Metro: Brake incident not hazardous
Metro's safety officer, James Dougherty, said Thursday that "at no time was a hazardous condition present" on May 5 when a Red Line operator hit the brake because he thought he was too close to the train ahead.
The operator brought his train to a stop at least 600 feet from the train ahead of him at the Wheaton Station, Dougherty said. The train's operator did not use the emergency brake, known as "the mushroom." That's an operator's last defense in avoiding a collision. Instead, Dougherty said, the operator put the regular brake into its emergency setting, a less drastic way of bringing a train to stop that does not involve locking the wheels.
At no time were any people in danger, Dougherty said.
Several board members who listened to Dougherty's report seemed at least as concerned about how the press reported the incident as they were about what actually happened. Board member Gordon Linton suggested the media be more careful in how it reports such incidents. (Some reports described the incident as a near miss, which in the view of Metro officials it was not. Here's the full statement from Metro about the incident.)
Board member Chris Zimmerman of Arlington was the first to ask for further explanation of why, if there was no danger, the operator felt compelled to put the brake into emergency mode.
Dougherty said the operator, who has not been identified, perceived he was getting too close to the train ahead and brought his six-car train to a stop. No one on the board or staff suggested he did anything wrong at any point during the incident.
In fact, the preliminary investigation suggests he did everything right: In summary, he took a prudent action to protect his train and the one in front of him. Then he immediately reported his action to Metrorail controllers.
The train was taken out of service and checked. No problems were found. There was no flattening of the wheels such as would have occurred if the emergency brake was applied. There was no problem with the track circuitry. The distance between the trains was great enough that the automatic safety controls that bring trains to a stop did not engage.
Zimmerman, who like the others had no criticism about the operator's actions, did wonder if Metro needed to develop a better system for deciding what types of incidents need to be reported to various safety officials.
May 13, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories: Metro , Safety | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail, Red Line
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