On September 20, 2012 WMATA had a “Meet Metro’s General Manager” event at Rosslyn Metro. I went to ask a few questions. For full context the audio is here, below is a rough transcript with notes [in brackets].
Fix: Thank you. Um, so these are questions that a lot of riders have been asking on Twitter, and a lot of them at 4 o’clock can’t get here to see you so I thought I’d try to help out…
Sarles: I’m just trying to meet riders… this is just a casual kinda thing so…
Stewart: We’ll give you as much time as Channel 9 - how about that?
Fix: Ok… I can talk fast…
Sarles: I answer slow.
Fix: If you don’t want to answer any of these questions I completely understand.
Sarles: I’m sure you’ll put that on the blog.
Fix: This is why I’m recording it - I will not misinterpret what you’r saying. How many people are currently in PR, Marketing, and Communications?
Sarles: I don’t have the exact number.
Fix: You don’t know? OK.
Sarles: No, I said I don’t have the exact number in my head.
Fix: In your head? OK, that’s fair. How often do you ride Metro Rail?
Sarles: I’d say at least 6 days a week.
Fix: Six days a week?
Sarles: Mmm hmm..
Fix: Is that usually from Crystal City to… where? Cause that’s where you live, in that area, right?
Sarles: I go from Virginia to the District.
Fix: Virginia to the District, 6 days a week, OK.
Sarles: No.. no… I go from Virginia to the District most days a week I ride Metro for other reasons during the week also.
Fix: OK. You ride, usually, 6 days a week?
Fix: Most of those times it’s from the District and Virginia back and forth? So you don’t get very much on the Red Line in Maryland?
Sarles: That’s not true.
Fix: How often do you ride the Red Line in Maryland?
Sarles: Ohhh. I’d say… How often do I ride the Red Line? Or how often do I ride to Maryland? I’d say I ride the Red Line at least a couple days a week.
Sarles: I’d say I ride in Maryland. let me think… ohhh probably a couple times a month.
Fix: OK. I ask because I live in Silver Spring. So, that’s why I asked. How often do you ride the bus?
Fix: Occasionally? Me too. I’m more of a rail guy too.
Sarles: It’s faster generally.
Fix: Regarding yesterday’s Red Line problems - will WMATA officially apologize to riders for all the trouble?
Sarles: I’ll stand here right now and say we’re sorry that people were inconvenienced the way they were.
Fix: OK. I appreciate that.
Sarles: Cause I’ve been one of those riders before, either here on this system or other systems. And I know exactly what it is to be a customer.
Fix: Right. Well, even this morning down at National you had delays so… you get it…
Sarles: You know why that occured?
Fix: Oh, I do - I read the story - that was actually a really good story…
Sarles: Yes, I think the train operator really did a good job.
Fix: Absolutely. Um, so do you think there will be some kind of public statement apologizing to riders then?
Sarles: I just said that we’re sorry. May I assume that you’re representing the public? You recorded it.
Fix: Oh, Ok. Alright. Are you on Twitter at all?
Sarles: Personally? No.
Fix: No. OK - but you follow…
Sarles: I get feedback on what’s going on on Twitter and I’ll tell you that we use Twitter when we have an incidence like the Red Line, like probably even this morning, and as we’re doing the incident review, which you know during the incident - on the executive level we’re getting feedback from these guys [referring to Brian Anderson and Philip Stewart] as to what we’re hearing from the passengers at the scene - I’m not talking about people, you know - just doing their usual thing: rants. I’m talking about people that are at the scene that - what the experience is and we’ve actually used that - I can’t remember the exact incident, but I remember it had to do… I think it was up on the Red Line where we had to put people on buses and we were getting some feedback on Twitter from some of the bus passengers about how we’re handling things and we made some immediate corrections and that’s what I look for - Twitter feeds during the incidents to hear what the people who are actually on the train or actually on the bus are experiencing so we can try to adjust that. And the rants can go off to the side.
Fix: There’s always going to be ranting. Along those lines - I think it’s great that you guys are on Twitter now, I think it’s gotten really a lot better [yes, I know - I’m a wordsmith], can we get more staffing in that regard? Cause this guy [Brian Anderson] honestly - he’s overwhelmed.
Sarles: Everybody wants more staffing. And I think we’re doing a good job right now and we’ll try to continue doing a good job - but I’m not guaranteeing he’s getting more staffing. If he put you up to this he’s in big trouble.
Fix: No - he did not, I promise you he didn’t.
Stewart: I’ll give you 1 more, because I have an actual customer, we’ve got to go cause I have customers…
Fix: OK - here’s a good one. When will WMATA hold a townhall? Either for riders or for bloggers…
Sarles: I think there’s something in the works with regard to the Riders’ Advisory Committee [Council] that will probably be talked about within the next month or so.
Fix: OK, yeah I attend those meetings so I understand what you’re talking about. Ok. Great. Good. Thank you so much for your time. It’s nice to meet you.