Riders ask about slow Orange Line
Several Metro riders have written to ask why the outbound Orange Line trains are slow between East Falls Church and West Falls Church. Metro says there are no speed restrictions on that section of track. There is a work zone farther out, between Dunn Loring and Vienna, where trains must move at 35 to 45 mph. That's where Metro is replacing cross-ties, and work that is scheduled to continue this weekend.
Metro does order trains to slow for a variety of reasons. (I know: Many riders will say, "How can we tell?") Scheduled track work is a common reason for slowdowns. The trains would move slowly whenever workers are present, and they might be ordered to move slowly over a portion of track that has just been repaired. But again, that's not the case between East and West Falls Church right now.
There's also unscheduled maintenance. A Metro track walker might find something unusual, possibly a crack in a rail. The transit authority might order trains to share a track around that zone while workers make an assessment of how big a problem they've got. They might be able to stabilize a problem like a cracked rail and allow trains to use that track again under reduced speed. Then overnight, the rail would be replaced. There's no issue like this between East and West Falls Church.
Because of our endless heatwave, I suspected that Metro might have imposed a heat restriction on the Orange Line. Metro, other rail lines, will sometimes order trains to slow down above ground out of concern that heat kinks might develop on the tracks ahead.
But Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said that train operators have not been asked to slow down because of heat issues.
Metro also would order trains to slow down, or stop and wait, inspectors check the performance of a track circuit. That was quite common in the months after the June 2009 Red Line crash, but it's far less common now, following a series of such inspections and equipment replacements. Look here for a list of track circuit inspections.
So I'm going to fall back on an explanation I gave to an Orange Line rider during my online chat Monday:
The trains get bunched up in the outbound direction during the afternoon, just as they do inbound in the morning. Also, some afternoon trains stop at West Falls Church and head back downtown, to ease congestion on the busiest platforms. Turning a train back is likely to slow down the trains behind it, in the neighborhood of East Falls Church.
If the train stops, the operator should be explaining why. Some operators are very conscientious about this, making announcements one a minute during a stoppage, even if nothing has changed. Others, not so much. Then again, it might be a problem with the speaker system.
| August 11, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
Categories: Metro, Orange Line | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail
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