Not a good day for Metro

Why is it always the Red Line?!

Smoke filling Metro Center after a fire on the tracks

This morning, a Metro train’s shoes literally fell off. Apparently, shoes connect the train to the 3rd rail, and one of the cars on the Red Line lost a shoe. For some reason this caused a fire, and of course, massive delays on the Red Line. One Twitterer reported being stuck in a tunnel for 45 minutes! As a claustrophobic, that absolutely terrifies me!

So I figure maybe I’ll rely on buses. After all, they don’t go in tunnels, and if they break down, you just hop off. No worries!

Except this morning, a Metrobus hit another pedestrian. This woman was was crossing the street after exiting a different Metrobus when the bus barreled down the road and flung her through the air. She’s currently in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. UPDATE: I just read a report that the woman who was hit has died. That’s really sad. Are we now going to have an unprecedented fall of tragedy? I chose a great time to move here, huh?

Maybe no public transportation is safe? Is NY’s subway this bad? Somehow I doubt it…

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Good Gracious, Metro!

I just read the news that another man was struck by a train today around 2PM, this time on the Yellow Line. It looks like another suicide attempt, which brings the total this year to nine.

Somewhat relatedly, the Metro employee who was struck by a train last week has died. That makes four Metro employees killed this year since the accident on June 22nd. And four days ago a young man  killed himself with the Red Line.

It’s weird and I don’t like it.

Somehow, this is turning into a Metro blog…

So, probably most of you know about the 9/12 protests that happened in DC last weekend. I went down to check it out for Mom, and to send her a picture. There were a bunch of people, maybe even 70,000. That’s a lot of extra riders on the Metro!

Apparently, the tea partiers aren’t pleased with Metro’s level of service. They complained that it was too crowded, Metro should have prepared better, etc. “They have a point,” I can hear you thinking. “70,000 extra riders on a weekend – Metro should have prepared for that!”

But, you’d be wrong. For one thing, the event organizers only predicted 15-25,000 people, which would not have warranted additional rail service. And in addition, if they wanted early station openings, the organizers would have had to pay for it out of pocket anyway (like the Marine Corps Marathon does, for example).

AND, irony of ironies, what are they protesting? Government spending! What are they cranky about? A government-funded transportation system is inadequate! Would they be in favor of increasing the funding to resolve the inadequacies? No way! Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) wrote a letter to Catoe complaining about the inconvenience. He says that protesters “were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capitol” failed to “provide a basic level of transit for them.” Gee, Brady, where was this concern about Metro’s ability to provide a “basic level of transit” when you decided to vote against increasing its federal funding.

The PlumLine sums it up best:

[I]t’s a real head-spinner to bash a government-run system for failing to adequately serve an enormous anti-government protest after opposing government funding for it.

But Prince of Petworth commenter Jimmy D also has a good point:

[This] congressman, from Southwest Texas, unfamiliar with the metro system, and who has no vested interest in how this city works for the people that live and work here, has more say over its policies than the actual DC residents.

That’s why we need actual representation!

P.S. – I don’t know if you can tell by the number of links to different places reporting this story, but it’s kind of a big hit in DC right now. It combines three great loves of DC residents – making fun of tourists, discussing the Metro, and making fun of tourists riding the Metro!

Metro’s “Unprecendented Summer of Tragedy” Continues

The Washington Post wrote this morning about yet another Metro worker who was injured on the job. A six car train struck a rail worker on the Yellow/Blue line this morning. Here’s how the WaPo sums up the summer so far:

In less than three months: nine people were killed and 80 injured in a June 22 crash; a Metro worker was killed by a gravel-spreading machine; and a subcontractor was electrocuted while working at a bus garage. Last week, a 30-year-old House staff member, Amanda Mahnke, was struck by a Metrobus near Dupont Circle, and she remains hospitalized in critical condition.

And now another worker has been struck. So far, he’s still alive, so that’s good. Metro is falling apart, no joke. And they do not care to take any steps to fix themselves. According to WaPo, in 2006 the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that Metro install devices to automatically warn workers of oncoming trains, and to warn drivers of workers ahead. This came after three workers died in two crashes. Did Metro install those devices? Of course not! Metro GM Catoe says he doesn’t want workers to start relying on them, and then not look for trains manually, too. Sounds like a great reason.

NTSB also recommended in 2005 that Metro replace all 1000 series cars, because they presented a danger of telescoping in on themselves if involved in a crash. Did Metro replace the 1000 series cars, or at least start working on replacing them a few at a time? Don’t be silly! Too expensive! And a 1000 series car is the one that telescoped in the June crash, killing nine people. Great job, Metro! I love your “culture of safety”!

The problem is that there is no board that has power over Metro. The NTSB can’t enforce rules. The Tri-State Oversight Committee can’t either – in fact, that committee has no offices, no telephones, and no permanent staff! We need some teeth for our regulatory organizations, or stuff like this will keep happening. Metro will refuse to implement safety reforms because they’re “too expensive,” and no one can force them to do otherwise.

Metro – unfathomably incompetent, or just apathetic?

The big news in the DC universe right now is the closing of three Metro stations over this holiday weekend – including Reagan National Airport! The problem is not only that WMATA (Washington Metro Area Transit Authority) decided that Labor Day weekend was a great time to close three major stops, but that they gave about two week’s notice. This, on top of several other disasters (the horrible red line crash, a Metrobus hitting a joggera recent suicide, and a couple accidents) have made Metro pretty unpopular. Just search #metrofail on Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean.

The tone-deafness of GM John Catoe’s response to frustration has also been a source of annoyance. When people complained to him about the short notice, he responded with “I’m sorry that the congressmen were not aware that we sent this notification a month ago.” The press release he was referring to mentioned “major track maintenance rehabilitation program during the three-day Labor Day holiday weekend,” but did not say any stations would be closed altogether, or mention specific stations at all. Not to mention the fact that a month is hardly reasonable notice to close an airport station during a holiday!

Oh Metro, when I was here in 2007 I thought you were a dream come true. But now I know better…