Analyzing Metro's Performance II
This continues a discussion begun early Friday about emergencies on Metrorail -- but they keep piling up. Less than 24 hours after a Metro board committee finished venting at transit authority management about the previous week's incidents, riders confronted fresh problems during the Friday morning rush.
The widespread power outage and the two fires challenged Metro operations and communications in ways that earlier incidents -- the heat kink in the rails, the derailment and the storm damage -- did not. The Friday morning problems evolved over several hours and affected many stations on many lines.
I'd like the hear rider comments on Metro's Friday morning response, now that people have had a weekend to think about it. My two cents on communications:
Metro did a good job getting timely and detailed information out to radio, TV and the press, so we could relay that information to the public. The media advisories conveyed the extent of the problems and the delays. Metro's e-mail alerts, being sent at the same time to its customers, did not convey the extent of the problems. Example: "Disruption at Metro Center. (Expect delays in both directions due to a track problem at Metro Center station. Shuttle bus service has been established.)"
But there was another form of Metro emergency communication I wanted to mention: communication with local officials.
Chris Zimmerman, the Metro board chairman and Arlington representative, focused on that Thursday is reviewing the aftermath of the June 9 detrailment on the Orange Line between Rosslyn and Court House.
Zimmerman said local emergency responders had raised questions about Metro's standard operating procedures for notifying them.
Metro says the operator stopped the train at 2:45 p.m., then asked for and received permission to enter the tunnel to check on the train's condition. After surveying the entire train and discovering the derailment, the operator reported back to the Operations Control Center, which notified the fire department at 3:02 p.m. Metro says it also sent a rescue train and had the derailed train's 412 passengers evacuated by 4:25 p.m.
Metro says it waits to notify emergency responders because it wants to make sure they aren't going into a situation blind.
Zimmerman said, "The people in my jurisdiction say they want to know right away." It is very important, he said, for Metro managers to meet with local responders and develop a consensus on this notification process.
Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. and Deputy General Manager Gerald Francis said this would be done.
There are going to be more of these incidents, because the tracks and the trains are aging. Metro needs much more money to retire old rail cars and buy new ones, while maintaining the track beds. But talk is cheap: Metro needs to tap into the local expertise across the region for handling emergencies.
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