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Metro Union Leader Urges Safety Precautions

Jackie Jeter, head of the transit union that includes Metro train operators, called on the transit authority to "address our concerns about potential hazards of the Series 1000 trains. We are asking that those tried be bellied, or placed in the center .. not at the front or rear" of the trains. The 1000 Series cars made up the six-car train that crashed into the other Red Line train on Monday afternoon, killing nine.

Riders commenting on the blog today were asking Metro to do the same thing, out of concern for their safety.

Jeter also asked "that our operators be allowed to operate trains in manual mode, to assure that they can stop trains in sight of other vehicles or unsafe conditions, from now until all safety issues have been resolved." Since the crash, which occurred while trains were operating under the automatic control system, Metro has operated trains in manual -- meaning that the operator drives the train -- as a safety precaution.

Jeter also asked that the transit authority not mandate speed levels. Operators, she said, should be allowed to operate at speeds that they believe can assure safe travel.

"These demands are based on my belief that this accident should have never happened," she said. "We want to assure that an accident like this will never happen again.

She said that many operators have expressed concern about their safety. I asked her if the concern with the 1000 Series was with the structure of the rail car and its ability to endure a crash or with the equipment, such as the brakes and the automatic train controls. "Both," she said.

The last I heard from Metro, the trains were in manual control and speeds reduced. I've not heard of any change in that status but will check.

[5:45 p.m. Update: Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel just clarified this for me: The Red Line has a speed restriction of 35 mph. There is no other speed restriction that affects an entire line. There is a zone speed restriction between Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn, because of a track circuit issue. Restrictions in zones are not uncommon as a safety precaution.]

Jeter, a former train operator, spoke at 3 p.m. in front of the offices of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 in Forestville.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 24, 2009; 3:34 PM ET
Categories:  Metro , Safety , transit  | Tags: Metrobus, Metrorail, Red Line crash  
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Next: Red Line Still Disrupted; Expect Delays


Will the Red Line be fully operational tomorrow, including Takoma/Fort Totten?

Posted by: eugene8 | June 24, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Any word on when the red line will be fully reopened?

Posted by: jonnydoe1234 | June 24, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Didn't someone just mention earlier that the weaker cars could be crushed between the rigid ones if placed in the middle of a train?

Posted by: owl1 | June 24, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: No word yet from Metro about the status of the Red Line for Thursday. I was just listening to the NTSB press conference on the radio while driving back from the union press conference.

The investigators do have more work to do out at the scene, but it might be delayed till the weekend. The NTSB said the board recognizes the needs of the community to get the trains running.

No response from Metro yet on the issue of moving the 1000 Series cars to the center of the train.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | June 24, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

owl1: "Didn't someone just mention earlier that the weaker cars could be crushed between the rigid ones if placed in the middle of a train?"

Possibly. If they pack the 1000 series in the middle, then in the next crash they might be sandwiched. Read this op-ed piece in the Times from 1887!:

I hardly think now is the time we should listen to some union boss about what is safest for PASSENGERS. Either this Jeter girl is just some mouth who wants to pretend she's suddenly an expert on public safety and engineering to get in the news OR she doesn't give a blank about the PASSENGERS and only wants to protect people in her little club.

The Woodley Park accident was between a 1000 series and 4000 series. I'm kind of curious now how a crash between two 1000 series would end up. If the damage to the cabins are less severe, then perhaps they can restrict all the 1000 series to one line. (Probably not possible as the red is the only stand alone line and might require more than 300 trains?) Another option would be to add a time delay between a 1000 series and a newer train. (E.g., a 1000 series cannot leave a station until the track is cleared up to the next station stop.)

I also disagree with her suggestion on speed restrictions. There should be speed maximums and minimums. No restrictions and you'll have one operator wanting to go too slow in front of another wanting to go too fast and then... boom.

One thing she didn't suggest was that rail operators no chat with their employee buddies in the front compartment while the train is moving. She also didn't suggest that drivers surrender their cell phones while working. Nor did she say that she would allow Metro to fire any train operator caught using a cell phone while operating the train. The only good advice she offered was that all trains should be manually operated.

Posted by: prokaryote | June 24, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"that rail operators no chat"

I mean "not chat".

Posted by: prokaryote | June 24, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Jeter girl? union boss? pretend expert on public safety & engineering? You have a right to your opinions but she knows a little about the WMATA railroad after having been a train operator and interlocking operator (dispatcher) for 25 years.

Posted by: kreeggo | June 24, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

kreeggo: "Jeter girl? union boss? pretend expert on public safety & engineering? You have a right to your opinions but she knows a little about the WMATA railroad after having been a train operator and interlocking operator (dispatcher) for 25 years."

Many people drive cars and don't know how they drive safest. I don't think we should let non-experts be making the decision of where to put those 1000 series cars.

And I don't think we should be trusting the views of someone who's role is to milk as much money out of WMATA for her club at the expense of the safety and maintenance of the system. For years, the union has created a deal where some of their employees can earn $40K over in overtime to sit in a train that is automated. Take a third of that times however many employees times however many years and we'd have plenty of money to have gotten some new trains. It's not just the union, it's the admin and the board too. I think it's hardly the time to trust any of their recommendations over the NTSB. We tried that in 2006 and it cost us 9 lives in 2009 so far.

Posted by: prokaryote | June 25, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

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