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A slippery time of the year for Metro

By Michael Bolden

For Metro and other rail agencies fall isn't the best of times.

It's the season when millions of fallen leaves can cause service delays for railroads and subways across the country as residue on the rails necessitates speed restrictions for safety reasons. Fallen leaves get crushed against rails by steel train wheels, depositing a residue that decreases friction, which can cause slippage.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves Philadelphia and surrounding counties, says that it has an "aggressive maintenance program," including pressure-washing rails, to combat the problem. Here in Washington Metro crews have trimmed leaves and other vegetation, officials said. Metro also has been vacuuming leaves from the rails.

Some Metro trains may be restricted to 25 miles per hour because of the potential danger, Metro said. Trains normally operate up to 59 mph in some areas of the Metrorail system, so riders may need to allow extra time.

Metro has imposed speed restrictions for the following rail stations: Dunn Loring, Rockville, Twinbrook, Takoma, Southern Avenue and Suitland. Speed restrictions are also in place for outbound trains entering Minnesota Avenue and Cheverly stations.

Slippery rails can also lead to flat spots on train wheels, due to the repeated need for braking, Metro said. That conditions requires trains to be removed from service for wheel repairs.

By Michael Bolden  | November 4, 2010; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Comments

I thought this was going to be about how rain and snow make the tiles at many stations dangerously slippery. I wonder if they will ever replace those tiles?

Posted by: informedtraveller | November 4, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Metro has plenty of people just standing around, give them a broom and send them onto the rails. Sweep.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 5, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

All the more reason to go with buses instead of "light" rail for future projects like the Purple Line. In addition to leaves, rail in the roadways will be subject to ice-melting chemicals, the pounding of heavy trucks, etc. Also, crossing rails can be hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists.

Posted by: catbird500 | November 5, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

All the more reason to go with buses instead of "light" rail for future projects like the Purple Line. In addition to leaves, rail in the roadways will be subject to ice-melting chemicals, the pounding of heavy trucks, etc. Also, crossing rails can be hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists.

Posted by: catbird500 | November 5, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Headline: Metro 'Slippery and Unsafe' Anytime of Year, With Any Type of Weather.

Posted by: 10bestfan | November 5, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

It would be easier for Metro to explain what the rare set up weather conditions are that don't give it any problems, and we'll assume the rest of the time that the system is by default handicapped in some way. It's something like partly cloudy, mid-70s, 20%-60% relative humidity, winds from NW blowing no more than 5MPH, a period between 4 and 8 days since the last rain. It can't be early spring, mid or late autumn, or winter. Full moons are bad. Abnormally high or abnormally low sunspot activity is also bad. The migratory patterns of several species of birds can also be trouble.

That leaves about 3 days per year when the Metro runs normally.

Posted by: Wallenstein | November 5, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Mid-70's? That's a bit cool. They have to start up the heaters for that kind of weather!

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 5, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Mid-70's? That's a bit cool. They have to start up the heaters for that kind of weather!

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 5, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Metro has more excuses than Carter has Little Liver Pills!

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | November 5, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

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