Public transportation

D.C.'s Metro Wants to Win Back Young Riders With DVD Rentals, Photo Booths in Stations

Metro General Manager says younger riders want an "experience" akin to Whole Foods.


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

The kids don't think transit is cool anymore. That's the stunning conclusion reached by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)—the agency responsible for running the Washington, D.C.-area's troubled Metro rail service—at its board meeting this past Friday.

It is of course no secret that Metro has been hemorrhaging riders in recent years, thanks to a mix of service cutbacks, station closures, and the occasional fire. This fall in users has been most pronounced among younger riders, with those under 30 taking 21 percent fewer trips in April 2018 than they were in April 2016, according to transit consultancy firm Teralytics.

Fortunately, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, has a plan to win back the youths, and it involves making the Metro into more of an "experience" akin to millennials' favorite grocery store.

"You can get groceries anywhere, but the Whole Foods experience is different than someplace else," said Wiedefeld at a Friday WMATA board meeting. "Why do they do it? Because there's a market for it and it drives revenue. So we have to come at transit that way. Places all over the world have tried it and we have to recognize that…and not just do it the way we've been doing it."

To replicate that one-of-a-kind, Instagrammable experience, WMATA is proposing to open up more vending options in and around Metro stations.

Food would, of course, still be banned in the stations and on the trains. Metro did however give a few examples of the fun, youth-orientated concessions that might appear in stations, including photo booths, DVD rental boxes, "games", package delivery lockers, and electronic charging stations.

To be sure, allowing greater commercialization of Metro stations is not a bad idea. The idea that riders of any age will come flocking back to a failing public transit system because it has DVDs is laughable however.

That's because millennials, despite whatever differences they might have with older generations, are less interested in Metro being an "experience" (Metro is arguably already an experience, just not a good one), and are more interested in it being a reliable transit service.

Indeed, this is the conclusion reached by an internal WMATA report from May that found the key to boosting ridership involved some real meat-and-potato changes like increasing hours of service, upping the frequency of trains, and running only eight-car trains, as opposed to the current mix of six- and eight-car trains.

Metro leadership bizarrely claimed that they had no knowledge of that report when stories about it first surfaced in October, and WMATA board members have so far declined to commit to increasing train service.

But as the system braces for another wave of station closures this coming summer, and transit alternatives like ridesharing and dockless scooters continue to gain popularity, it's worth considering whether D.C.'s long-suffering commuters might want reliable Red Line trains a little more than Redbox rentals.

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  1. Putting in a vending machine is an easier fix than actually addressing the fact that the subway sucks.

    That’s basically the crux of the matter.

    1. Statists, I think, want the glamor and power of yelling “Get me the Jones file” at subordinates, as seen in movies, without having to do any work. Electioneering is the easy way to power, but it means they have bypassed all the learning that went into climbing the ladder of success; or rather, that they learned on the wrong ladder of success. But they still want the glory of yelling for the Jones file with an adoring public watching.

      So they make up stupid shit.

    2. Photo booths and DVD boxes. How about some jukeboxes and pay phones? Maybe a horse stable as well?

      1. From one of the linked articles:

        Another change proposed by the policy is the elimination of payphones in stations ? mainly because no one uses them

        1. Hey, how about using the payphones for a Dirty-Harry-type runaround “game”?

        2. What about Superman? Deadpool?

      2. I am holding my breath for a Circuit City Kiosk.

  2. So paying more and getting less?

  3. WMATA is proposing to open up more vending options in and around Metro stations.

    Food would, of course, still be banned in the stations and on the trains.

    So, what do they think the endgame is here? That these people will come down to the metro station to grab lunch? Over the aboveground options? Even if they did, that doesn’t mean they’re going to ride it anywhere.

    . . . package delivery lockers . . .

    Which will immediately be put out of service because they’re way too ‘unsecure’ for the post-9/11 age.

