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Move Up the Platform To Await Metro Trains

As a safety precaution unrelated to Monday's fatal crash on the Red Line, the transit authority decided to have all its trains, no matter how long, pull to the front of the platform.

I applaud this. Too often, the operators up front would forget their trains were eight cars long, rather than six. They would stop at the six-car marker on the platform, and open the doors on the rear car in a tunnel. By shear good fortune, no passengers in a crowded rush-hour car were spit out onto the tracks.

But Metro needs to keep announcing this change. The letter below is from a man who has been riding the Red Line for 24 years; for the past 11, commuting between Shady Grove and Union Station.

Dear Dr Gridlock:
Metro's inadequate communication continues. All Red Line trains, regardless of whether they are six or eight cars long, are now stopping at the far ends of every station. Metro has not been announcing this change over the loudspeakers or on the electronic signs.

Needless to say, the car operators haven't been announcing this change either. It is beyond belief that Metro can't make simple, yet extremely useful, announcements about the changed stopping locations.
Rodger Pitcairn
Rockville

I've heard announcements over the past few days, but nowhere near enough. We've said that some people don't want to ride in the first car following the crash, but I've also seen passengers waiting where they couldn't get to the first car anyway, because its pulling to the very front of the platform before opening its doors.

Last night, after the Nationals game, I saw this: We took an eight-car Green Line train from Navy Yard to Mount Vernon Square, where the train ended its run and returned to Navy Yard. (This also is a good move to clear the Navy Yard platform, but it left many Greenbelt-bound passengers baffled, when the train lights started flashing and the operator's announcement came.)

We were in the last car of the eight-car train. I looked up at the electronic message board and saw that the next Greenbelt train would be six cars long. But dozens of Greenbelt-bound riders from our car and from the rear of a following train positioned themselves to wait exactly where they had stepped off. The six-car train they were waiting for would open its doors far forward of where they were standing. No announcement.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 26, 2009; 7:47 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Safety  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line crash, eight-car trains  
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Comments

I noticed this the day after the crash and realized that it must have been new policy to pull all the way up.

Posted by: josh703 | June 26, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Has Metro finally decided to make this permanent? I think that only doing it sometimes for whatever special reason is dumb. Then, you get complaints from those that aren't paying attention or didn't hear the announcement. If this is the way it is from now on, everyone will learn to move down. Make the change, people will adjust.

Posted by: SweetieJ | June 26, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Out of the seven trains I've ridden since Monday afternoon, as well as several others I've heard coming through the stations I frequent, only the operator driving my train Tuesday morning made the announcement. He was good enough to make it at every single stop on his morning run, which I think was very much appreciated by riders. I wish the other operators were as conscientious.

I also understand and support all the trains running on manual since then, but it would be nice if Metro had announced that this is delaying every train throughout the system (or at least all the ones I've taken on the Orange line) by at least 5-10 minutes. I imagine quite a few afternoon commuters who transfer from rail to bus have ended up with some close calls or missed buses.

Posted by: BuffaloGal78 | June 26, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Metro doesn't have time to run announcements about where the trains will be, because it has decided to run "Hi, welcome to Metro" every two minutes. Typical Metro -- actual rider needs and safety ignored in favor of insipid non-information.

Posted by: tomtildrum | June 26, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

My blue line train operator (7:16 am departure from Franconia-Springfield) has made the announcements (eight to the gate) pretty regularly all week. Not surprising though as he has always been above average with announcements compared to what I read about other train operators.

Unfortunately for me, this morning he announced that he is being transferred to the the yellow line starting next week.

Posted by: mallemployee | June 26, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Some very interesting comments above about the state of the Metrorail system.

mallemployee, thanks for the observation about your train operator. I'm sure many riders notice the differences among the operators' announcements. It gets a day off to a good start, and sometimes softens the impact of a bad one, when you realize the train operator really cares about getting you where you're going.

BuffaloGal78, the only line with a reduced speed limit right now is the Red Line. The limit is 35 mph, and that's a significant restriction. But as you note, travel throughout the system has been slower than normal since Monday, when the operators started driving all the trains as a safety precaution.

The real solution to the six-car/eight-car thing would be a precise and reliable automated stopping system, but we don't have that now. Until we do, I hope Metro will continue to require all trains to stop at the eight-car marker, at the end of the platform, to avoid any chance of losing passengers onto the tracks.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | June 26, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I've seen two trains on teh red line pull up to almost an eight car stop, but not quite. I wonder if they were really eight cars long if the back door of the last car would be off the platform. Which makes me wonder, is this new policy going to help or make matters worse as operators will get used to "close enough" even when the train really is eight cars long?

Posted by: GlenBurnie | June 26, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

This morning, my inbound Red Line train stopped at Bethesda at the normal spot on the platform, so a bunch of us who were waiting at the very end had to rush down to cram ourselves into the first car. I guess someone didn't get the memo.

Also, is it just me, or are the crowds and delays worse all along the Red Line since they reopened the closed portion and went to single-tracking? I had slow, but otherwise OK commutes on Wednesday and yesterday morning, but last night and this morning were total nightmares.

Posted by: Janine1 | June 26, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I've not heard a single announcement about it, at any station, or on any line that I've ridden this week. The only reason I knew is this blog.

