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Monday's Red Line meltdown

10:45 a.m. Update: Reader Max Vinograd took this picture at Medical Center Station Monday night around 6:30. He wrote us that the station was packed, and that after a 15- to 20-minute wait, "a Metro employee announced that the Red Line was out of service. Thousands of people funneled out of the station.Some found humor in this odd series of events, while others were just sweaty, frustrated and exhausted."

Redline Havoc.JPG
Riders stream out of Medical Center Station. (Max Vinograd)


Tuesday, 29 June, 9 a.m.Update: Were you stuck in the Red Line delays on Monday night? Share your story in the comments below.

10:13 p.m. Update: Metro reports that normal service on the Red Line resumed about 9:40 p.m.

8:49 p.m. Update: This will be our last update. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz reports that his train is moving steadily north and operators are making clear announcements about what is happening. Single-tracking continues but the volume of riders has eased.

In answer to our earlier question about why people were not allowed to use the connecting doors and disembark, Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an e-mail: "To avoid having them see the horrific scene on the tracks."

8:36 p.m. Update: Local Editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz reports that the stop lasted 15 minutes before the train began moving again, so the delays are still persisting. Metro is reporting that trains are still single-tracking.

8:34 p.m. Update: We're asking for clarification from Metro on why all of the passengers could not disembark by using the connecting doors.

8:31 p.m. Update: Reader Jessica White reports that her trip from Farragut North (6:15 p.m. boarding) to Twinbrook lasted until 8:05 p.m.She had to disembark at Friendship Heights and wait for a second train. The commute is normally 36 minutes, she said.

8:26 p.m. Update: The Post's Emilio Garcia-Ruiz reports that his train "sailed to Cleveland Park" from Farragut North. At Cleveland Park the operator announced the train would hold. "Stations are desolate," Garcia-Ruiz reports.

8:18 p.m. Update: The Post's Emilio Garcia-Ruiz reports that Farragut North Station was empty when he arrived and that a a train headed toward Shady Grove arrived on time.

8:15 p.m. Update: Farbstein reports that the train stopped 50 feet from the man on the tracks. Most passengers were able to disembark. About 35 passengers were left on the back of the train. They were stranded without air conditioning for 40 minutes, she said. The train eventually reversed to Medical Center and the people disembarked.

"The people on the train were on a hot train," she said. "They were upset by their predicament. It's a shame they were so very inconvenienced. It was a very rough day for the Red Line."

8:10 p.m. Update: Reader Steve Geimann reports that his northbound train has reached Medical Center and crossed over to the southbound tracks to single-track.

8:02 p.m. Update: Farbstein said delays will persist in both directions for much of the evening.

8 p.m. Update: Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the man who died jumped from the mezzanine.

7:54 p.m. Update: Trains are stopping at Grosvenor, even with the single-tracking.

7: 52 p.m. Update: we are interviewing Lisa Farbstein of Metro now. Update TK

7:46 p.m. Update: Reader Steve Geimann reports extremely slow movement through the tunnels.
7:48 p.m. Update: Geimann reports that his train has stopped at Friendship Heights, and announcements are being made about single-tracking from Medical Center to White Flint.

7:40 p.m. Update: Metro reports that Grosvenor is open and trains are single-tracking through the station.

7:36 p.m. Update: We're getting reports from several people who say they have bailed at Van Ness Station. Rachel Seeger said she took Metro because of the MARC delays only to encounter this.

strong>7:30 p.m. Update: Reader Jeanne McCann reports that she is stuck in Bethesda Station but the announcements are incomprehensible. "what don't they use the signs that announce the next trains to tell us what is going on(?"

7:25 p.m. Update: Metro says Red Line riders should expect delays of at least an hour. Shuttle bus service has been established, but Metro estimates there will be long waits for shuttles buses. Metro's latest release also says that Grosvenor Station is closed.

7:23 p.m. Update: Metro's first press release on the incident provides some details:

"The preliminary report is that a man jumped onto the tracks at about 6:10 p.m. and died of his injuries. He was not struck by a train.:

7:20 p.m Update: Here is another report from Carrie Helmold:

"Trains moving again, we are going all the way to shady grove and did stop at grosvenor. They are blocking the one side with police tape so looks like we are single tracking through grosvenor."

