue preparing their gardens for Spring. 

Here’s what local WashPost pundit Petula Dvorak had to say in her piece this morning:

Metrorail has become just as dysfunctional as Congress. Maybe worse.

We really didn’t need this.

Not right in the middle of our shamefully ugly presidential election season. And not right after our humiliating ice storm meltdown.

We were already international laughingstocks. Now Washington gets to endure an unprecedented Metro shutdown.

With little warning, the rail network that spider webs beneath the nation’s capital and carries hundreds of thousands of passengers each day announced Tuesday that it would simply close for at least 24 hours.

Good night and good luck getting around. Ride a bike. Or a goat. Or a burro.

Good night and good luck getting around. Ride a bike. Or a goat. Or a burro.
Forget Uber. Surge pricing, remember?

Call us Washingtonistan.

Electrical cables. Fire hazards. That’s what the officials said at their astonishing press conference. Okay, okay. Those are scary words.

“While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here,” General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said.

Life. Safety.

Got it.

The shutdown was scheduled to begin at midnight. So I guess that means anyone riding home Tuesday evening was flirting with death.

Total, Armageddon-style gridlock happened. But that’s all part of this new Washingtonistan.

We’re the capital of a country edging toward chaos, a foreign correspondent’s dream dispatch.

Let’s put the video clips together of what’s happening in America.

We’ve got the bizarro-looking potentate holding violent rallies in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. People are punched and thrown to the ground. They’re raising their right arms to pledge allegiance to a man who couldn’t keep a steak company solvent.

Get that footage of the brown drinking water coming out of the spigots in Flint, Mich.! And the crates of bottled water being distributed from big trucks.

Oh, now add in some shots of the hopelessly partisan and gridlocked members of the House and Senate, the elected officials who have been refusing to do their jobs for years now. Who needs nine Supreme Court justices anyway?

Now Metro has succumbed to the same forces of dysfunction.

Decades ago, back when D.C. was a murder capital and fiscal basket case, Metro was one of the few things that worked — a modern miracle of efficiency, uniformity and reliability.

But that was a long time ago. Now the city works, and its transit system doesn’t. On Monday there was yet another fire. And now, its electrical wires are so dangerous, officials say they must simply shut down the entire system.

This is what happens when short-sighted leadership is the rule of the day, when the people who are running things can’t imagine planting seedlings to create the tree shade they will never live to enjoy.

WMATA has long operated a system that ignored its long-term budget problems, that refused to acknowledge its deadly wiring and communications problems before they cost lives, that still can’t really explain how those nine people died in a terrible crash in 2009.
Metro used to be better than Congress.

At least it ran.

Now it is just another symbol of failure.

NOTE: Ms. Dvorak and I don’t often agree – she’s what I would call a “slightly right of center centrist” – but this time she’s got it exactly right.

And while we may not be able to figure out exactly why it is that Congress can’t seem to get it together and function (Is Obama-Hatred Syndrome still at work?  Is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan not right winger conservative enough?  Are all those Hillary hearings leaving the Capitol Building with no rooms left to get work done?) this I do know:

If you need any more evidence about why Bernie Sanders has become our spokesperson, then maybe you still believe that “cutting taxes creates jobs” despite not a scintilla of evidence that this simply isn’t so.

To All My Fellow Washington Area Sufferers:

It’s going to be a nice, sunny Spring-like day. 



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