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Is Metro's platform policy working?

Looking through the mailbag of comments I didn't get a chance to publish during Monday's chat I spotted this once, which will allow me to ask Metro riders how they're getting along on the platforms these days.

Washington, DC: Can you explain to me why everyone thinks that it's such a travesty that the trains consistently pull to the front of the platforms? I could never figure out why they didn't do it before. I hated trying to figure out where it was going to stop. Now, you know it goes all the way forward, so why not get off the stairs/escalator/elavator and WALK AWAY TOWARD THE TRAIN instead of clogging the stairs, etc., and then complaining that the train is too far forward?

I still get complaints about the Metro safety measure, but I think most regular riders have figured out where to stand on the platforms. (I'm more worried about what happens when the tourists come back in the spring.) Most of the complaints these days tend to be quite specific. They say that the design of a particular platform -- Gallery Place's Red Line platform above all others -- is not suited to the policy of pulling all trains forward.

However, I did also find this general complaint in the mailbag for the chat:

Arlington, Va.: Another side-effect of the (dumb in my opinion) decision to pull all trains to the end of the platform is that the last two cars of eight-car trains are virtually empty because everyone moves to the front end of the platform since most trains are only six cars long. When the occasional eight-car train does come along it ends up being under-utilized as a result. The overhead schedule signs have been completely out of whack since last week's accident for some reason. If you could count on them being reliable more people might move to the back end when they were sure an eight-car train was coming.

Pulling all trains forward has been Metro policy for half a year. What's your experience?

By Robert Thomson  |  February 3, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Safety , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Metrorail crowding, Metrorail safety  
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It's fine, but only when the boards are accurate about what trains are coming. This morning in Arlington the board said that an 8 car train toward New Carrollton was the next one, so I went down to the end of the platform (as did several other would-be passengers). Turned out to be a 6, so I missed that train and had to wait close to 10 minutes for the next. Boo.

Gallery Place really is just dangerous on the Red Line level, though. Most other stations (most), not so much.

Posted by: EtoilePB | February 3, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Gallery Place is the problem more than anything. Obviously those last two cars are going to be jammed with people getting on at Gallery Place. The problem is further compounded when the train pulls in to Metro Center and those last two cars are roughly at the center of the station where everyone is waiting after coming up from the lower level.

Every day I get yelled at by the train operator to use all available doors. That works great if you have the time to walk to another door but often it is a tight connection and you need to force your way on if you don't want to be waiting 10 minutes for the next train out to Shady Grove. Too often people can't get off the train before the doors close. I understand the safety concern here but several of the stations just aren't geared for operation like this. Ultimately the solution is to get trains and doors running in automatic (this includes 8-car trains) allowing them to serve the platforms as intended.

Posted by: Razor04 | February 3, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Can't say I've had a particular problem, but I don't have to deal with exceptionall crowded platforms much. Only prolem I have is when I forget how far up the train is stoping.

Posted by: EricS2 | February 3, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I had been walking to the end of the platform before the new policy because it always afforded the best chance of getting a seat. I don't see why people have to congregate at the stairs or the center of the platform because they don't want to walk a few extra feet. I also don't mind waiting for another train, as long as they are spaced correctly. The problem with the policy as the other poster noted is that the signs aren't correct and the trains are often delayed so you can't really spread out in the manner intended because the platform is already too full.

Posted by: ehardwick | February 3, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

It would be fine if all the trains actually pulled to the front of the platform; however, I have had the occasional train "forget" to do so after the policy was put into place, leaving me scrambling back down the platform to get in the front car.

Posted by: stuckman | February 3, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I think it would work better if there were signs telling you which end of the platform is the front. Sure, you can figure it out for stations you visit regularly, but otherwise you have to wait in the center until a train to arrives (causing the clumping everyone above is complaining about), or taking a guess, then hustling to the other end of the platform if you've guessed wrong.

Posted by: jesseve | February 3, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

jesseve...trains are just like cars...they drive on the right (at least in most cases). Remember that when you're in a station and you'll be able to figure out which direction they are going in. If your side of the station is on the left then the front of the train will be behind you whereas if your side of the station is on the right then it will be in front of you.

