Metro Riders Still Dealing With Crash's Aftermath
The operator on my Red Line train did a smart and helpful thing this morning: He could see people waiting too far down the platform as he pulled the train into stations. So he got on the speaker and called out to them to move up, because the six-car train would be stopping at the head of the platform.
Also, when I walked into the station, an electronic message board was displaying a systemwide alert: Trains are pulling to the front of the platform. (By the way, a systemwide alert is sure a lot better than those "No Line" messages that go out through Metro's eAlert system. The eAlerts suffer from bureaucratic English.)
So I'm optimistic that Metrorail is responding to some of the communications issues that arose after the June 22 train crash. But riders have not been inclined toward optimism when discussing service.
A Red LIne rider from Gaithersburg wrote in to say this in response to my earlier posting headlined, "Was Your Red Line Commute a Bit Easier?"
"No, if anything, the commute was worse today, or as bad as it's ever been since the crash. I ride from Shady Grove to Gallery Place. Got on about 8:10 and at first things were fine--my car, shockingly, even had several empty seats leaving SG. But as soon as we crossed into D.C., it all went to crap. The trains started stopping in stations for long stretches, which allowed even more people to cram into the already over-crowded car. This morning's train was as packed as I've ever seen, and I've been commuting every day for the past five years.
"I finally gave up at Farragut North and walked. My commute home was slightly (but only slightly--this is a relative scale of awful) better last night, but the morning's seen no improvement whatsoever."
An Orange Line rider was complaining that there aren't eight-car trains on that line anymore. I thought, hmmm, maybe moving around the 1000 Series cars or some other problem that developed after the Red Line crash forced a change in other lines.
But no, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel, the crash did not force any changes like that and there still are eight cars on the Orange Line.
Another question that has come up frequently: What's up with the turnbacks -- or lack of them -- at Grosvenor and Silver Spring on the Red Line? Never have I heard from so many riders who like the turnbacks. Usually, people are asking why they can't be eliminated.
The turnbacks are designed to keep more trains operating in the core of the Red Line during peak demand. But trains are operating more slowly than normal between Fort Totten and Takoma, where the crash occurred, so the middle of the line tends to get clogged up. Riders notice this when their trains are ordered to hold at the inner stations so that Metro can put more distance between trains.
Under these unusual circumstances, Metro needs to get more trains out to the ends of the lines. There were some turnbacks at Grosvenor and Silver Spring this morning, and probably will be again this afternoon, but Metrorail controllers will turn back trains at other stations, as well, if they think it's necessary to balance out the line. This helps some waiting riders, but certainly doesn't make Metro popular with the people who have to get off the returning train.
What else have you seen on Metrorail that you think might be a problem stemming from the crash?
July 7, 2009; 2:56 PM ET
Categories: Metro | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail delays, Red Line crash
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