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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.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 16, 2008; 6:47 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Next: The Commuter: What Needs Fixing


How about, stop giving money away to board members (i.e. Marion Barry).

Next step, become accountable for EVERY action by a Metro employee.

Third step, become accountable for every dollar spent by Metro.

Fourth step, don't hold back information from the customer. Give them everything they need to know and more. Overdeliver and be proactive.

If Metro did these four things, none of the problems that exist with Metro today would be of any hassle and I would believe a lot more work would get done in a timely fashion.

Posted by: Jarrod | June 16, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"Metro says it waits to notify emergency responders because it wants to make sure they aren't going into a situation blind."

I'd take a blind first responder over a blind Metro employee any day.

Posted by: WTF | June 16, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

I didn't think it was that bad. I got work about 30 mins. later than I had hoped, but I could've just as easily left home earlier to avoid the problems, which always seem to happen after 7:30 a.m.

In any case, the worst part of the commute was the spoiled little WASP that smart-mouthed the bus driver when he chided her about running up next to the bus. He was just trying to warn her for her own good. Plus, she had no reason to run, since the bus runs every 9 minutes during rush hour. This young lady should have been more aggressive about using makeup and hair conditioner than smart mouthing the bus driver.

And while I'm rambling and ranting, I wish that people would quit comparing DC transportation to NYC. This is not NYC and if you love it so much, please move back.

Posted by: DeLainie | June 16, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Friday morning, while I arrived more or less on time, I do think that allowing the train to unload passengers at a pitch black station (Farragut West) with zero power was unsafe.

I don't know whether Foggy Bottom was also affected, but if not, it would have made more sense to let us out there, and I could have either walked or taken a bus the rest of the way.

Climbing up two sets of stopped escalators in the total darkness with THOUSANDS of other passengers was not really a great idea.

Going home, however, I guess many people had been scared off by the day's events - because I have never seen such an empty Orange Line train toward Vienna during evening rush hour. Meanwhile, of course, the train on the other side was held up trouble in the downtown area. But for once, Virginia passengers had a nice ride home - with a SEAT.

Posted by: Jean | June 16, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

That cracker should be sent right to the back of the bus!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Were the double-wide passengers at least able to go to a different station and get a shuttle? They'd probably make it up 5 stairs get winded and stop everyone else behid them

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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