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Scheduled service reduction on Red Line Metro to target leaking problem

  • Published in Local

Metro’s unnamed contractor will continue to perform work to reduce a prime source of delays on the Red Line Saturday and Sunday, requiring single-tracking and reduced service.

Metro officials said in a news release Red Line trains are scheduled to operate every 15 minutes and will single-track between Grosvenor and Medical Center stations Saturday and Sunday so the contractor can test a form of grouting to prevent leaks in underground tunnels.

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Man rescued, transported after being struck by Metro train

  • Published in Local

metro logoD.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services personnel transported a man to a hospital Friday after he was struck by a Metro train, D.C. Fire & EMS spokesperson Vito Maggiolo said.

EMS personnel extricated the man from under a train near L’Enfant Plaza Station and transported him to a hospital, Maggiolo said. The man was in critical condition.

Metro spokesperson Ron Holzer said Friday afternoon he had received no updates on the man’s condition.

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Unused SmarTrip cards find home with charity

  • Published in Local

WMATA SmarTrip CardUnused and unneeded SmarTrip cards with remaining balances have a new home at a Washington-based charity.

Since January 2017, Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending chronic homelessness, has been running a program that repurposes unneeded SmarTrip cards for the homeless and low-income owners.

“After we had heard about the Women’s March and the volume of people that were coming, especially from out of town that needed to buy the SmarTrip card and wouldn’t really have a purpose for it after they were returning to their places of origin, it dawned on us that this would be a good way to get a valuable resource that our guests really need,” said Miriam’s Kitchen case manager Margaret Dominguez.

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Metro passenger remembers 2015 Metrorail smoke incident

“This is it. This is how I’ll die.”

That’s what Tom Davey thought at the bleakest moments in the January 2015 Metrorail smoke incident that claimed the life of another passenger, Carol Glover.

Davey even tried to call his ex-wife so she could tell their daughter Althea that he loved her. But he couldn’t get a phone connection.

Federal investigations of the electrical fire, which burned the third rail and electrical cables, uncovered irregular maintenance, failure to replace old equipment, faulty safety inspections, and inadequate emergency protocols. The incident served as a wakeup call to Metro and the community that the increased safety effort, following the catastrophic 2009 crash that took nine lives, fell way short of the needed level.

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Metro Assaults Up

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Fifth in a series)

WMATA’s overall crime down but concerns remain on Metrorail 

Metro entranceIn the last six years, the MTPD (Metro Transit Police Department) has battled several lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) relating to their use of excessive force. At the same time, although overall crime has gone down at Metro stations, the number of assaults has gone up. Two notable suits involved young teens. According to the complaint filed by the ACLU in D.C. district court, in 2013 a 14-year-old girl referred to as A.K., was falsely arrested by MTPD officer Leo Taylor for a possible curfew violation. According to the ACLU the curfew would not have applied to A.K. since the train she was on was involved in interstate travel. Taylor pulled A.K. away from her older sister, punched her in the face, handcuffed her and then dragged her out of the station.

According to the complaint, Taylor took A.K. to a street-level bus shelter. Another officer told A.K. she could stand up, when she did Officer Taylor tackled her to the ground and smashed A.K’s head against the side of a bus shelter. When A.K. started to spit blood, Taylor tried to put a surgical mask on her, when A.K. resisted, Taylor hit the 14-year-old in the face several more times.

The teen suffered a severe concussion and had to receive physical therapy due to her injuries.

According to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) spokeswomen Sherri Ly, Taylor still works for Metro. She was unable to provide any specifics about his duty assignments.

“Like every police force in a large metropolitan area, they are dealing with tens of thousands of people every day; they are dealing with crowded conditions. I have some sympathy that they have a very tough job to do, in general, police officers try to do it well sometimes things do not turn out right, more often there are officers who just lose their temper,” said ACLU legal head Art Spitzer.

