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NTSB: 'Bellying' 1000 Series not safe

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The staff of the National Transportation Safety Board said this morning that Metro's procedure of placing its oldest cars, the 1000 Series, in the middle of trains is not safe, and it will recommend the removal of all 300 such cars from service.

The staff is presenting the findings of its year-long investigation of the Red Line crash to the safety board members, One of the steps Metro took after the crash was to place the oldest cars, the least crash-worthy, in the middle of trains on the theory that they were less likely to sustain damage there.

James A. Southworth, the chief of the NTSB railroad division, told the board this morning that the NTSB review of a November 2009 crash in the West Falls Church rail yard showed that the 1000 Series cars still were subject to significant damage even in a low-speed crash when they were placed in the middle of the cars.

Southworth said the staff has a recommendation to the board that all 1000 Series cars be removed from service. The NTSB has no power to enforce its recommendations. Metro's current plan, criticized by the NTSB, is to remove the 1000 Series car from service only when they can replace them with a new generation of rail cars, known as the 7000 Series. Those cars are not yet in production and are not scheduled to arrive until at least 2013.

Metro announced Tuesday morning that it awarded a contract Monday night to Kawasaki to manufacture the 7000 series rail cars.

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By Robert Thomson  | July 27, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Red Line crash  
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Comments

A better idea would be to make 8 car trains out of all 1000 series cars and let the people decide if they are safe or not.

Would you rather risk a remote chance of a wreck with a 1000 series car or have another passenger pressed between your cheeks because the Metro system lacks the capacity to move its current ridership?

Posted by: jiji1 | July 27, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

March 2006: NTSB first recommends the 1000 series be retired

July 2010: NTSB again recommends the 1000 series be retired

Total replacements in production: 0

It's been FOUR AND A HALF YEARS and you've done NOTHING, you incompetent morons.

Must be nice to have soverign immunity and know that the NTSB is a toothless tiger. They're like the UN, sending strongly worded letters that get circular-filed.

Posted by: nocando | July 27, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

How about at least labeling the cars so that people can KNOW which ones are the unsafe 1000 series cars??? Then we could at least make a choice as to whether we want to risk our lives on our commute?

Posted by: Iamimpartialobserver | July 27, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Another "duh" conclusion.

Posted by: ceebee2 | July 27, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

How about at least labeling the cars so that people can KNOW which ones are the unsafe 1000 series cars??? Then we could at least make a choice as to whether we want to risk our lives on our commute?

Posted by: Iamimpartialobserver | July 27, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

@Nocando,

Your child like whining does nothing to get people to take you seriously.

Metro and Kawasaki started designing the 7000 series of rail car in 2007 as the final replacement to all the 1000 series cars. Metro ordered 430 of them this spring.

These things aren't like you running down to the nearest car dealer and picking up a car. They have to be designed to fit the specific system and cost billions.

Posted by: Nosh1 | July 27, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

@Iamimpartialobserver--

The numbers are right on the side of car. If it is a 4-digit number that begins with 1, it's a 1000-series car. How much more labeling do you need?

Posted by: ceebee2 | July 27, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

@Nosh1 - They should have been replaced long before we got to the point the NTSB had to recommend it. They needed a federal agency to explain that the 1973-1976 1000 series design was unsafe? It took almost forty years for them to start designing a replacement for these cars?

Posted by: nocando | July 27, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Removing the 300 cars -- actually there are fewer because a number have been totaled in accidents -- would make for an intolerable commute. Four car trains on the red line at rush hour?

FWIW, my view is that the Metro Board and agency leadership simply did not lobby Congress and local jurisdictions hard enough in past years to get funding for new rail cars.

Several years ago, Metro made a half a---- effort to get riders to lobby govt officials for the "Metro Matters" money; however, in comparison, other transit authorities, e.g., the CTA in Chicago and SEPTA in Philadelphia, pulled out all the stops to rally riders to demand greater funding from their respective state governments. The CTA and SEPTA, in fact, managed to get increased state support.

Posted by: RockvilleBear | July 27, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@Nocando,

Again, this short term, populist outrage does nothing for your argument.

The cars aren't unsafe. They are as exactly as safe as they were designed to be in 1975, just as your antique 65 camaro sitting in your garage isn't "unsafe". It just doesn't have airbags or driver assist.

The 1000 series cars were designed and built to the detailed safety specs that were law in ~75. It isn't like Metro bought them from some random guy at a discount because they had "fallen of a truck".

But, like everything else as time goes by and technology improves, safety standards, quality standadards, efficiency standards, and even asthetic standards evolve. The standards we have today, not surprisingly are different from the ones they had 40 years ago.

Rail cars, just like anything with a long longitudinal axis (Tractor trailer) is going to "telescope" when it is stressed. That doesn't make it unsafe.

Railcars are built to have a useful life of atleast 40 years. Are you saying that you can build a railcar today that will meet whatever standards are in place in the year 2050? I think not.

So you are proposing one of two things. That we either replace the rail cars every 10 years at enormous unwarranted cost, or we use undeveloped and unrefined current technology to "anticipate" what standards there will be in 40 years and build them to match, which again is enormously expensive.

You choose, but I don't want to hear you complain every year in perpetuity when metro has to raise rates double digits to pay for your inpenetrable at all costs rail cars.

Posted by: Nosh1 | July 27, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: This is a statement that Metro issued this morning concerning the purchase of 7000 Series cars to replace the 1000s. It may answer several of your questions and raise others.

"Last night, Metro awarded a contract to Kawasaki, to manufacture the new 7000 series rail cars, which will replace the 1000 series cars, fulfilling Metro’s top safety priority.

"Metro received a formal pre-award approval letter yesterday, July 26, from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the procurement of the new generation rail cars using Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) funds.

"The FTA’s pre-award authority for the PRIIA funds totals $150 million for this year, which will be matched by another $150 million by the jurisdictions. Of those funds, $80 million will be used for a milestone payment for the 7000 series cars, which is due this year.

"The procurement of the new rail cars complies with a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation to replace the oldest cars in Metro’s fleet.

"Of the 428 new cars, 128 of them will enable the expansion of Metro service on the Dulles rail corridor and 300 of the cars will be used to replace the 1000 series cars. The new cars are equipped with advanced crash worthiness systems."

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | July 27, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with NTSB's view that Metro has not adequately monitored or managed the functioning of its automatic train control system (ATCS) and should install a back-up system.

However, the recommendation from NTSB staff to remove the 1000-series cars from service is another example of its riduculous propensity to make unrealistic and uneconomical proposals. Removing 300 or so cars from Metro's already inadequate fleet would only aggravate the inadequate service and drive customers to less safe alternatives (such as the overcrowded highway system). Even though these cars have an unfortuante tendency to telescope in a collision, it would be a far better safety outcome to reduce the likelihood of such a collision by improving the ATCS. Overall, people are less at risk in the Metro system than on the highways. Just look at the number of fatalities and injuries on the highways and streets of the area reported in the Post every day.

Posted by: flwood2341 | July 27, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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