No “Gotcha!”

  • Published in Local

Metro managers say Grosvenor turnbacks will continue through the end of the year

metro logoWASHINGTON — Maryland’s representatives on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board questioned a decision by the system’s chief operating officer to present three options for eliminating some of the Red Line’s rush hour trains that terminate at Grosvenor-Strathmore Station.

On March 8, Chief Operating Officer Joseph Leader briefed the board’s Safety and Service Delivery Committee on WMATA management plans to eliminate what officials call the Grosvenor turnback, as well as options to partially eliminate train turnbacks or to do nothing and leave the system as it is. He added that the Grosvenor turnback will continue until December because WMATA still needs to hire and train additional train operators solicit public feedback and complete a study required by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to determine whether any change would have a discriminatory impact, though he noted the change will not require a public hearing.

The three options Leader described include completely eliminating the turnback so that all 15 Red Line trains per hour traveling outbound from Silver Spring or Glenmont will go all the way to Shady Grove, partially eliminating it so that 12 trains in that direction per hour would service Shady Grove, and doing nothing, leaving the status quo of seven or eight trips per hour.

But Prince George’s County’s WMATA board member, Malcolm Augustine, said he was not happy that Leader presented three options.

“The board resolution stipulated that the turnback would be discontinued,” Augustine said. “That’s it.”


Fare Game

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Delegate Korman suggests less of a need for fare increases if budget proposals are met

Maryland Flag Metro LogoThe Maryland General Assembly likely will fully fund Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the operating budget, reducing the risk of untimely fare increases or service cuts, a local delegate said.

“I haven’t heard any pushback for the operating [budget],” said the delegate, Del. Marc Korman (D-16), who represents Montgomery County, on Tuesday.

Korman said Friday’s news that Gov. Larry Hogan said he supported the idea of a dedicated funding source added to his confidence. Wiedefeld in his 2017 plan requested all three jurisdictions find means to supply money on which Metro can sell debt each year. Wiedefeld left the decision of where to find the dedicated funding up to the jurisdictions.

“We spent a lot of time on it; on Friday, he [Hogan] agreed,” Korman said.


New Metro cars blamed for continuing problems

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON — A Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration rail technician says the increased power needs of Metro’s 7000-series cars – the system’s newest rail stock – is damaging the system that transmits electric power to trains, resulting in problems – including fires – that can cause delays.

“The fires are caused by these current draws by the 7000s,” Metro Automatic Train Operation technician Jack

Bounthong said in October. “We never had a fire incident before we got the 7000s.”

Bounthong explained how trains made up of 7000-series cars are causing track fires and other damage to the propulsion system that powers the trains. The 7000-series’ increased power needs are also responsible for delays because the increased power use can generate so much heat that sensors located near crossover tracks (where a train can switch from one track to the other) can erroneously sense a non-existent train on the opposite side of the tracks and send incorrect signals to other trains, as well as the Rail Operations Control Center.

“Now you got trains backing up – that’s why you get those delays,” he said, “because signals go in and out – the train will sit at the signal for no apparent reason.”


Maryland considers dedicated Metro funding

  • Published in Local

Maryland Flag Metro LogoANNAPOLIS — A delegation for business people and elected officials made their way to the state capital Tuesday to make their case that Metro, the region’s struggling mass transit system, needs a reliable supply of state dollars.

On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates Appropriations Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority $125 million in dedicated funding. WMATA has requested this type of funding for some time from the three jurisdictions of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as it is one of the few mass transit systems in America without a source of dedicated funding or a consistent permanent supply of public money.

Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who served on the Council of Governments, a regional body of elected officials from D.C., Maryland and Virginia that work on regional issues, said no issue has united people more than the need for a dedicated funding source for Metro.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving on the board of the Council of Governments for many years and last year as chair,” Berliner said. “In all of those years, no issue has united our entire region, Republicans and Democrats, urban and suburban, more than the need to finally provide dedicated funding for Metro.”


Metro Inspector General wants independence

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON — Metro’s Inspector General Geoffrey Cherrington wants to take steps to ensure his office’s independence from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority management, and he has some ideas as to what those steps should be.

Cherrington said he plans to propose amendments to the resolution that governs the Office of Inspector General and its employees that would solidify its independence from the rest of WMATA

“I can’t say this strong enough, because I don’t want this to be twisted. I’m not arguing with the way Metro has its policy instructions,” Cherrington said. "Government agencies and quasi- government agencies need policy instructions, they need regulations, so people know what they can and cannot do. It’s just some of that policy instruction can’t apply to this office because we need more tools and we need a business model that supports an independent OIG.”


Metro radio tests not done

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON — Preliminary findings of the investigation into last week’s Metro derailment show tests of the radio communications system used in the tunnels are not occurring as often as they should because radio shop employees aren’t performing them, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday. 

 “It was essentially an antenna problem [in the area of the collision],” WMATA Chief Safety Officer Pat Lavin said Thursday, explaining the source of the difficulties in communication between Metro’s rail operations control center and the train operator during the derailment, which occurred at 6:30 a.m. Jan. 15. “Employees adjusted the antenna after the incident.”

Lavin said investigators discovered both the antenna problem and that fact the testing took place less frequently than it should have.


Red Line derailment due to small defect

  • Published in Local

metro logoA veteran transportation engineer who helped design the Metrorail system’s tracks says last week’s derailment may not have been preventable because track problems aren’t always visible to track inspectors and technicians.

“A [defect] may not have been big enough to warrant an action,” said Gus Ubaldi, a transportation engineering consultant who, in the 1970s, was part of the team that designed Metro’s track layout. 

Ubaldi said that inspectors and technicians may not have been able to see if a problem with one of the rails posed a potential derailment hazard, and the stress of trains running over the problem area could have caused the rail to break without warning.


Signs of pre-existing damage found in Metro derailment

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON, D.C. — Metro Safety Chief Pat Lavin said Thursday the piece of track where the Red Line train derailed Jan. 15 showed signs of pre-existing damage.

Metro officials said the site of derailment was an eight-foot section of fractured rail. Investigators found a crack at the bottom of the broken rail which “appeared to show signs of oxidation.”


Metro mulls refund policy

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON D.C. — A proposal to refund Metro passengers for late trains during rush hour moved one step closer to becoming a reality last Thursday after a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration committee unanimously approved a plan that would refund passengers for trains that are late by 15 minutes or more during rush hour service. 

The unanimous recommendation by Metro’s Safety and Service Delivery Committee’s during its Jan. 11 meeting brings the plan one step closer to final approval, and needs only the full WMATA board's approval before going into effect, which WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said could happen as early as Jan. 26.

“We know we still need to earn back their confidence,” explained Assistant GM Lynn Bowersox.

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