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Weekend shutdowns return to Red Line segment next month

  • Published in Local

WMATA metro logoWASHINGTON – Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Thursday Metro officials chose to continue a program that tests a method to stop leaks along a segment of the Red Line, a problem with a history of causing delays in service.  

Track work, including installation of “curtain grouting” in the tunnels, will lead to disrupted service for Red Line riders five weekends in a row, starting mid-October, Metro officials said Thursday in a news release.

Track work will affect weeknight service as well, as trains will single-track between Medical Center and Grosvenor stations on weekdays starting Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.

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Could Take Decades

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Fourth in a series)

WMATA’s quest to get “Back2Good” runs into many problems

Metro entranceWASHINGTON, D.C. – Although the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) SafeTrack program concluded months ago, riders on the rail system continue to deal with closures and single-tracking – strategies the Metro system may be employing for some time.

Just weeks after the conclusion of the WMATA SafeTrack program, maintenance workers were back on the tracks addressing issues, and even after months of accelerated work with thousands of repairs and replacements made to the tracks, grout pads and tie downs of the rail system, stations continue to close and safety incidents are still occurring.

Eric Randall, a principal transportation engineer with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said work and issues like those WMATA has faced are not unusual for metropolitan rail systems, but for a system with a backlog like Metro’s, it could take decades to get back on track.

“We are catching up on a backlog. It is going to take a few years, a handful of years or more maybe, to work and get through to get back to a state of good repair and keep following a fairly aggressive schedule, but Metro is never going to be new again,” Randall said. “We’re never going to get back to a whole brand new system, so yes, there’s always going to be a more aggressive maintenance schedule.”

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Metro discovers new shocking problem with 7000 series cars

metro logoA component in Metro’s newest rail car series is breaking prematurely and its manufacturer has designed a modification to fix it, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said.

David Stephen, spokesperson for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said a mechanic reported he was shocked while inspecting part of the underside of the 7000 series rail car Sept. 17. He called on Metro officials to pause inspection of 7000 series rail cars until after briefing railcar mechanics on potential hazards of inspecting and repairing the newest series of railcar.

“As a result of this incident, ATU Local 689 is demanding Metro not bring any 7000-series trains into the shop until all employees that come in contact with them are properly informed on the potential for hazards, and training is given on bringing trains to manufacturer specification (to date, railcar mechanics have yet to be trained on maintaining 7000-series cars),” Stephen said in a statement.

Stessel confirmed the mechanic was shocked while inspecting a railcar, adding the incident occurred at West Falls Church Rail Yard. He said the mechanic was not injured.

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Manufacturer modifying Metro 7K rail cars after electric shock incident

Rail car part deteriorating prematurely, Metro official says

metro logoA component in Metro’s newest rail car series is breaking prematurely, and their manufacturer has designed a modification to fix it, Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel said Thursday.

A mechanic reported he suffered electrical shock while he was inspecting part of the underside of the 7000 series rail car at West Falls Church Rail Yard on Sunday, Stessel confirmed. This was related to the deteriorating rail car part, the ground brush. However, he suffered no serious injury. The mechanic said he did not want medical attention. However, Metro staff took him to a local hospital.

Stessel confirmed a problem is developing with the 7000 series trains, the newest in the Metrorail fleet.

“Yes, there were defective wires, there was a problem within the ground brush assembly itself and that problem is mitigated by the safety bulletin we put out,” Stessel said.

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Spare Part Woes

Broken Promises - Bad Dreams, A Metro Investigation (Third in a series)

FTA concerned with the latest in Metrorail’s budget problems

Metro entranceA problem with spare parts finds The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority once again in trouble with the Federal Transportation Administration.

Metro is now accused of dodging FTA procurement regulations.

According to the proposed FY2018 budget, WMATA charged $23 million in railcars to the operating budget because Metro managers were having difficulty complying with FTA requirements. Those funds apparently should have been charged to the capital budget.

According to the Approval of FY2018-2023 Capital Improvement Program and CFA extension that $23 million was spent on parts “necessary for railcar safety and reliability.”