    1. I assumed the “vending options” are of the non-food variety. If they really want to boost ridership, they would introduce those used panty vending machines like they have in Japan. At the very least that would Crusty to ride the train more often.

  4. WMATA should focus on the basics, like getting people to their destinations without killing them in a fire.

  5. The kids want an “experience”? Riding the Metro *is* an experience. And not one you’ll soon forget – like that time at college when your weird roommate gave you that glass of “tea” and you drank it.

    1. Did he call it “Grandma’s Lemonade”?

      1. Look at my Granny, my Granny’s amazing! Give her a lick, she tastes just like raisins!

  6. “Metro General Manager says younger riders want an “experience” akin to Whole Foods”

    Paying more for an overpriced product to signal your hipness? Hard to argue with that.

    1. WMATA should try plastering ORGANIC over everything, including the railcar windows, especially the driver windows.

    2. I would wager that Whole Foods customers are better educated, have higher incomes, and have better occupations than any store an envious, disaffected citizen such as I’m Not Sure or Woody Chip Hurrrrr? prefers.

      This is probably a good time for the “Chevys are better than BMWs” and “a $50,000 shack in West Virginia is preferable to a $500,000 condo in California” advocates to join the discussion.

      1. Subways are lower on the totem pole than Chevys.

      2. Ha! You hurt his feelings talking about how he wastes money virtue signaling!!!

      3. Apparently pointing out that Whole Foods is over priced triggered the bigoted Rev ALK.

      4. Paying more for a label indicates a better education? If you say so.

    3. Subways are a lowest common denominator transportation option, but we need to give it a veneer of luxury to attract the customer base we want.

  7. It is of course no secret that Metro has been hemorrhaging riders in recent years, thanks to a mix of service cutbacks, station closures, and the occasional fire.

    “But instead of actually fixing any of that, let’s put in a few DVD rental kiosks and photo booths. The kids these days just love them some movies and photo booths.”

    An idea so stupid only a bureaucrat could ever think of it.

    1. An out of touch bureaucrat.

      The new kids stream, some may remember what a DVD is. Photo booths vs camera on phone?

      1. Heh. They might as well open Blockbuster locations in Metro stations.

        Insert “how do you do, fellow kids” Steve Buscemi meme.

    2. Making the trains work properly would require demonstrating competence. DVD vending machines are a more workable option with the management available.

    3. Nothing says “attract young people” like DVD rentals, yeah.

  8. How bout we shoot for trains running on time and less deaths.

    1. Thank you, Benito!!

  9. Sadly if the put in machines that vended scratchy sounding vinyl , they might be on to something.

  10. Dad, what’s a DVD booth?

  11. Maybe they can provide booths on the platforms and trains for Tinder hookups

  12. They could make a killing renting the train cars as safe spaces.

    1. They could make a killing renting the train cars as safe spaces.

      They really could make a killing by giving everyone their own train car and letting them steer it so that, if they die in a collision/fire, it’s their own fault.

      1. Yeah, and if they put up some rules with fines for breaking the rules and had law enforcement on the case, they could make even more money!

        1. They have rules but they don’t enforce them. There are never any Metro police on the trains walking a beat, never enforcing the no eating/drinking “laws” they ceaselessly tout over the intercom. They just want to frisk grandma tourists a few times year, allegedly looking for bombs, and pat themselves on the back for being big heroes. They won’t even go after turnstile-jumpers.

          All Metro management cares about is continuing to get their big salaries, maintain labor peace by never confronting the union, never task the police with active patrolling, and then complain that the local MD-VA-DC governments don’t give them enough money to provide good service.

          – A Metro “Customer”

  13. Millienials want DVD’s LMFAO. What is this moron thinking this sounds like a stand-up joke. And yes I am millienial

  14. anyone *seen* a dvd in ten years?

    1. No, but I heard that Betamax is making a comeback

      1. Fucking hipsters.

    2. They don’t have Redbox in your area?

    3. *Picks coffee mug up off computer’s cup holder.*



    4. Yeah, some stuff isn’t on the streaming services I subscribe to and I’m not interested in upgrading to BluRay. I also couldn’t get reliably good enough internet service where I live until about 3 years ago.

