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Doors closing separate mom & child

By Ann Scott Tyson

[This post will be updated]

A Metro Green line train took tyson.gifoff with a baby in a stroller this morning after its doors closed, leaving a woman frantic on the platform, according to a witness.

Metro spokesman Reggie Woodruff confirmed that the incident took place.

"The mother pushed the child on the train first; the doors closed," he said.

Barbara Runion, 59, of Hyattsville, said she was aboard crowded car No. 2033 when it stopped at about 7:50 a.m. at West Hyattsville Metro station. The doors shut before the woman pushing the stroller could board, and the train pulled away, she said.

"We were frantically waving at the mother," said Runion, a legal assistant at Washington Harbour. "It happened so fast."

On board the jam-packed car, passengers tried to figure out what to do. "There we were with this little baby," said Runion.

She instructed a man next to her to get onto the intercom and alert the train operator, which he did.

"There's a baby in a stroller here and the mother was left behind in Hyattsville," Runion said the man told the operator.

The train proceeded to Fort Totten, with several passengers huddling around the baby stroller, Runion said. The baby was silent, possibly asleep, Runion said. She said she could not clearly describe the woman or small baby, which was blocked from her view by
other passengers.

Once the train pulled into Fort Totten Station, several passengers got out with the baby and spoke to authorities, she said.

Woodruff said that once the child was turned over to authorities at the Fort Totten Station, transit police guarded the baby until the mother arrived on a train. The mother did not lodge any complaint against WMATA regarding the incident, he said.

"This should not have happened," Runion said. "How can you slam a train door on this baby and mother? It's horrendous," said Runion, a frequent Metro rider since 1976.

Metro is "the worst place in the world to lose a baby," she said. "Goodness knows what the mother did."

Were you aboard the Green Line train this mornining? Post a comment below or e-mail us at transportation@washpost.com.

By Ann Scott Tyson  | November 10, 2010; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

Woodruff added that trains cannot wait until everyone gets on to close their doors and leave.

---------------
Typical Metro "Not my problem" attitude. The conductor closing the doors can see people are still waiting to get on.

And I wonder why no passengers went to the intercom to tell the train operator to stay and wait?

Posted by: thetan | November 10, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

And I wonder why no passengers went to the intercom to tell the train operator to stay and wait?

-------------------------

Who is saying they didn't?

Posted by: signof4 | November 10, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The train did not stay and wait.

Posted by: thetan | November 10, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I think that most people do not realize they can contact the train operator by intercom (which makes me think this is an area that could be improved). Also, probably not everyone on the train car realize what was happening before the train went into the tunnel.

Posted by: informedtraveller | November 10, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

ok, looks like people did hit the intercom button, unfortunately not until after the train left the station with the baby. Kudos to those who stayed with the baby.

Still doesn't make right what the Metro train operator did....he would have seen the woman push the stroller in right before he slammed the door on this mother. And shame on Metro for not sending the train back to the station where the mother was waiting.

Posted by: thetan | November 10, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I've long wondered why riders don't make more use of the intercom. You remember back when we were having the problem with operators forgetting their trains were eight cars long and opening the rear doors in the tunnel? Many times, riders who were in those cars would tell me that no one got on the intercom to tell the operator the doors had opened in darkness. The doors would close and the train would just move on to the next station.

More recently, I noticed that during the summer heatwave, riders on hot cars did not go to the intercom to report the condition. If they did, they'd help out other riders, because the car would be sealed off -- to avoid the further baking of passengers -- and would eventually be taken to the yard for repairs.

I understand why riders don't want to walk over to the intercom and report bad behavior by someone standing within earshot. But I don't understand what's up in these other situations, where riders could come to the aid of other riders.

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | November 10, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Ok, people, get a clue. Do you really think a train operator sees each and every person that boards a train? How about the mother not trying to squeeze into a space too small for both the stroller and herself. I was there. She tried pushing the stroller farther in to make room for herself. She should have waited for the next train when there wasn't room for both of them.

