Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Further Delays for Your Safety

Between DCist and the Washington Post, there is fairly good coverage of this, but here are my two cents anyway.
WMATA has announced that they plan to introduce random bag searches to look for explosive devices. I pretty much hate this idea.
I, of course, am in favor of no one blowing up the metro, particularly while I am on it. But this seems like just the policy to tick off a lot of customers for very little gain. (A little like making me put my liquids in a plastic baggie.)
Now people have gotten accustomed to allowing extra time for security when traveling by plane and even, to a certain extent train.
But WMATA plans to implement these searches at random locations at random times. That means that for three months your trip to work or school will take X, and then the next day it will take X + five minutes*. And anyone who has ever worked an hourly job where you get docked for being five minutes late, or tried to pick up their kid at day care five minutes late knows that this can make a huge difference.
I know plenty of people who refuse to take metro or buses because they think they are weird, or sketchy, or expensive or unreliable. Adding this as standard procedure just reinforces their belief. And it will tick off some of those who have other choices enough that the remaining customers will be primarily those who are subsidized or have no real choice.
I get it - if something goes boom, metro will lose a lot more customers than they will by inconveniencing people. I just think there's a better way. Possibly focusing on the crimes that already occur in stations would help.

*I know WMATA says the searches will only take seconds, but y'all haven't seen my bag.

ETA: There's some interesting discussion over at Prince of Petworth on the same subject.