Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Symbolism and VRE

I shot this picture in the Fredericksburg city VRE parking lot wondering if it is symbolic of where VRE has been or where it is headed. The tagger probably doesn't even ride VRE, yet I find it interesting anyway. For three years I have hopped on the big grey train to dc. This is my last regular week (hooray!).

This picture pretty accurately describes my opinion of where VRE is headed. I won't miss the nanny PA announcements about queuing in the isles, or the conductors saying the are requires to write x summons in a day. I surely won't miss the broken down engines pulling brand new cars nowhere. VRE's excuses and sorry's will be a thing of the past.

Over the years I have witnessed the reality of little viable competition allow VRE to use their monopoly position to their favor. It really is a case study in a captive customer base. Management doesn't use the service, at least not like commuters do every day, and the government board is substantially made up of representatives that don't use the service. Using the service is just different than listening to our complaints. It would give each decision maker an appreciation for the issues. The biggest of which is communication. Communication between VRE and customers, CSX, NS, elected officials and even their own employees!

I say all of this because VA rail has the potential to be a great service! New locomotives are on the way, several stations are getting makeovers and new platforms. Fredericksburg is even supposed to get a station fix, with concrete repairs to the underpasses. VRE has yet to make a statement on the impacts from the fredericksburg station repairs. This reflects the perceived history of keeping the customer in the dark as long as possible (much like the dark status boards at all the stations).

I wish I could say 'wake up' to VRE management, but it doesn't matter because people keep riding no matter what changes they make. So I guess I should just say thank you VRE for the 75% good job! Way to go.

OK, after writing this, I envision at least one person asking - well what would you do? So here it is:
Monthly what's coming next statements on the web, in the seat letters, on the station screens
When things start going wrong, an immediate continuous comm link with CSX
A backbone in negotiating the next Amtrak and CSX agreements
An renewed emphasis on cutting costs across the network
Accountability of paid management to the city/county governments and customers, perhaps its time for a management change.

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