Posted by: mdb211 | November 10, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

We did speak with the train operator through the intercom system. It took a few seconds to filter through the commuters standing in the aisle to get to the intercom box at the rear of the train car. By that time the train had already pulled away from the Metro station platform leaving the frantic Mother behind. There is no reason why any Metrorail train operator should pull out of the station before visually checking the platform to see if there are any passengers in-between the doors, or those physically challenged with wheelchairs or on crutches trying to enter or exit the train doors. Same holds true for a parent pushing a baby stroller in or out of the train doors. This to me is pure negligence on the part of the Metrorail train operator. Think of the dangers of an infant left alone on a Metrorail train, especially during peak rush hour with hundreds of people around, without its parent protecting the child. Barbara Runion

Posted by: BarbaraRunion | November 10, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with mdb211... So often, people with strollers try to make room where there isn't any. Parents need to stop thinking that we can all make way for their SUV strollers with their precious Jaden in it. They need to make sure there's room before just shoving on! Orange line riders are exceedingly guilty of this.

Posted by: sigmagrrl | November 10, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

This probably happens on any system. I remember traveling in New York city with my parents and younger sister. My sister and I got on my parents did not make it. Nobody thought it was a big deal.

Posted by: mmad2 | November 10, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

This probably happens on any system. I remember traveling in New York city with my parents and younger sister. My sister and I got on the subway, my parents did not make it. Nobody thought it was a big deal.

Posted by: mmad2 | November 10, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Mom should have waited for a less crowded train. The other passengers did a good job.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 10, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I think the new metro trains so include an intercom in the middle of each car. I think the fact that they are only at the end of each car prevents riders from remembering that they contact the conductor. If they were a little more accessible the conductor can be contacted faster in situations like this.

Posted by: antztaylor | November 10, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I think the new metro trains so include an intercom in the middle of each car. I think the fact that they are only at the end of each car prevents riders from remembering that they contact the conductor. If they were a little more accessible the conductor can be contacted faster in situations like this.

Posted by: antztaylor | November 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I think the new metro trains so include an intercom in the middle of each car. I think the fact that they are only at the end of each car prevents riders from remembering that they contact the conductor. If they were a little more accessible the conductor can be contacted faster in situations like this.

Posted by: antztaylor | November 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

It's not the train operator's fault. What happened to the mother's personal responsibility? If she saw there wasn't enough room, she should have just waited for the next train instead of trying to cram her kid and then herself in. You see this daily. It was just a matter of time ...

Posted by: ms1234 | November 10, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

@Dr. Gridlock., I think I know why riders don't typically use the intercom to report train doors opening in the tunnel or a hot car: Unfamiliarity with the intercom, and not seeing the situation as important enough to call up the train operator.

That is, I suspect that even if they are aware of the presence of the intercom (and most people probably are not), most passengers think that the intercom is only to be used in emergencies. On the rare occasion that train doors open in a tunnel, passengers may think that it is a one-time-only train malfunction, outside the control of the operator.
Also, it would not occur to me to interrupt the person operating the train to tell them a car was too hot, and I'm someone that reads transit blogs - I would just move. I'm not in the habit of viewing the driver as someone I can communicate with. I suspect the average Joe is unaware of the intercom button and its usage. Just my 2 cents.

And to all those blame-the-victim people, it's possible that the mother had not been on Metro before and misjudged things. We just don't know. I think the system has a safeguard built in to protect from such things, and that is the train operator checking before driving off. That safeguard has been mentioned on this blog before. No one likes being crowded by other people, but I would rather not blame one woman, whose situation we just don't know, for all the people that bother us with strollers on the Metro.

Posted by: informedtraveller | November 10, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I rode the trains for the first time in a while recently. One thing I noticed right away was more people getting things stuck in the doors then I had ever seen when I was a frequent rider. What changed?

Posted by: dkf747 | November 10, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Dear Dr. Gridlock,

I have on numerous occasions attempted to use the intercoms to report problems such as lack of air conditioning, no lighting, eating/drinking etc. However, on several occasions, the operator did not answer.

In one instance, I tried to contact the operator in one car; however, there was no answer even after pushing the call button approximately three times and patiently waiting a minute or two. So ... I went to the next car. Same thing -- no answer. For the heck of it, I went to a third car. Again no answer. So was there no answer due to faulty call boxes or operator failure? Who knows? Either or both?

