The word has been out for several days now that Metro was going to close three of its stations during this Labor Day Weekend. The Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metrorail stations will be closed from 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, to closing, (midnight) Monday, Sept. 7. These stations will reopen at 5 a.m., on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Did Metro give the public enough notice of the closures? I don’t know. How would we define "adequate notice" and might it not vary from one person to the next, especially if that person had given visiting friends or relatives explicit directions that started with their use of the rail system upon arrival from other parts of the country. Some of those good people might actually have to drive to the airport or have their visitors hail a cab. Or... they could give them a call and suggest that they take one of the shuttle buses Metro is providing to get people between the stations that are open during the Labor Day Weekend.
Don't give me a bunch of grief about the amount of luggage these visitors will be bringing with them to our fair city/region because this is not summer vacation or a two week cruise; it’s two or maybe three days in the Nation's Capitol filled with walking, drinking, swimming, walking and a number of things that don't require a huge wardrobe. Inconvenient? Yes. End of the world? No.
The local politicians who are making very public their complaints about the lack of notice should have had a better line of communications with Metro. If I recall from my days of daily coverage of Metro including weekly visits to the headquarters building most of the representatives from the participating local jurisdictions were sent regular briefings and copies of news releases. They also had access to their board representatives who were to be their eyes and ears on these very public meetings. Their protestations come off to me as hollow, self-serving and very, very politicianey which is to say: "Hey, I didn’t know about this but it’s not my fault because those evil people at (fill in the name of whatever office or agency is making them look bad) are incompetent at best and downright deceitful at worst."
If you or your family or friends will be going near one of the Arlington stations this weekend make sure you first read Chris Hamiliton's wonderful write-up on how to make it work for you.
The next step in hybrid is the plug in type. This is basically a vehicle that operates almost solely on electricity and is charged by simply plugging the battery pack into the wall. The technical charging issues might be different but some of the lessons learned from a large project in California might pave the way. And when I say large project I’m not kidding.
At the Port of Long Beach (used in the television show "24" and tons of movies including "Gone in 60 Seconds") they are experimenting with a plug-in hybrid electric "terminal tractor" that will be used to move shipping containers and cargo. This ain’t no Prius; this is a monster that can haul 95,000 pounds just like its diesel counterpart. Unlike those other vehicles though the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) will not continue running when it is idling. That will save 3,000 gallons of fuel per year less than a similar diesel vehicle and significantly reduce emissions. That includes an 80-percent reduction in nitrogen oxides, 50 percent for carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other criteria pollutants. By the way, currently there are approximately 754 diesel tractors at the Port of Long Beach.
The experiment in Long Beach will last from three months and from there will go to other ports around the country including ports in Savannah, Ga., Mobile, Ala., Houston, and New York City.
It sounds to me like a great idea to reduce emissions from a major source that most of us never even knew existed.
Steve Eldridge is a long-time reporter, observer and commentator on the Washington region's transportation issues. You can contact him directly by writing to: Steve@SprawlandCrawl.com. Unless otherwise requested, letters or portions of letters can be used within future columns. Letter writers will be identified by their first name and city/neighborhood.