Monday, July 28, 2008

DC Metro and Hong Kong MTR

I left Hong Kong 4 years ago and have been living and working in Washington DC Metro area since then. I work in Arlington, Virginia while living in Silver Spring, Maryland. Therefore, DC Metro has become part of my life. It gives me very different experiences in comparing with Hong Kong MTR. To list some of those:

- Train schedule
Metro's train schedule is not as frequent as MTR. A Metro train comes every 4-6 mins in rush hour and 15-20 mins for non-rush hour and weekend. In Hong Kong, most of the trains come in 2-3 mins, and not more than 10 mins. In DC, I feel like I am discouraged to use Metro in non-rush hour and weekend.

- Delay
I travel with Metro usually at 7:30-9am and 6-7:30pm through red and orange line. In my limited experience, sometimes I still feel like Metro has delays every other day. Just one single mechanical error can cause 45mins delay for the whole line. While living in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, I probably can count the number of delays with my two hands.

- Car Environment
I think one good thing about Metro is that the seats are more comfortable than Hong Kong MTR. I can have a pretty pleasant trip with my readings if the car is not too crowd. However, there are few cars that are poorly ventilated, stank, and sometimes with lights off.

- Station
The station is another big different. In Hong Kong, most of the stations are air-conditioned and have security screen wall between the track and the platform. There are extensive underground networks linking the underground stations with shopping malls and major landmarks. And the ground stations are prominent buildings and are incorporated with housing developments.

- Cell Phone network
I don't like people talking on their phone too loud near me especially when I am tired after a day of hard work. However, getting no signal at the underground portion of Metro is very inconvenient and sometimes frustuating. It is never an issue in Hong Kong where I take such service for granted. But I am glad that thing might change in the future.

Overall, I see there are a lot of rooms for improvement in the current Metro system. To me, reducing, if not solving, the delay problem as well as providing more-frequent service are at the top of the list.

My thesis is drvien by rethinking the role and design of metro station in the hope of building a better Metro system for the national capital.

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