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Metro may reduce rail service through fiscal 2019

  • Published in Local

WMATA metro logoWASHINGTON — A Metro Board committee voted to adopt a resolution to continue the schedule of reduced, post-SafeTrack hours of service through fiscal year 2019. 

The Board Safety and Service Delivery Committee voted unanimously at Metro Headquarters Thursday to approve renewing the schedule of rail service in anticipation of year two of the preventive maintenance plan, as scheduled. The plan involves several actions, including inspecting cables and testing rails for a power problem called “stray current,” which contributed to smoke incidents in 2016. Another practice is torqueing, which includes tightening bolts of rail fasteners.

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Metro begins weekend shutdown of Red Line segment in May

  • Published in Local

metro logoMetro’s Red Line is bringing back weekend shutdowns.

Buses will replace trains starting the weekend of May 12 between Red Line stations Van Ness and Dupont Circle stations, shutting down the Cleveland Park and Woodley Park stations, and continue for the next two weekends to allow for track work. Trains will operate every 10 minutes up until 9 p.m., when they will operate every 15 minutes.

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Metro numbers stabilize though revenue is down

  • Published in Local

metro logoMetro is behind in terms of the money that comes in from Metrorail and Metrobus fares, despite the increased cost of fares, because fewer people are riding the bus.

Metro Board Finance and Budget Committee chairman Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said the statistics in the report from staff to the committee this week might confuse riders.

“They had projected an increase in rail ridership in 2018 compared to 2017,” Goldman said. “That growth in rail ridership never materialized.”

Metro officials received less revenue from fares, including bus, rail and MetroAccess than expected.

Metrobus ridership is lower than in last fiscal year. “That’s not true for rail,” Goldman said. “Rail is roughly – compared to the same month[s] of 2017 – maybe stable or just down a percentage.”

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Red Line rapist who treated victim like a “caged animal” gets two life sentences

  • Published in Local

gavel2 1 ROCKVILLE — Circuit Court Judge Cheryl A. McCally on Friday sentenced a man who was convicted of the sexual assault of a woman on a Metro train to life in prison.

John Prentice Hicks, 41, will serve two consecutive life sentences in prison after a jury convicted him of first-degree rape and first-degree sex offense. Hicks raped a woman on the Red Line and ordered her at knifepoint to perform fellatio on him in April 2016.

The victim asked McCally to give Hicks the maximum sentence so he would not get out on parole.

“He already had other victims,” she said to McCally. “Let me be his last.”

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Man receives pair of life sentences for rape on Red Line Metro train

  • Published in Crime

ROCKVILLE – Circuit Court Judge Cheryl A. McCally on Friday sentenced a man who was convicted of raping a woman on a Metro train to life in prison.

John Prentice Hicks, 41, will serve two consecutive life sentences in prison after a jury convicted him for raping a woman on the Red Line and ordering her at knife point to perform fellatio on him in April 2016.

The victim asked McCally to give Hicks the maximum sentence so he would not get out on parole.

“He already had other victims,” she said to McCally. “Let me be his last.”

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"Go Big or Go Home!"

  • Published in State

Hogan and Leggett pull out the stops to help Metro and entice Amazon to the county

On a stage normally reserved for large orchestras, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed two bills that could have a major impact on Montgomery County.

One bill Hogan signed gave Metro a dedicated source of funding for the first time. The other bill Hogan signed was a tax incentive package to help bring Amazon’s second headquarters to the White Flint area.

Instead of musicians filling the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, local and state officials from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., were on hand to witness the bills get signed into law.

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Metro consultants confirm resident fears regarding noise and vibrations

  • Published in Local

metro logoA consulting firm hired by Metro has confirmed local residents’ concerns about Metro’s new 7000 series trains – they are louder than the old ones and may have a tendency to vibrate more, shaking nearby homes.

Consultants from Wilson Ihrig, the firm Metro hired for the study, said in the report posted online March 24 that in all but one residential site tested, vibration from the trains was higher for the 7000 series, than the older ones. The study concluded this by measuring ground-borne vibration in houses a few hundred feet from the track centerline when a train passed by.

The report’s authors said some Metro trains violated the organization’s design criteria by go over the recommend vibrations for nearby homes.

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Metro approves budget with no fare increase

  • Published in Local

metro logoWASHINGTON, D.C. — The Metro Board of Directors unanimously voted to not increase fares when it approved its operating and capital budgets for Fiscal Year 2019, providing at least one year of fare relief after an increase to fares last year.

Finance committee chairman Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said a highlight in the approved operating budget was the absence of service cuts and fare increases.

“[Maintaining fares and service levels], that reduced the amount of controversy and it also sticks to the general manager’s commitment to keep the subsidy [request] increase to the jurisdictions to 3 percent from the prior year,” Goldman said Thursday.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld in his proposed FY ’19 budget said he planned to put a 3 percent cap, or limit, on the semi-annual increase in operating budget requests to the funding jurisdictions. A year ago, Metro’s Board of Directors approved and adopted the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which included fare increases to both bus and rail. The Metro Board raised fares for FY ’18 by 25 cents per bus trip and about 10 cents per mile on Metrorail. Spokesperson Dan Stessel said at the time it was the first fare increase in three years, and that normally the board of directors follows a model of increasing fares every other year.

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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.”

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Fare Game

  • Published in Local

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.

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