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Metro's Latest Problems

Some greeting for Metro's new GM. At the controls only a week and the new toy keeps breaking down.

Some ride for Red Line passengers. You see the new T-shirt on the cover of The Post's Style section this morning? "I Rode the Red Line in January and it was Smokin' "

Could be a big seller, even in February, if someone decides to produce it.

Lena Sun wrote a story for today's Post about Metro's troubled Wednesday, which involved a bomb scare a small fire at Farragut North for the second day in a row and a fire aboard a bus for the second day in a row.

With an excellent sense of timing, Metro also announced a new feature on its customer service phone line that allows callers to get more information about incidents likely to cause significant delays.

The transit authority put out a lengthy statement about the problems it's having with the Orion VI buses that Metro started using in 2000. Because of earlier problems with these 100 buses, Metro had ordered that they be overhauled during 2005 and 2006. Then a new problem was discovered: During December, drivers noted that the brakes were not releasing properly.

Metro mechanics and the manufacturer were in the midst of new repairs when the two bus fires occurred this week. Now, all those 100 buses are back in the shop for inspection. The mechanics also are installing monitoring devices that are supposed to give early warning of any problems.

Metro also has been having trouble with delays in its rail car program. The effort to overhaul many of the older cars is two years behind schedule delivery of the newest rail cars -- the ones without the poles in the front and back -- is already a few months behind schedule.

On the personnel front: Metro can't train new bus drivers fast enough. There are about 100 vacancies for drivers. And some of the drivers are working huge amounts of overtime. That alarmed some members of the Metro board, who were concerned not just about the cost but also about the safety factor of potentially drowsy drivers.

One of the first things the new general manager, John B. Catoe Jr., said after taking over last week was that the system is safe, but he also said he will make safety his prime focus. That sounds like good timing, too.

Catoe will be hosting his first online chat on Metro's Web site at noon Friday.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 1, 2007; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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