7:15 p.m. Update: Reader Rachel Seeger reports that she is stuck between Cleveland Park and Van Ness, and that she just saw a train headed south.

What are you experiencing? E-mail us at transportation@washpost.com.

7:01 p.m. Update: Montgomery County EMS Capt. Oscar Garcia confirms that a person has died at Grosvenor Station.

Fire and Rescue responded about 6:16 p.m., and Metro Transit Police are in charge of the scene, he said.

Garcia said the person had "significant injuries incompatible with life," including head trauma. The person "was not believed to have been struck by a train," he said. Garcia did not have information on the age, gender or sex of the person.

Garcia reported that the northbound train appears to have stopped short of the station platform, and that power had been discontinued to the third rail. However, he said a plan was being developed to restore power and to move the train back to Medical Center Station so that passengers could be allowed to disembark. Without power, the conditions in the train would become uncomfortable for passengers, especially given the heat.

6:55 p.m. Update: Reader Carrie Helmold reports that she is on a stopped train at Friendship Heights. An announcement was just made that Metro is "reactivating the third rail."

6:53 p.m. Update: Still no word from Metro. A Montgomery County police spokeswoman said the agency was dispatching a unit to Grosvenor to see if assistance is needed. Metro Transit Police are in the situation there, she said.

6:47 p.m. Update: Metro just tweeted that trains are being turned back at Medical Center and White Flint stations, suggesting that the problem is centered around Grosvenor Station.

6:45 p.m. Update: We're waiting on Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein to provide the latest details on the Red Line problems. Twitter users are reporting an array of delays, but nothing definitive. If you're in the system and witnesses problems, send an e-mail to transportation@washpost.com or post a comment below.

Original post: Metro says trains are single tracking between Friendship Heights and Grosvenor stations due to an injured customer. There are delays in both directions.

This post will be updated.

By Michael Bolden  | June 28, 2010; 6:31 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Red Line  
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Comments

OK, this may sound like a spy novel, but is there any connection to the person throwing themselves on the tracks at Grosvenor and the arrest of the Russian spies in Arlington? One TV station is reporting "one got away." Maybe not.

Posted by: jslaff | June 28, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

So forcible detention of passengers aboard a stalled trained is OK if it's to "prevent them from seeing a horrific scene?"

The legal justification here seems awfully shaky.

Posted by: kcx7 | June 28, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Lisa Farbstein has to be lying about passengers leaving the train. If "most" of them disembarked when the train was stopped 50 feet short of the body, weren't they likely to see the horrendous scene? So why not bring forward and out the passengers at the end of the train? What if one of them had died of heat stroke? Would Metro claim the death was unrelated to Metro operations, and therefore not its problem? What does Metro not understand about trapping passengers on its godawful system, even at times when there isn't another death on the tracks? The rates are shooting up. Can we expect service to improve now that Metro has more of our money?

Posted by: Anton23 | June 28, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking the same thing as Anton23. Farbstein's story doesn't make sense. If the passengers were stuck in the back of the train, how did the rest of the passengers get out without seeing the horrific scene. It would seem more likely that the passengers at the front of the train would see it, unless I am misunderstanding.

Posted by: arl09 | June 28, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

If this incident happened at 6:10 at Grosvenor, why did Metro unload a train at Dupont at 6:30 or so, and then another one at Woodley Park shortly thereafter -- which had all the people from the other trains? Why not proceed north to Bethesda, or wherever, and shuttle people around the incident?

This morning was no gem, BTW. At Twinbrook there was a platform full of people and long delays, not celebrating the higher fares, I don't think.

Posted by: artbrodsky | June 28, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

How is the world is Lisa Farbstein still the PR hack for Metro? Every time I see her quoted, she insults riders' intelligence with her baldfaced lies and ridiculous excuses, and/or she comes off sounding callous and uncaring. Not exactly someone you want for a spokesperson, if you ask me.

