My two favorite letters are the following. Only in Washington and perhaps New York would the local riders know what's going on elsewhere in the world and even work on privatization projects (a dirty word here):
The long list of management mistakes and lack of proper cost controls makes me wonder why the Metro board has not ejected Chief Executive Richard A. White. That might not change things much, though, because the problems Metro is experiencing are endemic to public transit companies (Amtrak comes to mind).
A solution might be to privatize Metro. After all, this country believes that privately run companies can, if properly regulated, provide better and more efficient public services than the state can. As someone who led a team evaluating the feasibility of privatizing one of Brazil's systems, I know that a few subway systems, such as those in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and London, have been privatized successfully. Overcoming the resistance of the unions would certainly be a problem, but the results could be worthwhile.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure our politicians are up to the task. Perhaps we should hire the mayor of London. Ken Livingstone introduced groundbreaking reforms in London's public transit system, and he knows that high stakes can bring big political rewards.
Shortly after the Red Line train on which I was traveling stopped at the Dupont Circle Station on Monday, the driver announced, "A door in car No. 5 won't close. Please help me by pushing it closed, and then let me know which door it is."
This statement was followed by door openings and closings. Within a minute or so, we were off again. Since I was traveling in the first car, I was unable to witness the manner in which the door in car No. 5 was closed.
When I got off at the Van Ness-UDC Station, I encountered a new, handwritten sign that said the escalator would be out of order until Oct. 5. Four months of climbing stairs is not the most pleasant of activities to anticipate, even for those of us who need the exercise.
Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is South America's largest city, has an excellent subway system. It began operating in 1976, the same year that D.C. Metrorail service began. I spend several weeks in Sao Paulo every year, and only once have I encountered an escalator out of order. I have never experienced problems with the train doors.
I find it odd that the subway system in a developing country is apparently superior to the system in our nation's capital.
JAMES H. KENNEDY