Posted by: Razor04 | February 3, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The platforms in numerous stations, not just Gallery Place, are simply not designed for trains to pull to the end of the platform. Escalators, elevators, etc. are all located to be compatible with the traditional stopping position in automatic mode, and Metro train headways are just too far apart to ask people not to scramble and run to catch the next train. Every day, Metro is creating the possibility of one injury to try to prevent injuries caused by operator error (stopping the train in the wrong place).

And then there's Gallery Place -- in a category all its own. During rush hour, getting off of the rear cars on a Shady Grove bound train is difficult -- almost every day I see pushing, flying elbows, etc. On two occasions, I have been trapped on the car, unable to get off until Metro Center, and I've seen this happen to other people at least two other times. On another day, I saw passengers who had gotten off the next-to-last car who were then pushed back onto the train as they tried to get past the last car, by the overwhelming crush on the platform.

Metro's attempt to ameliorate the problems there by stationing a couple of crowd-control personnel on the platform has been a failure -- if anything, they further clog up the flow of people. (It's possible that they're simply there in case anyone needs to be rescued after being pushed off the platform, but that would be a cynical view).

The problem is simple -- there are just too many people who switch lines at this station, and no realistic way the platform can accommodate them when 6-car trains pull all the way forward. Virtually every day (or at least every day there is any delay whatsoever on the Red Line), this is creating a highly-dangerous situation.

There is simply no reason Metro train drivers shouldn't be expected to remember whether they are driving a 6-car train or an 8-car train and stop in the right place. At a minimum, Metro should institute this at Gallery Place before someone is seriously injured or worse. If it takes a special dispatcher who calls each train as it pulls into Gallery Place and says "Train x, you have 6 cars -- stop at the 6-car spot", then that's what they need to do. (Could that really be any more expensive than stationing 2 or 4 Metro employees on the platform, as is happening now?)

Posted by: hoosiereph | February 3, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The stations were designed for having the cars go to the center -- both at Gal Pl and the outdoor stations. Many people won't wait for a train if they're not under shelter (don't blame them, honestly, especially if you're already waiting up to 20 minutes for said train).

Make it mandatory that every Metro train driver put a sign saying "6" or "8" in their sightlines and be done with it. Some drivers did this before the new measure was instituted. Seriously, how hard is it to remember how many cars you have in your train?

Posted by: | February 3, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Good and bad.

Good everywhere but Gallery Place.

Bad - Gallery Place and underutilized last cars. everyone crowds onto the cars that will stop by the escalator at their destination. (See Federal Triangle for riders getting off at Metro Center. The doorblockers will cause a fight soon.)

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

the door blockers will not cause a fight soon, they ahve already caused many, as have other people who are simply rude for whatever reason. Mero has no idea how many fights happen on their trains because people on teh trains would rather break up the fight than report it, because reporting it will only further delay your train.
I've seen at least five fights, always afternoon, usually Mero Center or Gallery Place, on the red line since the June 22nd crash, never once did anyone press the call buttom, we just broke it up, kepr the people apart and continued on our way.

Posted by: GlenBurnie | February 3, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Pulling to the end of the platform is fine ( but it can get crowded there ). The problem is telling us it will be an 8-car train, but turns out to be six.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 3, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I, for one, welcome the new practice, with one tiny issue: given that train schedules are out of whack anyway, why not build the schedules around giving a few more seconds at the platform, particularly crowded stations like Gallery Place, FarraWest, McPherson and others? For instance, I've seen a couple of times train operators rushing to move their trains at FarraWest and seen people trying to get out stuck inside their trains. The schedule's already out of whack - give 90 seconds instead of 30, and adjust the schedules accordingly.

Posted by: vnangia | February 3, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I wish Metro would make an exception to the policy for Gallery Place. In fact, I wish Metro would not go back to stopping at the middle of the platform, but actually stop at the back of the platform on Shady Grove runs.

I think its a good policy in most fact just about any place other than Gallery Place.

Posted by: thetan | February 3, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Could somebody get a can of spray paint and mark the end-of-train lines for those who aren't station regulars?

Posted by: member5 | February 3, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

one more person who thinks gallery place is now a ridiculous situation b/c of the trains pulling forward. every morning is a giant clusterf***.

Posted by: geneticcounselor2 | February 3, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Unless you're willing to start rioting, METRO DOESN'T CARE.

Posted by: member5 | February 3, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

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