The DC Metro carpets: So gross even a caveman wouldn’t sleep there. (Courtesy of flickr user AlbinoFlea)
After I graduated from college, I spent 10 months living and working in our Nation’s Capital. To commute to work each day, I rode D.C.’s Metro. Run by the WMATA, the D.C. Metro is the second largest subway system in the nation.
While clearly designed for suburban commuters – wait times spike right after 8 p.m. each night and some D.C. residents have declared war on the Metro – the Metro does a serviceable job of shuttling people through Washington, D.C. The D.C. Metro also has one of the most disgusting features of any subway system I have ever ridden on: carpets.
That’s right. These subway cars, trampled on by nearly 600,000 people daily, are carpeted. These carpets are of the industrial style. These aren’t plush Persian rugs; they are the carpets of your college dorm room days designed to absorb everything a college student can throw (or is that hurl?) on them and then some. But the carpets in the Metro wilt under the pressure. Just think about winter.
During the winter in New York, subway cars turn disgusting. Since the start of February, subway cars have been grimy, wet and gross as commuters track dirty snow into the subway. Now, imagine if all of that wet dirt were to be absorbed by orange carpets from the early 1970s. That’s what you get in the Washington subways. Trust me; it’s just as gross as it sounds.
But good news for the aesthetes among us: The WMATA may ditch the carpets. The new head of the WMATA John B. Catoe wants to remove the carpet and reconfigure the trains so that they conform to our NYC standards. D.C.’s NBC4 has more:
Metro’s General Manager John Catoe said the carpet is too costly and isn’t practical. He said he wants to get rid of it. Two months into the job, John B. Catoe Jr. said his outsider status has helped him spot a lot of places where the system could be made more efficient, and the floor covering is just the beginning. If he has his way, riders could soon see rail cars that look more like those in the New York City subway, with plenty of room to stand but fewer places to sit.
Catoe said he was surprised nobody had thought to remove the carpet before. After all, it is difficult to clean and needs to be replaced often, he said. The carpet was meant to add a bit of luxury to the transit system in the nation’s capital.
Catoe put it best in the article. “I can understand the thought process in the beginning: ‘This is America’s subway system — we’re going to provide carpet on the floor of the subway,'” he said. “Well, that’s like having carpet on the Mall. I mean come on, let’s be real. Nice to do. Real world tells you it’s expensive, it doesn’t look good — particularly when it snows and you bring a lot of salt in there — and it doesn’t smell very good after it gets wet.”
I railed often against those carpets when I was living in D.C. They certainly were rank during bad weather; they were generally ugly all the time. For all the criticism we level at the MTA, imagine carpeted subways. Yuck, yuck, yuck.