Posted by: brimadison | June 28, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Metro for a great service tonight. You really showed us how much you really deserve the fare hire today and on August 1st. We as riders are paying higher fares hoping metro will get it right some day from past 5 years..It was really long ride this evening from 6pm and ending after 8pm from Gallery place to rockville.

Posted by: kallims | June 28, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

@brimadision:

I second what you wrote, "How is the world is Lisa Farbstein still the PR hack for Metro? Every time I see her quoted, she insults riders' intelligence with her baldfaced lies and ridiculous excuses,"

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 28, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

"Garcia did not have information on the age, gender or sex of the person."

"Gender or sex"? "Sex" denotes whether the person was male or female. "Gender" denotes masculinity or femininity. I don't think anyone particularly cares whether the dead person was a manly man, girlie man, etc. (Of course, if the quoted sentence was meant to use "gender" in the way the feminists want you to do, i.e., as a substitute for the word "sex," then it's redundant to use both.)

Yeah, I'm nitpicking, but this struck me as a really strange sentence.

I must say that I do not understand this part about passengers not being "allowed" to use the doors between cars. If I'm on a train in this sort of situation, I'm using the damn doors and I'm not asking for anyone's permission before doing it.

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 28, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Farbstein's excuse for not getting those passengers off the train does NOT make any sense whatsoever, given that those passengers would simply leave the train where others already had.

I think that Metro just forgot about the passengers.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 28, 2010 10:11 PM | Report abuse

@1995hoo, I agree. I would walk between cars or use the emergency door release. Like I am going to listen to Metro in this situation?

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 28, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Farbstein said, " "To avoid having them see the horrific scene on the tracks." Heck, the horrific scene is METRO on the tracks!

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 28, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

So it's 10:51 p.m. Why isn't there a real story on the home page?

Posted by: artbrodsky | June 28, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

It's sad when someone feels there's no alternative but to end their life. The pain that person is in must be unbearable - and the devastation that follows in the loved one's lives afterwards has got to be just awful. My heart feels for the deceased and the lives that person touched. But please, I'm not trying to be callous, but if suicide is something you might consider, maybe a bit more privately?

And I just don't get Metro. Those poor souls stuck on the rear cars of the train just entering the Grosvenor station....what, was there an MTP officer preventing them from leaving the cars or moving thru to the forward ones? The riders in the forward cars had to have passed that "horrific scene." What a load of s***. Was the body not covered after a few minutes, or at least as the pax disembarked the train?

Regular riders are upset enough about Metro & it's lack of service & fare hikes. Imagine what the system looks like to tourists.

Posted by: PorthosAD | June 28, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I was on one of the early trains that stopped and unloaded at Medical Center. (I boarded Metro at Gallery place at 5:30.) The ride from the start was rough and slow - and this was before the incident happened. I reached Medical Center at 6:30. The station was crowded, overheating and the sound system was useless. We could barely hear announcements and we could not understand what Metro wanted us to do. I learned there was an injured person at Grovsner by texting my son and getting him to go on line to tell me what was happening. Metro gave no directions to leave the station and there were no shuttle buses. Even at 7, I had not seen the first shuttle bus. Every escalator in the station stopped or failed within in 15 minutes. I choose to climb the non functioning escalator instead of getting on the last working, but totally packed escalator. It failed before I finished exiting the station. I was amazed that no one was hurt then the fulled loaded escalator jerked to a halt.
I was still just outside the Medical Center station when the stranded car backed into Medical center and let those people off the train - they were so relieved to get off that train and out of the heat that from outside the station, I could hear them screaming as they exited their train. I thought someone had collapsed on the non-functioning escalators and fallen making others fall with them. And the station drive filled up with so many emergency vehicles that there was almost no path for the buses to come into the station and move the passengers (not that many buses were moving through the station.) When I boarded a J2 to simply get away from the station and take a round about way home, the bus driver knew there was a serious problem, but insisted that all riders had to pay. I can understand that he was not a shuttle bus and that riders needed to know that he would not alter his route, but in the heat and crowded, miserable conditions at Medical Center, the bus should have boarded anyone that was willing to go on his route just to help clear the station. I got home after 8 only because a neighbor called me on my cell for other reasons and when she learned what was going on, offered to meet me at the Montgomery Mall transit center. I wouldn't have been home before 9:00 without her assistance. Absolutely, my worst day ever riding Metro. Metro doesn't have an effective plan for handling emergencies. This is not the first time this unfortunate situation has happened, so you would think they would have a workable emergency plan in place.