According to that same report, the money was moved not only because some parts were not procured in compliance with federal regulations but also “a lack of available non-federal capital funding.”

Tom Bulger, a member of the Metro board of directors, said he wasn’t aware of this specific move of money, but he was aware of alterations to the procurement process to ensure that Metro had parts to repair things.

“I’m aware of the fact that we were running out of spare parts at a fast clip since 2016 and they {Metro} needed to get more supplies in order to keep up with maintenance and the procurement process was accelerated,” he said.

When asked why Metro was running out of parts, Bulger assigned blame to the suppliers.

“Supply. Logistics. The suppliers were behind. We weren’t able to obtain the parts on a schedule that would meet Metro’s requirements.”

Those alterations to the procurement process are part of The Parts Bridging Program, a program started by WMATA to “temporarily purchase parts using non-Federal funds and procurement rules until December 2017,” according to the Approval of OneYear Extension of Parts Bridging Program (PMP) and Update on Parts Procurement Program. Last October, the enrollment deadline was extended until December 31 of this year and the initial contract end date was extended until June 30, 2023. According to that report, the program was started after a board resolution imposed “heightened standards on parts procurement.”

However, according to that same report, Metro was also running out of parts. The report states that “In the 2015 Annual Vital Signs Report, the Office of Performance (CPO) noted its findings that the high non availability rates of revenue service vehicles were attributable in part to inventory part shortages throughout the warehouse system. This shortage of inventory parts was having an adverse effect on safety and on time service within the transit system.”

According to that report, “the existing procurement methods used by Metro could not correct this deficiency.”

According to the documents, a goal of the program is to - after the fact - request waivers for contracts that didn’t follow FTA regulations or be eligible for reimbursements from the FTA from any given part in the program.

According to FTA spokesman Steven Taubenkibel, the use of local funds is a local decision.

WMATA has been accused of breaking FTA regulations before.

In 2014, a damning FTA audit revealed WMATA’s misuse of grant money, which included WMATA incurring unallowable expenditures and underreporting $42 million in federal expenditures. According to the report, WMATA also offered a contract without soliciting the three bids necessary to make that contract competitive. According to the 2014 audit, Metro didn’t have the internal controls to properly manage their grant money, although the final report of the audit included documents that acknowledged Metro’s progress on improving its internal controls.

Carol Kissal, the CFO of the Metro at the time and the person to whom some of the problem departments reported too departed.

“It’s all been cleaned up as far as I know,” said Bulger. “It better be.”

“When the changeover came there was a different way for accounting for hours spent and parts and personnel that seems to be working better,” he said about the changes to Metro’s operations after the audit. And we brought in a new CFO from Chicago.”

FTA today still requires Metro to carry out corrective actions for safety and they oversee how WMATA uses federal grant money. According to the FY2017 budget, WMATA’s operating personnel budget decreased by $21.6 million, primarily because WMATA moved expenses for the required safety actions to the Capital Improvement Program. In that same year, that decrease was offset by increases for FTA required safety actions.

Earlier, FTA diverted a large sum of money into safety spending

According to FTA correspondence with WMATA, FTA diverted $20 million of non-safety spending into safety spending, $10 million away from pressure washing and cosmetic maintenance of the stations and $10 million away from open bankcard and automatic fare collection systems. They then put that money into SafeTrack.

FTA management is also apparently unhappy with the local governments and their failure to provide for adequate safety oversight for local transit. According to FTA correspondence with local governments in early 2017, FTA withheld federal grant money from local transit companies, including Metro, until a new safety oversight program could be certified and it is unclear if that has even happened yet.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation advised the Governors and Mayor that their respective jurisdictions may be subject to the withholding of up to five percent of their FY 2017 Urbanized Area formula funds if they did not collectively establish a State Safety Oversight Program (SSOP) for the rail operations of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metrorail), certified by FTA, by February 9, 2017,” reads the correspondence. “They have not met that deadline.”

@CKomatsoulis

 

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