Last Updated: Tue Jul 19, 2011 01:26 am (KSA) 22:26 pm (GMT)

Angela Simaan: So what’s so good about Washington?

Metro trains arrive at the Gallery Pl - Chinatown Station in Washington, DC. (GETTY Photo)
Metro trains arrive at the Gallery Pl - Chinatown Station in Washington, DC. (GETTY Photo)

Let’s start with the good things about Washington, D.C.’s metro system: it’s clean, with few rats and fewer stinks. It gets suburbanites, but not their cars, into the city. The train map and bus routes are easy to understand.

Conversely, the bad points of Metro are almost too numerous to count. They warrant the dedicated hashtag #unsuckDCmetro; an eponymous, long standing blog; countless Facebook and Web pages; and frequent coverage by local news media.

The chorus of complaining doesn’t mean D.C. is a city of whiners, it means the public transportation system has ongoing and aggravating problems. Fares keep going up, but escalators keep going out. A report in June revealed that about 20 percent of the moving stairways weren’t moving at all, creating bottlenecked hordes of grumpy commuters on platforms, and making it more difficult for the handicapped to get above ground.

The color-coded train tracks, which opened in 1976, need repair, so the transit authority closes stations and reroutes lines every weekend, leading to long delays and unreliable transportation. And because buses are fewer and far between on the weekend, it’s usually more practical to walk, cab or stay in the neighborhood than try to cross town for weekend activities. And heaven help those outside Washington who even think of coming into the city limits for the weekend – one-track lines often mean it could take as long as 2 hours to travel 10 miles. Problems extend to weekdays too, when more frustrated riders are relying on the ever-plagued lines.

Also chronically short of cash, Metro cut bus routes and raised taxpayer subsidies to cover a $72 million budget deficit this year, rather than another outright fare hike. The long-promised “Silver” line that’s being built to run to one of the major area airports (currently a major pain to get to) is so mired in planning and budget problems that it’s hard to imagine it will be finished by 2025, never mind the 2015 deadline that’s been promised.

There’s the saying about another powerful capital city -- “all roads lead to Rome.” But in Washington, even the trains and buses have trouble making it smoothly.

(Angela Simaan, Senior Producer in the Washington Bureau of Al Arabiya, can be reached at: angela.simaan

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