Monday, January 25, 2016

The District Remains A Backwater

I've lived in DC for more than 35 years and things actually have improved plenty. But the response to this storm shows how far we have to go. It's midday Monday and the plow job on the main roads is fair; Metro has opened some underground lines, but with limited service, and is also getting some above-ground stations open; bus lines are on an extreme skeleton schedule and there are none working around our area. Schools remain closed.

Contrast this to New York, not just the city but the suburbs. Subways are running totally and streets are cleared, schools are open. I called an old colleague who was in his office and described the atmosphere as business as usual. 

The attitude in government here is better than it once was. When Marion was mayor-for-life, he was likely to tell those who complained about the district's slow response to "get over it." Now the mayor holds press conferences twice a day but there's still the inclination to boast about progress than really isn't there and to blame citizens even for walking in the road when sidewalks aren't cleared.

It seems that a plow came through our street, something that did not happen during my first two decades living on this block. But not much else has happened: the next cross-street is a more major road and does have one lane cleared more or less. The cross-street in the other direction has not been plowed at all and is hardly passable to walkers. I tried it out yesterday and can tell you that is true.

To me, this torpor results from low expectations: almost like the old Boston lion of "whoever brought it will have to take it away." People here expect crummy performance from District government; Maryland and Virginia, which have far more territory to cover, are actually performing at a higher level--you can even see on TV that main roads are cleared more thoroughly. 

There has been an upgrade in equipment here but it's hard to see that it has translated into action yet. The difference, I suggest, is that in New York City--with the subway, the sanitation plows, and even the commuter trains on Metro-North--there was the expectation and goal that the storm that ended later than it did here would be cleared oin time for the resumption of work on Monday.

Goals here seem to be far vaguer. Everything moves at a far slower speed. And this is indeed cultural. People are used to lousy service. So that's what they get.

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