Atlantic Cities

What's the Worst Service Alert a Transit System Can Send?

What's the Worst Service Alert a Transit System Can Send?
Flickr/fredcamino

Every mass transit system is going to have a bad day now and again. Some, perhaps, more than others. This morning, it was L.A.'s Metro Rail system's turn. An early morning power outage affected service along a large portion of the Blue Line right in the middle of the a.m. commute, leading to delays of up to two hours for those unlucky souls who depend on the line to get to work.

Like any responsible transit authority, Metro promptly sent out alerts to let its customers know about the outage. But they took what seems to me to be a bit of a counterintuitive approach when it came to giving advice on how to avoid the delay. The tweet below is via public radio's KPCC. Only in L.A.?

Now, I once lived in Los Angeles for about five years, so I know how reliant most of its residents are on cars. Despite a lot of excellent, forward-thinking projects of late that focus on getting more Angelenos to try alternative transit options, the geography of the city hasn't changed to the point that living there completely car-free is a super appealing option, at least not if you can afford it. Still, it strikes me as a bit nuts for a mass transit agency to recommend driving as the best alternative to a service interruption. Aren't there buses? Were they not working on establishing emergency shuttles?

Indeed, KPCC followed up with Metro to ask whether they'd ever told their customers that driving would be the best option today. Here's how that exchange went:

UPDATE 8:49 a.m. We asked Metro's Helen Ortiz-Gilstrap how often Metro encourages driving as a solution to Metro delays.

“Not often. This is probably an exception,” she said.

“Because of the way the system was down early this morning, and we were coordinating the buses that would go out to the individual stations, if someone had to reach their destination in a very short time we were asking that they look at alternative modes — either carpooling or calling a co-worker trying to share a ride into work. We always encourage ridesharing."

An appropriately diplomatic answer, but still. You'd hate to have been a Blue Line regular who doesn't have access to a personal vehicle this morning.

Here in D.C., the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is constantly taking it on the chin for its various communications failures, and we're guessing the same is true at least sometimes in your city as well. So we thought we'd ask you: What's the worst message (or lack thereof) you've ever received from your local mass transit system? Share your stories in the comments.

Top image credit: Flickr user fredcamino

Sommer Mathis is editor of The Atlantic Cities. Previously she spent five years editing and reporting on the D.C. metro area at DCist.com and TBD.com. All posts »

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