Also, it seems pointless to notify the operator of problems. E.g., by the time police arrive, the violent school children or other out of control types have already left.

Additionally, you sometimes get silly answers. E.g., Half of the interior, overhead lights weren't working in one car -- shades of the NYC subway in the late 70s/early 80s. I contacted the operator. He informed me that a circuit breaker had been tripped ....

Posted by: RockvilleBear | November 10, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for piling onto Metro when warranted, and perhaps this incident was. But as others have raised, why did the Mom try to cram her way onto an already crowded train? And the announcement is played prior to the doors closing ... the Mom should have pulled her stroller out when she heard the announcement.
I've been on trains where I'm completely crammed against the person next to me -- yet someone basically pushes me insisting that they get on.
.
People are pretty selfish when it comes to Metro - I see it every day. Like the ladies who barrel their way onto the car looking for a seat without waiting for the people to disembark ... or the passenger who carries on a loud cell phone conversation for 20 minutes - in Indian - oblivious to anyone else around ... or the guy who doesn't care that his briefcase is blocking other passengers from walking in the aisle despite the fact he's seated. And that was just this morning!

Posted by: SavedByZero | November 10, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

In the past, I have hit the intercom button before the doors closed at the station to report an incident to the train operator. The train operator did not answer the intercom call until the train had left the station and was well into the tunnel. Perhaps the same thing happened to the riders this morning.

Posted by: JSny | November 10, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

SavedByZero,
I was on your side until you had to slip that unnecessary slightly racist comment in there... What does speaking in Indian have to do with anything? I'm irritated by anyone having a loud, asinine conversation and showing no common sense as to volume.

Posted by: sigmagrrl | November 10, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

This made my day.

So many people think they are so important that it's worth jamming up the train doors so they don't have to wait another 2 minutes.

As a result, Metro relieved this woman of being punished with a child and she missed "her" precious train.

Win-win.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 10, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

The train operator obviously did not look close enought to make sure doors are cleared before shutting the doors. It is still inexcuseable, somebody could have gotten seriously injured. Metro operators need to care more about the passengers.

Posted by: BringYourOwnBags | November 10, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Metro drivers cannot possibly tell whether doors are clear because the passengers/cattle stand so close to the train. Try again.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 10, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Stop using the stroller as a shield and a sword when getting on a train or worse yet CROSSING THE STREET and "poor mom" won't have to worry. I'm a mom, and I've ridden Metro with a stroller. I've never touched another person with that stroller, however, and I've waited for light s at intersections forever. Then I've hurried across the street so my kid would be far away from potential danger. The mother should have been cited for neglect. She probably has that kid insured up the wazoo. Time for the parenting classes to begin again.

Posted by: stopthemadness | November 10, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

One can argue reasonably that there was no negligence on the part of the operator without blaming the woman or blaming anybody else. Seriously, even if the operator did check the platform, if the stroller was fully aboard the train, it would have been out of the operator's view, and all the operator would have been able to see would have been a passenger trying to squeeze into an overcrowded car. I don't know how anybody thinks the operator is supposed to be able to figure out that the child who he can't see belongs to the woman who is trying to squeeze onto the car. Does a person who is trying to squeeze onto a crowded car to reach his or her child look different from a person who is trying to squeeze onto a crowded car for some other reason? Note - I'm not blaming the woman here, but blaming the operator here is total nonsense. Not every sad tale has a villain. Sorry.

Posted by: bctef | November 10, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

This is the 21st century. Add some wireless cameras for the doors. 6 trains * 3 doors each = 18 views. Easily fit into one or two monitors for the train operator.

Posted by: phillydc | November 10, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

This incident unfortunately should not be a surprise to any experienced Metro rider. I have been riding Metro trains for 20 years, and i have seen many people nearly caught and impaled by the doors closing on them, as well as families separated by closing doors.

And the fault clearly is with the Metro operators. Many of these incidents have happened in the first subway car, therefore the operator definitely saw clearly what was occurring. Whether it is callous disregard for the "customer" and their safety, or ridiculous adherence to keeping on Metro's schedule, these incidents could be avoided.