Posted by: licare58 | June 28, 2010 11:57 PM | Report abuse

licare58, thank you for the detailed report. While I understand that Metro is not responsible for the person who jumped onto the tracks, Metro is responsible for handling the subsequent events, including communicating with passengers and ensuring that they are safe. What a fiasco Metro is! But I'm sure that Robert McCartney or somebody else on the Post will, in a few days, write another cheery article about how all those people in Tysons will be abandoning their car-centric lifestyle for one dependent on mass transit.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 29, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I was stuck at Medical Center last night, too (left Farragut North at 5:35, arrived at Shady Grove at 8:15). After 20 years riding Metro daily, I still cannot believe the horrible situation at Medical Center. It was pure chaos, and there were absolutely NO Metro employees outside the station for well over an hour to provide any sort of direction to the stranded passengers. When a shuttle bus finally arrived to take passengers around the incident, the bus operator didn't even know how to get to the Twinbrook station, which was where "they" told him to go. This operator tried his best, though, given the frustration everyone was experiencing by the time he arrived on the scene. All in all, an incredibly frustrating evening. As my fellow passengers and I discussed, what is most terrifying about this is that, if Metro cannot handle this kind of (sadly, fairly common) incident during rush hour, what will happen if, God forbid, we are attacked? Why is the media not all over this? As my fellow passengers and I discussed, we are DOOMED if this is how Metro responds to a crisis. This incompetence really needs to stop.

Posted by: ambd0407 | June 29, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Metro really outdid itself yesterday. I guess they need those fare increases to raise the pay of the morons who run the system - perhaps other transit systems are licking their chops, hoping to raid the talent pool at metro. Somehow, I doubt it.

I got to Union Station about 6:25. I knew things were bad when I saw that the platform was packed and there were no ETAs for trains on their signs. I asked a metro employee if trains were running. He said yes, trains were running. I asked him when, he did not know. I pointed out that with the mob on the platform and no known ETAs posted, I had my doubts. Another metro employee pointed to the gate by the turnstiles and yelled at me "Do you want to leave here?". I did not get his name - he is a black guy at the south kiosk at Union Station. Nice public relations touch.

I got on the second train, the first being tighter than a sardine can. It stopped, it went slowly, and we could hear that announcements were being made in the various stations, but not on the trains, so nobody could hear what was going on. There was no AC, so it was hot as hell in there. There was also some liquid dripping out of the ceiling of the first seat I took. When we finally got to Dupont, a mob piled on - apparently a train had been off-loaded at Dupont, for no readily apparent reason. We limped up to Van Ness, where they off-loaded our train, again for no readily apparent reason. I was headed for Tenleytown (Fort Reno), and since there was no reason to believe I could get there by train any time soon, I walked. The summer air on the street was refreshing compared to the air in the metro.

The concert at Fort Reno was cancelled, so I debated whether to try to take metro or just walk back to Bethesda. I went to the Tenleytown station and people were exiting, so I figured trains were running. I asked the woman in the kiosk if trains were running, and she said yes. The sign had an ETA of 3 minutes for a train, so I took my chances. An announcement was made which stated that "the situation had been resolved". A train showed up in about 3 minutes, and then it sat there for another 10. It took 23 minutes to make the roughly 5-minute trip to Bethesda. By the way, escalators where non-functional at Van Ness, Tenleytown, and Bethesda.

1. After several decades of operation, why does an incident bring an entire line to a grinding halt?
2. Why does the AC not work in the summer in DC?
3. Do any escalators work in the system?
4. Why are liquids dripping from the train ceiling?
5. Why are passengers not informed of what is going on?
6. Why are belligerant employees yelling at frustrated passengers, especially a passenger who was not even talking to said employee?
7. Why are we paying more than ever, with more fare hikes to come, to ride a system that any developing nation on Earth would be ashamed of?