  15. Metro General Manager says younger riders want an “experience” akin to Whole Foods.

    So one ride will cost a Whole Paycheck?

    1. You imply that young riders have paychecks.
      I thought they just got cash from Soros to demonstrate for or against something.

  16. My wife and I were in DC last summer and found the Metro line pretty handy. We were just over the river from downtown (near Reagan airport) so the train rides were fairly short. We could have used Uber but the traffic was so heavy that it would have taken longer to get where we wanted.

    That said, the train rides were a bit pricey. We also had to walk quite a bit on both ends of the trip. This wasn’t bad because it was a vacation. If I had to pay those prices and ride at peak times everyday (and still walk at least 1/2 mile to get to work) then I’d be looking for alternatives.

    We tried the CityBike rentals a couple times. The price was fair and it was even faster than the trains. Unfortunately, it was very hot and humid so we didn’t want to keep biking everywhere. Again, if this was non-vacation life there would need to be a shower available at my job for this to work in summer weather.

    1. Come back when school is in session and experience the roving bands of hooligans.

    2. In Austin Texas you can hang your bike on the nose of the bus.

  17. Put a streetcar down there. Everyone loves a streetcar.

    1. 19th century technology for the 21st century- gotta love it.

      1. Well, texting is basically teletype.

      2. Undergrounds did make handy bomb shelters during the Good Old Blitzes, before those nasty nuclear weapons came along and ruined the fun.

  18. It has to be anyone’s fault but their and it has to mean they need more funding.

  19. Dedicated vaping cars?

  20. If you don’t regularly ride Metro, it’s hard to understand just how pathetic it is. The “crumbling infrastructure” meme is overdone, but some Metro stations are actually falling apart. I can see chunks of concrete at one station that have fallen off of the platform. Much of the system is shutting down all of next summer to fix stuff like that. (That ought to be good for ridership.)

    Meanwhile, the Metro union just succeeded in overturning the firing of a safety inspector who was falsifying safety reports, which led to a train derailing. All the Redbox kiosks in the world can’t save a system this screwed up.

  21. Nothing will improve regarding Metro until you get rid of the unionized employees. Which they won’t so it’s doomed to fail.

  22. To accommodate the youth, Metro has also decided to stop arresting folks who jump the turnstiles, and instead issue them a citation. And, based on the smell in the brand new 7000 series car I rode yesterday, they have resolved the issue of no public restrooms in the stations by letting folks urinate in the cars.

  23. See how increased freedom is bad for government monopolies? When cops were instructed by Holy War Bush to administer the death penalty to scofflaw potheads and His son unleashed the Dogs of faith-based stop-and-frisk Asset Forfeiture, those delinquents couldn’t crowd into socialized collective transportation fast or tight enough. Now some libertarian candidate in DC needs to again leverage the Left-and-Right. How about a proposal to install glory holes on Volks-WATSAMATA trains as the only alternative to privatization and deregulation. God’s Own Prohibitionists could be counted on to suddenly embrace free market principles with religious fervor instead of as the usual cynically feigned camouflage for mystical fascism.

  24. Public transportation is used only when it’s the least bad option available. Marketing will not overcome reality.

  25. Boomers need to die faster.

    1. No way. I’m living to 100 so I can drain the treasury.

  26. I don’t think the kids today even know what DVD’s are, LOL. Everything’s been reduced to streaming services — physical media is effectively dead, except for the diminishing numbers of audio enthusiasts and videophiles who insist on having the best-quality source, possible, for home use.

    Convenience has basically won the war, over fidelity.

    Why not install kiosks renting 8-track tapes and cassettes, while they’re at it?

  27. There are never any Metro police on the trains walking a beat, never enforcing the no eating or drinking laws they ceaselessly tout over the intercom…

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