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Distracted Driving on Metrorail

Talk about an accident waiting to happen: Metro trains continue to open doors on the rear cars while they're stopped in the tunnels.

Ann White of Washington was among the passengers in the last car of a Red Line train heading for Glenmont and approaching Dupont Circle on Tuesday morning.

While still outside the station, the train doors opened. "Fortunately, no one was standing by the car doors," she said.

"There was no announcement by the train operator that anything was
wrong. After the doors stood open for a little while, they closed
again and the train moved forward a bit.

"The doors then reopened inside the Dupont Circle Station. That was the first I realized that the rest of the train had already been inside the station. (The train had already stopped several times in the tunnel and we had heard announcements about trouble with a train ahead of us and that we'd be moving again shortly.)"

Metro is aware of these incidents and is trying to correct them, but this is taking too long, considering the potential danger.

I think the transit authority should go ahead and do what it's considering and many riders are suggesting: Have all the trains stop at the same point on the platform, no matter how many cars make up the train.

If the trains must be operated manually, rather than automatically, to guard against other problems, what other sure way is there to protect passengers against the operator forgetting that the train is longer than the standard six-car set?

The problem, of course, is that the trains will stop farther up the platform than riders are used to, and if they're only six cars long, a bunch of people are going to scramble to catch up with the last car. Those getting off the train may have farther to walk to reach the escalators and stairs.

But isn't it worth it, to avoid having passengers pop into the tunnel?

By Robert Thomson  |  May 29, 2008; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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So, Metro ditches the automatic door opening feature in favor of human control after a few rare failures where the doors opened on the wrong side of the platform.

Since then, we've had the doors opening on the correct side, but in the tunnels, due to operator error - at a much higher rate than the mechanical errors...

Posted by: Alex B. | May 29, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

This is the type of quality public transport your fare hike paid for.

Posted by: Bob | May 29, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I think it is an excellent option to stop trains at a fixed point on station platform regardless of their length in order to avoid passengers exiting train at the wrong time espcilly physically challenged or blind folks. Walking few extra steps would not hurt anyone but provide health benefits

Posted by: Jim110 | May 29, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

When was the automatic door opening phased out? I was a rider several years ago and now am regularly again and it seems to me that the doors often take forever to open once the train has stopped. Is this why?

Posted by: scooter | May 29, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

When they started using 8 car trains, because apparently the automatic door openers (or perhaps it is the automatic train control) cannot do its thing with 8 car trains and the additional power required to run them. (Metro has also used the electro-magnetic interference excuse, if I remember correctly.)

Maybe we should have a poll to see who is most incompetent: Metro, VDOT, or DDOT.

Posted by: @scooter | May 29, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible to stop trains at a fixed point or will that just lead to more passenger-injuring lurching trains?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of power, what's the deal with turning off train lights and air conditioners in tunnels? Is it just to freak out the tourists?

Posted by: G | May 29, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

In Chicago--there was an employee at BOTH ends of the train...

Posted by: Ann | May 29, 2008 5:04 PM | Report abuse


The last thing we need is more metro employees! They are overpaid and incompetent as it is. It is really simple solution...long term the trains run in automatic with the operator only pressing the button to close the doors and make sure no one is stuck or to take over if necessary. No reason this can't be done and it would probably be a smoother and faster ride. In the meantime though they should just pull all the trains to the front of the station.

Posted by: Craig | May 29, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The doors should close automatically. If you think you're so goddamn special that doors need to be held up for you, then you're special enough to lose a limb or more when the train pulls out of the station with you half in the door.

Posted by: off with their arms | May 29, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

This is what makes all new roads unnecessary.

Posted by: ceefer66 | May 30, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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