Washington DC Metro Photo: Mark Fischer/Flickr

DC residents have been grumbling over the city’s metro system for years now. Delays, train offloads and safety issues are just a few of the gripes over the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The twitter handle @FixWMATA has been documenting these complaints since 2010. Now, account founder Chris Barnes is gaining support for a WMATA Riders’ Union

In less than a week, the account accumulated over 1,000 followers and a healthy dose of news coverage, including a piece by Fox 5 DC. 

One of the demands of the riders is that they’re represented fairly. They’re hoping that a passenger could join the WMATA board to give metro users a voice.

Metro spokesperson Sheri Ly noted that WMATA is always listening for feedback, but it’s not up to them to decide if a rider could join the board.

“Any decision on that is subject to the compact that creates WMATA,” she said.

But could there really be a union of riders?

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations explains that unions form so that workers can negotiate things like pay, benefits and working conditions. This definition pertains to people in work environments, not to people who share services like the metro.

However, there is certainly precedent for riders to band together for better conditions.

The Bus Riders Union was founded in LA in 1992. Describing itself as “the country’s largest grassroots mass transit advocacy organization,” the BRU has 200 active members, 3,000 dues-paying members, and 50,000 supporters.

The Riders Alliance in New York is another grass-roots membership organization of public transportation users. They’re working towards bringing bus stop countdown clocks to more neighborhoods, promoting off-board fare collection and stopping fare hikes.

Do you think DC’s Metro riders need to form a union to fight back against poor service? Weigh in @bbhdc to stay up-to-date on transportation issues facing the community.

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