March 2, 2012

March 2, 2012

Door Number Three

Read a heartwarming story the other day about someone that reminded me of myself. Not because he saved children from a burning building, or collected donations for PETA, or went into a Denny’s and cooked his own meal (did love that last one, though).

No, this guy wrote an app so DC Metro riders could determine which train door would put them closest to their destination’s escalator.


But maybe some explanation is in order. See, the typical Metro train has six cars. Each car has three doors. Simple math shows that people entering the train have 18 possible doors to choose from. A crude and incomplete diagram:

As one might imagine, these 18 doors cover a respectable distance on the station platform. Not exactly the 9 bus bays I used to have to sprint at the Pentagon station, but close. Plus it’s much harder to sprint on train platforms, unless you don’t mind knocking people onto the electrified third rail.

Anyway, riders must position themselves before the train arrives and hope that their chosen entrance isn’t already packed to the brim. Wise riders think ahead to the end of their ride, when they will need to:

- Exit the train.
- Walk to the platform escalator.
- Walk up the broken platform escalator.

This is a key point, since they say a Metro train can hold about 800 people. That is a lot of people to funnel up a single non-functioning escalator. The sooner you can get in line, the better. I’ve spent days waiting to get to the Pentagon station’s mezzanine. It was like something out of Mad Max. Some of our stations have the longest escalators in the western hemisphere. Seriously. When those puppies go down, I think they send in the National Guard.

Now, during well-practiced normal commutes, picking the right door is no issue. I know exactly where on the platform to stand, and see the same people there day after day. But when part of the system is on fire or what have you, and I need to use a different route? I’m sunk. With this guy’s app, though, I guess you just plug in where you are and where you’re going, and you’re told which door to use. Win-win! Well, except for the “having to use Metro” part. We’re all losers there.

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: