Capital Metro

I am a commuter to the national capital of the United States. I don’t know if I should feel good or bad about this. In China, if you get a job opportunity in Beijing, many people will look up to you. After all, it’s an international metropolis where a good living is guaranteed.

I remember when I visited Washington D.C. as a tourist for the first time, I was shocked to see how old and run-down the metro facility was, compared to the bright, stable and fast trains in my hometown Guangzhou, China. I even said to myself that thank goodness I wasn’t depending on the metro. I’m sorry to say that to many international visitors, the D.C. metro is known for its dark platforms and poor signs. Only until you are a commuter, and have ridden the train a hundred times, can you take it easy without constantly peeking through the window for station signs.

The interior condition of a train is no better. The announcement system is poor throughout the train, although occasionally you find a good one in some cars. You need to try your luck to hop on a car with bright light and ventilated air. Hopefully you’ll find a seat to secure yourself. A bumpy ride is too common to mention. As the day goes stale, you’ll find more used newspaper scattered on the floor or on the seats. Feel free to pick a copy to kill time as the trip may take longer than expected. Technical problems seem to have badgered the entire metro service for too long, from the railroad to the escalators inside the stations, you name it.

One time when I was on my way to work by subway, a nonstop mechanic sound squeaked in my car as if cages of birds chirped in agony. Another time I smelt burning rubber under the arriving car. My colleague told me her worst experience was when she was on a very jerky train, she felt so sick that she had to get off the train at midway to vomit.

Recently, D.C. unveiled a new design for its subway trains. Ta-da! The sleek 7000-series trains look attractive from the picture in the paper. It says the new model will be the biggest change to the old cars since the system opened in the late 1970s. As the nation’s second-busiest subway system, Washington D.C. looks forward to this brand new day. The first of the more than 350 new cars are expected to go into service in 2014. I really can’t wait.

Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America