Point-Counterpoint: Is the DC Metro Better than the NYC Subway?


We think we took this well.

ratpag was anonymously forwarded this article yesterday, posted by Mobility Lab, which listed 5 reasons the DC Metro is better than the NYC subway.  Now, ratpag is nothing if not a blind supporter for all forms of public and non-car transportation, including those in and around Washington, DC, but we couldn’t help but take umbrage to such an accusation.  The DC Metro better than the NYC subway?  This DC Metro?  So we calmly sat at our desks and pondered each point:

1.  The DC Metro is “newer, cleaner, smoother.”  Big deal.  It’s New York’s fault that DC couldn’t get its act together until 70 years after NYC’s subways began rolling?  I suppose NYC should just build a new subway?  Oh, that’s right, they are.  And the DC Metro’s stations are museum-like?  You know what else is museum-like?  Many of New York’s subways stations – because they’re old and also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

We will not give you “smoother” until DC’s train drivers learn how to properly break.  You know what we’re talking about with the herky-jerky stops.

We’ll give you cleaner.

2.  Electronic fare cards.  We can’t hate on the SmarTrip cards.  We do urge you not to pat yourselves on the back too much since many, many other Metro systems, such as the London Underground, L.A. Metro, and Boston T, to name a few, also use tap cards.  They’re nice and we wish NYC would use them but, alas, it looks like we’re stuck with swipe cards for the foreseeable future.  You win on that one, but so does (nearly) everybody else (except Philly and their stupid tokens and punch cards).

3.  Real-time train information.  Sure, this is nice.  It has only been provided to a “limited” number of lines in NYC.  Of course, one of those lines is the Lexington Avenue line, which averages 1.3 million daily riders – “more than the combined ridership of San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston’s entire transit systems” (also more than the 800,000 daily trips on the DC Metro).  We refuse to give DC the win on this as we wonder what good a count-down timer really does when one has to wait between 10 to 20 minutes for trains to arrive outside of commuting hours.  “Oh look – we have a 17 minute wait for the next train!”

4.  Mobile phone service.  ratpag’s a little old fashioned and, thus, refuses to give DC the upper hand on this.  We will not acknowledge that the ability to play Words with Friends underground as a valid point in your argument that DC’s Metro is better in any way than the NYC subway (also – read a book!  Do you really – really – need to have internet access at all times?).  In addition, the NYC subway is well on its way to full cell coverage underground and should see full wireless coverage by late 2017.

5.  Accessibility.  We admit, the over-100-year-old NYC subway system isn’t as accessible to the handicapped as we might like.  But come on DC – those without sin cast the first stone.  Please again abstain from back-patting as you damn well know how often escalators and elevators like to break in your system.

How accessible.

Look, we say much of this in jest.  We both seem to be very pro-transit.  ratpag may take some swipes at the DC Metro but it’s all in good fun.  We want to see transportation funded – all transportation, even that which we don’t use and would prefer to see minimized (we’re talking about cars here).  And we’re with our fellow DC-ianites in their push to save the blue line as the Rosslyn tunnel nears capacity (we’d like to see another tunnel!).  So it’s all good.

We just don’t want DC thinking it’s better than New York.


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3 Responses to Point-Counterpoint: Is the DC Metro Better than the NYC Subway?

  1. Paul Goddin says:

    I wrote the original piece at Mobility Lab and I love this point-counterpoint. It had me laughing out loud. Even the hashtags are funny!

  2. Don’t get me started on how much better the NYC subway is than the DC Metro. DC Metro is an endless tunnel of stops at identical low lit stations with unreadable signage and floor tile from 1970’s era McDonald’s restrooms each one lurched into accompanied by a garbled loud “announcement” of where you are supposed to be ….and express lines? HA h

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