I lived in DC for 5 years. Before, I lived in NYC for 5 years, and I'm now living in Chicago for 3, so I have some basis for comparison. The DC metro system is in an unusually high state of disrepair. Fixes don't happen until they're life threatening--and even then, they sometimes don't happen for a year.
While I was living in DC, at least 2 DC metro events made the national news: the first was the train collision that killed a few people because the conductors weren't coordinated, and the second was due to an escalator brake collapsing, leading to multiple injuries. I've also had to find alternative means of transportation due to 2 fires in the metro system. People aren't complaining that work is being done on the system. People are complaining that there is very little maintenance and that problems get so severe that a whole system shutdown is needed.
There have been a number of articles in the Post about the state of disrepair for the DC metro system. Many people have speculated that the system is corrupt. They certainly charge enough for the service. A 30 minute trip costs about $2.25, and a one hour trip costs about $5.00.
After having used the NYC, DC and Chicago systems extensively--and the BART system--I'd have to say that the DC system is a disaster. The problem is particularly acute for the DC area since the city is not designed to handle the amount of traffic its population would otherwise need.