The Long and Short of Metro's Train Stops
The cherry blossom festival and lots of sports events put large crowds on Metro trains this weekend. It turned out to be the third highest Saturday and fourth highest Sunday ridership in the transit authority's history. There will be more to come as the Nationals start their home season at Nationals Park next Monday.
We had a lengthy discussion about Metro train cars and platforms that I couldn't complete in Monday's online discussion.
Here are a couple of comments I didn't get to publish yesterday, followed by my responses:
Silver Spring, Md.: Where on the platform should a 4, 6 or 8 car train stop? If we rely solely on the operator, cars will sometimes get stopped in the tunnel. If only we had automatic controls that would stop the train in the right place! (We do, but it's turned off. LOL!) I love it when WMATA "solves" a problem by doing some funky work-around like this.
Dr. Gridlock: For several reasons, including operator training and the limits of the automatic train controls, Metro puts the operators in charge of the stops for much of the day. The eight-car trains, as you know, fill up the entire platform. The stop has to be precise. If the train overshoots the platform and has to backup or just go on to the next station. If it undershoots because the operator forgot that the train was eight cars rather than six cars, then some passengers at the rear of the train are in danger of stepping out onto the track bed.
We hate it when that happens. So does Metro. When more eight-car trains are added for an event such as the inauguration or the cherry blossom festival, Metro has the operators stop all trains at the front of the platform, just in case an operator forgets how long the train is.
Washington, D.C.: Honestly, if the operator isn't bright and/or attentive enough to handle this, he or she shouldn't be operating a train. People's lives are at stake!
Dr. Gridlock: They certainly are. Also, not everyone on the platform has heard the announcement about all trains stopping at the front, so if a six-car train comes in, the people who were waiting toward the rear of the platform start running toward where the train is.
I think the goal should be to have precise automatic train controls that can stop all trains at all times in the right place. But until then, I vote for whatever method ensures that the train doors don't open in the tunnels.
April 7, 2009; 8:32 AM ET
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