This incident, and many other examples of Metro's lack of respect for the paying customer (and especially their safety), leaves DC with the current downhill-slope condition of our subway system...

Posted by: sj9096 | November 10, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I can't tell you how many times I have seen mothers use their strollers to keep the metro doors open so they can get themselves on the train. Talk about dangerous! That is the fault of the parent not metro! I would bet my house that this is what this mother did - was she deaf? Did she not hear the doors are closing chime? When the doors are closing is not the time to push your stroller through the door! It's time to wait a few minutes for the next train!

Posted by: Lreid91173 | November 10, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

phillydc, since it is the 21st Century, I suppose we should also make the trains 10 feet higher so that cameras get a clear view of the door. It would only require cameras, all-new trains, completely redug tunnels, and a driver with insect vision. Good call.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 10, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Once I went to Union Station to see my wife and kids off. I boarded a train with them (I was double parked in front of the station!) and saw them to their seats, said goodbye, and before I knew it the train was moving! I got off at New Carrolton (prob. spelled that wrong), jumped over to the metro platform and took a train back as close as I could to Union Station. I ran many blocks and my car was still there, with no ticket!

Posted by: johng1 | November 10, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

It's a good thing that everybody stayed calm and didn't panic. I could only imagine if this was late at night and the car was empty.

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | November 10, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

On a few occasions for me, the driver has actually been in so much of a hurry that he/she closed the doors of the train before me and many others even had a chance to get off the train.

I wonder what course of action will be taken against the train operator. I bet WMATA comes down on him hard. They will write him a letter saying that they are really really upset with him, and that he should really really try to do better in the future. That'll show him!

Posted by: jrutter21 | November 10, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I would like to hear the whole story before passing judgment. We haven't heard whether the door chime sounded and the "Step Back" lady had barked at people that the doors were closing. If those things had happened, then the woman was at fault for ignoring the warning. We haven't heard how crowded the platform was nor where on the train the car was located (e.g., front of the train, last car on the train, etc.). Both of those facts are relevant to the question of whether the train operator could have seen this lady trying to board with a stroller. At a crowded platform, there is simply no way for the train operator to see all the way to the other end of the train.

It seems to me that if the door chime hasn't sounded, the passenger is in the right in trying to board. If the door chime has sounded and you're pushing a stroller or using a wheelchair or whatever, then you need to heed the warning and wait for the next train. If the chime has sounded and you get "impaled" by the doors or separated from your family (or your child), it's your own fault.

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 10, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: I avoid reporting incidents (such as a train car covered with vomit) to the operator because I fear that the operator will take the entire train out of service, making me a punching bag for hundreds of angry commuters who are delayed as a result.

Posted by: stuckman | November 10, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Everyone seems to forget that Metro has that annoying voice saying the doors are closing for a reason. On my many trips on Metro I have seen Mothers use their baby strollers as rams to bully their way on to trains. I have also seen Mothers when the announcement and bell have chime thrust their baby strollers forward to block the doors from closing. This kind of behavior could almost be excusable if the trains only ran once an hour but during the morning rush hour there is a new train every 5-10 minutes. If your getting to work hinges on that 5-10 minute difference than you have other issues besides being separated from your baby. That being said a round of applause to those on the train who took a leadership role and watched over the baby.

Posted by: dre7861 | November 10, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Runion said, "Goodness knows what the mother did." I can TELL you what she did. She disregarded the notice of the closing door and proceeded. The mother's fault. TOTALLY. I suspect the mother was in a hurry and failed to exercise due diligence. No wonder she didn't file a complaint over the incident - she was the one who was at fault!!

Posted by: rpcv84 | November 10, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I have been a subway passenger for years and in multiple cities. Although I do not blame the mother, I also do not blame Metro. This is a learning experience. The proper way to board with a baby in a stroller is: adult should enter first, but stand pressed against the door to prevent it from closing -- and THEN pull in the child. This was a tragedy, but there is no need to slip into kneejerk criticism of Metro (as many problems as it has).

Posted by: darrren12000 | November 10, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree that we don't know enough to blame either the mother or the driver. But as a mother who has done a lot of stroller driving, I must respond the the "stroller bully" comments. Most of us will wait for a less-crowded train, but even then I've had to ask, then order, people to move because they've parked themselves in front of the doors.