(That includes the orange line from VA Square to L'Enfant Plaza, the red line from Silver Spring to Metro Center, and the green line from Fort Totten to Navy Yard.)

Posted by: EtoilePB | June 26, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Not all of the conductors seem to be following these instructions. This morning at Twinbrook, I waited for the train in a position where I would be able to board if it pulled all the way up the platform to the eight car stop position (as did many other people even though there were no announcements). The conductor went to the normal six car stop. He continued to do this at every station to Union Station.

Posted by: Louise9 | June 26, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Dr Gridlock, unfortunately, I completely disagree with you.

I find it to be an inconvenience for the trains to pull all the way forward. This creates a safety issue in itself when people that come in a certain entrance must run down the platform in order to catch a train that has pulled all the way up. When before, at least there had been one or two cars that you would not need to sprint to in order to catch the train.

This impacts me b/c I frequently work late when the time between trains is long (18 minutes) and missing a train b/c I had to run up the platform, then having to wait another 20 minutes to get home,when its already late, can really ruin your day.

In addition, platform space all the way at the end at times is smaller than the rest of the platform areas (has the escalator, sometimes storing equipment etc).

By pulling through all the way, Metro is in a sense favoring those riders that come in at certain entrances (of multi entrance stations, like Farragut West).

By having the train be a lot closer to that one entrance, and, in turn, causes riders to bunch up, the train blows by them, and then they are left running up the platform and barely able to get into the crowded last car.

Stopping in the middle of the platform is not only the most logical thing, but also best serves Metros stated goal of having people utilize all doors.

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | June 26, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Safety first. Safety should trump convenience all the time. I say the trains should pull all the way up until such time as a reliable stopping system is installed where the trains will stop at the correct spot in automatic mode. The last thing Metro needs on the heels of this accident is more bad publicity of doors opening in the tunnel.

To the commenter above...check the train departure times on Metro's website before leaving the office. Plan to arrive at the station a couple of minutes prior to the train arrival, and there will thus be no need to sprint to the train. Its probably only about 100 feet anyway.

Posted by: thetan | June 26, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Will be doing that from now on, thanks

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | June 26, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday I attempted to catch a greenline train in the direction of Branch Ave. Apparently a Nationals game was scheduled to begin soon because the platform was horrendously packed. Needless to say, I had to let three trains go by before I was able to board. When the train reached the Anacostia station the lights began to flicker off and we were told by the train operator to get off the train because it was no longer in service. Apparently, that train's sole purpose was to transport baseball ball fans to the Nationals game. Meanwhile, crowds of people who were also waiting to reach their destination were shrugged off and dumped in Anacostia. I need to understand; when did the interests of baseball fans became more important than those of other riders. Because of metro's poor planning and disregard for my time, I essentially missed four trains and the bus to get home. But all isn't lost; the baseball fans made it to the park in time to see the opening pitch. I see clearly now whose business metro values the most.

Posted by: venus31 | June 26, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Has anybody noticed how hot it is at Metro Center? Between the problems on the red line and the heat I'm getting very fed up. It would be nice to be able to get to work without sweating through my commute.

Posted by: corrinapops | June 26, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Last night my Red Line train was taken out of service at Gallery Place and we all stood, crammed and sweltering, for at least 10 minutes while an empty train cruised by before we could get on another one. Are you telling me that was due to the baseball game, rather than technical problems? Like I wasn't mad enough that it took over an hour and a half to make my 45-minute commute?!

Posted by: Janine1 | June 26, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Whatever. Obviously safety is important. The incompetance of Metro a) not being able to automatically stop six car trains in the right place and b) not being able to train their employees on the number of cars on their trains in beyond pathetic. Most stations are designed to dump people towards the middle of the station - having to run to catch up to six car trains which are then packed full after 5 billion years of stopping in the middle of stations is just plain annoying.

Sorry, sore point with me.

Posted by: DCRich20009 | June 26, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"Because of metro's poor planning and disregard for my time, I essentially missed four trains and the bus to get home. But all isn't lost; the baseball fans made it to the park in time to see the opening pitch. I see clearly now whose business metro values the most."

I believe this is your poor planning and not Metro's. Did the train say on the side that it was only going to Anacostia? Or did you not even bother to look at the side of the train to see it's destination. Perhaps it was originally scheduled to go all the way to branch avenue, but metro decided to turn it around early in order to service more passangers going in the opposite direction. It sucks that you had to wait so long for a train but with a little planning on YOUR part you might have avoided a headache. If you live on the green line you should probably keep track of when the Nats play at home and expect more crowded trains on those nights. Perhaps leave work later after most of the crowds have gone, or earlier to beat some of the crowds. Are there any buses you could take as an alternate?

There was also a problem on the Green Line last night with a cracked rail and there may have been residual delays from that, causing even more crowding. Checking the metro website or the Get There blog before leaving work is often helpful to find out of problems before you board metro. Then you can come up with an alternate plan if needed. Dr. G always annouces when there are big sporting events going on that may cause crowding on metro.

Sorry that metro didn't bend over backward to serve just YOU last night. What do you expect, your own private train? Because certainly you can't be inconvienced but it's ok if thousands of others are.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | June 26, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"after 5 billion years of stopping in the middle of stations is just plain annoying."

Metro has only been opened since 1976. The Earth is only 4.5 billion years old. Stop exaggerating. People will adjust.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | June 26, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

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