Doors Opening: Metro Must Solve This Problem
We have our constant concerns: Riders don't like the seeing more people eating on the trains, they struggle to hear station announcements and they want the doors open longer at certain stations. We've survived those conditions for years. But there is a longtime problem that could result in a fatality, and Metro has failed to stop it. Riders should demand an immediate solution on this one.
Staff writer Lena H. Sun reports today that during the first five months of 2009 there were 22 incidents in which train doors opened where they should not have, putting the transit authority on a course to exceed the number of such incidents last year, when the doors opened improperly 42 times.
Opening improperly usually means the doors opened in the tunnel. That most often happens when an operator forgets that the train is eight cars long. You thought the Metrorail system was automated so the trains were supposed to stop in about the same place every time? Yes, and no.
The platforms are built to handle a maximum length of eight cars. They have to fit exactly. The automated system isn't up to that, as anyone knows who has tried to wait at the precise spot where the doors would open. So the train operator must take control of an eight car train.
Any rider who listens to the operator's announcements during a routine trip knows the operator can forget what direction the train is traveling in, the name of the next station and the names of the transfer lines.
Too often, they also forget how long the train is, stopping it where a six-car train would normally stop. That leaves cars in the tunnel, during peak periods, with their doors open. It's only by amazing luck that we haven't lost passengers in the tunnels.
General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. is committed to safety, but has been reluctant to solve this problem by ordering that all trains stop in the same spot, at the front end of the platform. That would eliminate the problem of tunnel stops, but would inconvenience many passengers standing farther down the platform. If the train were six cars long, they'd have to move up quickly.
That's nothing compared to the inconvenience of falling through a train door onto the tracks. So let's deal with the minor inconvenience for the sake of safety. Metro has known about this problem for more than a year, and no other fix has worked. This one has to stop now.
June 8, 2009; 7:40 AM ET
Categories: Metro , Safety | Tags: Washington transit authority, rail safety
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