I've seen riders do this to passengers in wheelchairs too, so it's equal-opportunity cluelessness.

Posted by: tracenik | November 10, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: I avoid reporting incidents (such as a train car covered with vomit) to the operator because I fear that the operator will take the entire train out of service, making me a punching bag for hundreds of angry commuters who are delayed as a result.

Posted by: stuckman | November 10, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

---

Same here, for things like vomit or hot cars. Of course I would report a baby having been separated from its guardian.

There was once a shouting match on a particularly crowded car, and someone reported it on the intercom and gave the car number. Nothing happened, aside from the train stopping for a minute or two (no one came to check on the situation) before we moved again. People were annoyed with the man who reported because of the delay.

Posted by: DOEJN | November 10, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

This does not surprise. Some Metro operators are too quick to close the doors. There is almost a certain nastiness about it.

Posted by: smoke111 | November 11, 2010 12:25 AM | Report abuse

"I have been a subway passenger for years and in multiple cities. Although I do not blame the mother, I also do not blame Metro. This is a learning experience. The proper way to board with a baby in a stroller is: adult should enter first, but stand pressed against the door to prevent it from closing -- and THEN pull in the child. This was a tragedy, but there is no need to slip into kneejerk criticism of Metro (as many problems as it has).

Posted by: darrren12000 | November 10, 2010 7:36 PM "

NO, NO, NO. No leaning against the doors to "prevent" them from closing! They're not like elevator doors that spring back. Idiots trying to "hold" the doors are a major cause of train operators determining that a door isn't closing (because the train's computer says so) and that the train should be taken out of service! Once the chime sounds and the "Step Back" lady barks, get the hell away from the doors!

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 11, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

@rpcv84 and dre7861: I've been riding the Metro for about 7 years now and there have been countless times that the doors have closed before the chimes and "Please step back, doors are closing now" message come on.

Posted by: kristenstreet | November 11, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

This is to respond to the comments posted in The Washington Post on Friday, November 12, 2010, regarding the mother who was separated from her baby on a Metrorail train. As a witness to the incident, I wish to respond to many comments posted regarding the door chimes. In this instance, the mother pushed the baby stroller completely inside of the train. At that point, the door chimes sounded and the train doors closed on the mother thereby leaving her on the platform. There was not enough time for the mother to grab the stroller and take the baby off the train. Nor was there time for her to jump on board the train. Metrorail train operations should be instructed to glance down the platform to ensure parents with baby strollers, and those physically challenged in wheelchairs or on crutches are not halfway in or halfway out of the train doors before closing. Let's put this incident in proper perspective and not speculate on what might happened. I was there and witnessed the entire incident. One can only imagine what was going through the mother's mind while her infant baby was traveling to D.C. alone in a stroller. Barbara Runion. Hyattsville, Maryland.

Posted by: BarbaraRunion | November 12, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, this made the news? I was on that train and in that car, two rows behind the baby (front of the car). The mom pushed the baby in, and then did what, I don't know. The door chimes sounded, she still wasn't on, and the doors closed. We all know how the Metro doors operate and they do not discriminate, especially during morning rush hour.

There was confusion in the very busy car, and only a couple of the passengers realized what had happened. There was a delay getting to the emergency button so the driver did not know the situation until well after the train had left the station (it was an end car with lots of people trying to get on; the conductor may not have been able to see a stroller get on without a parent...just a thought).

Once the emergency button was pushed, the conductor came on and said that she would call ahead to Ft. Totten. Once Ft. Totten was reached, a few passengers got out of the car with the baby and turned the baby over to the station manager/security. Those passengers returned to the train, and we went on with our morning commute.

The baby was not going to be traveling into the dark heart of DC. No one was going to let the baby go past the next station. It was just a freak accident that resolved itself quickly and quietly.

I'm not an advocate for the Metro system (and it needs some serious help) but sometimes stuff happens that is beyond anyones control. I'm glad someone was able to get their five minutes of fame out of it, though.

Posted by: biblia1979 | November 12, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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