MTA response to snow was terrible

February 18, 2010

I am writing in extreme frustration regarding the recent operations of the MTA Metro subway system.

In fairness, I realize that the amount of snow the area has gotten is out of the ordinary. However, I believe that the MTA could have and should have done a much better job in response to the situation.

I am employed by The Johns Hopkins Hospital and live in Owings Mills. Therefore, I have been taking the Metro for almost three years now. It alleviates the need for me to drive a long distance and pay for parking my car. The option is there as a means of reliable public transportation, and so I take advantage of it. It also saves me in gas money and wear and tear on my vehicle.

There have been long waits, horrible shuttle bus service, and no explanations as to what exactly is going on. All I have been hearing from people who ask questions is "get on the website and lodge a complaint." I am sure that they have been getting an earful, but I do not feel that they have really been listening.

Last Friday, the train was only running underground from Mondawmin to Hopkins. You would think that there would be several dedicated buses making regular rounds at rush hour to shuttle people from Owings Mills to Mondawmin. Well, there was a bus, and when we boarded, the drive proceeded to stop at regular stops around Owings Mills Mall before then proceeding to take us to Mondawmin. I did not get to work until almost 10 a.m. (I start at 8:30). Then, after work, we were taken by train to Mondawmin, where we proceeded to wait for at least an hour, while at least a dozen buses went by displaying "NOT IN SERVICE" signs. Finally, someone spoke with a security guard who spoke with someone in the central booth at the station (which is aboveground), who proceeded to come out and commandeer the next bus that entered and tell the driver to change his route sign and take us all to Owings Mills. However, that was not the end, as he made several stops along the way at the intervening stations and the regular stops all along Reisterstown Road. I get off work at 5 p.m., but I did not get home until 8 p.m.

Monday, the train was running from Old Court station, so I decided to drive there and park my car, never stopping to consider that the abundance of parking spaces was due to the holiday. On Tuesday, they were still running from Old Court station and were running shuttle buses, but after my experience on Friday, I was reluctant to go through a repeat performance. So, I decided to drive there again. Well, how naïve I was to think that there would be parking available -- it was packed to the gills! Not being familiar with how to get to any of the other stations, I went back to Owings Mills and got a shuttle bus back to Old Court. I was not in until 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday morning was the straw that broke the camel's back. The MTA website said Tuesday night that the trains were running normally and thanked everyone for their patience and cooperation. So, I figured all was well. When I got to the Owings Mills station at my regular time, there were loads of people standing around inside the station. There was an MTA employee shouting out that the next train would not be arriving until 8:10; so, I waited almost half an hour and did not get to work until 9 a.m., late yet again.

To top it all off, Johns Hopkins is forcing us to use our personal time to make up for all of this, including the time missed because of the storm itself. If this keeps up, I will not have any time left! This is time that we need to use for vacations, sick days and appointments. I take extreme issue with this, especially last Wednesday, when there was a government ban on driving due to the blowing and drifting snow! I am an office worker, not a nurse or doctor, so I am not "essential" to operations and was not about to get myself hurt or worse just to get in to work. There were many people who stayed during the storm, either because they had to or were asked to. I was not approached about staying to help out with anything. I even overheard someone telling another person in a hallway at the hospital that she was told if she wanted to keep her job, she would stay.

I also realize that none of this was the fault of Johns Hopkins. However, I think that we should be given the choice of whether or not we want to use our time for this. Why can't we just not get paid for it and keep the time we have accrued? In the case of last Wednesday, I think they should cover that, since there was a driving ban in place.

All my life, I have heard of Johns Hopkins being one of the best hospitals around and such a wonderful place to work. Their actions in this case do not live up to the hype. As for the MTA, they seriously need someone in charge who has a better head on their shoulders.

Pamela Wight, Owings Mills

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