Posted by: MyPostID27 | June 29, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I live directly behind the Grosvenor metro station, and incidentally, our power, and that in the surrounding neighborhoods went out at 2:15 pm and was not restored until after 12 am. Original estimates from PEPCO had power restoring about 6 pm, not sure if the delay in the restoration was due to the "incident" or not...

Posted by: see1 | June 29, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

12 hours later and STILL no article from the Post? All the info is from rider's comments. Time to renew my subscription to the NY Times!

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 29, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

this morning there were two police officers with automatic rifles and two TSA officers wearing their blue uniforms. they were unarmed.

Posted by: jiji1 | June 29, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I was waiting on the platform at G-S station when the person jumped. The scene was calm but chaotic as the Metro workers responded. After the initial shock of what had happened cleared, it seemed that most folks figured it was going to be a lengthy delay and headed for the buses.

The train approaching the station didn't hit the individual, but was stopped within 5 inches of the person, not anywhere near 50 feet away. I believe only the first car of the train was alongside the platform but can see no reason why people in the back of the train weren't permitted to walk to the front and exit - the scene they would be exposed to (if they even chose to look) would be no worse than those who were in the first car already. Emergency responders were on the scene within 5-7 minutes and could easily have thrown a sheet or something to obscure the view (as one Metro employee did by standing on the tracks and blocking the view from those on the platform).

One positive comment - the Ride On bus drivers were friendly and informative for those of us who needed them to get us to Shady Grove station.

Posted by: bellaragazza | June 29, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I was in the tunnel between Medical Center and Grosvenor when the accident happened. We held in the tunnel for a while, started to move forward, stopped again, then were told at 6:20pm that there was an emergency at Grosvenor and that the train would be going back to Medical Center.
I immediately called my spouse to be picked up at Medical Center. As I was leaving the station at 6:25 pm (station was still pretty quiet at that point), an announcement was made that single-tracking was starting and that the next train would be going all the way to Shady Grove. Thankfully, I didn't stick around to try that option - sounds like I would have been waiting a long, long time.

Posted by: grosver | June 29, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting that picture. I'm in that mass somewhere.

Posted by: sbola1zv | June 29, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I've been riding Metro for 25 years. Metro's handling of this event is unsurprising. No announcements, or if announcements, they are unintelligible, or in MetroSpeak, or lies.

Time and time again, I seen platforms packed to the gills w/no police presence or Metro presence called in to direct and manage to the UNSAFE crowding. I'm surprised that when some platforms have been completely full, passengers haven't fallen on the tracks.

I give up. Metro simply doesn't learn from past experiences, or just coasts on its FORMER (and alleged) status as "America's Subway" and the best subway in the country.

Posted by: RockvilleBear | June 29, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

More great service from Metro-NOT!! Guess they don't have any plans about how to deal effectively with suicides, accidents or any other type of disruption. So glad to be giving up more fare $'s for lousy services!

Posted by: lsf07 | June 29, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

So what ultimately killed the person? I'm guessing, based on what others have said about a guy jumping but no train hitting him, that he must have touched the third rail and so was electrocuted?

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 29, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"If this incident happened at 6:10 at Grosvenor, why did Metro unload a train at Dupont at 6:30 or so, and then another one at Woodley Park shortly thereafter -- which had all the people from the other trains?"

I was on a train that offloaded at Dupont around 7:00 or so, and I think it was because there was something wrong with the train. It had been jerking along all the way from NY Ave. -- I had assumed it was an especially bad driver, until we were ordered off at Dupont. Were other trainsoffloaded earlier?

Posted by: Janine1 | June 29, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It would be very helpful if the Post would investigate why METRO hasn't figured out how to single track in a reasonably efficient manner since single tracking is a frequent event. It would seem that METRO ought to be able to figure out the maximum number of trains that can be run through the sytem in single tracking mode and where it needed to turn around trains that exceeded that number so that the whole system wouldn't come to a halt. Of course, one would expect a reasonably run train system to have done this analysis, but given that METRO isn't a reasonably run system, it would be intersting if the Post could provide this analysis to the public.

Posted by: joelkaufman | June 29, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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