Metro managers say Grosvenor turnbacks will continue through the end of the year
WASHINGTON — 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.”
The impetus for eliminating the practice of turning trains around at Grosvenor comes from a 2015 WMATA board resolution instructing staff to have all Red Line trains traveling to Shady Grove before July, when Metro’s 2019 fiscal year begins.
Board member Mike Goldman, who represents Montgomery County and who joined the committee for the presentation, said he was “outraged” that Leader presented something different from the 2015 Board resolution.
“It’s not an option in my mind or in the mind of any of the other Maryland board members,” said Goldman. “The option is to end the Grosvenor turn backs during the peak hours:Stop.”
Additionally, members of the Maryland General Assembly wrote a letter to WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld earlier this year asking him to make sure his employees made arrangements to eliminate the Grosvenor turnback by the July 2018 due date specified in the board resolution.
Del. Marc Korman (D-16) said the reason the local delegation wrote the letter backing up the board resolution was because the service is important to county residents. Citing Goldman’s remarks, Korman said turnback elimination was not just something management announced and planned; the board ordered staff to fulfill it. Montgomery County also requested the same thing in a letter earlier this year urging Wiedefeld to ensure WMATA management eliminates the Grosvenor turnbacks on time.
Goldman added that management turnover contributed to the outcome.
The Metro Board hired Wiedefeld in November 2015 to replace interim general manager Jack Requa, and Wiedefeld hired Leader in June 2016.
Goldman said Metro management has been “dilly-dallying” on this topic by focusing on other things including dedicated funding and SafeTrack. He was expecting all trains to travel to Shady Grove or start at Shady Grove starting in July as Board members stated in the resolution, but Leader told the committee members, joined by Goldman and Maryland alternate board member Kathy Porter that the soonest trains could start and end at Shady Grove was slated to be December.
Committee member Keturah Harley told Leader and Safety Chief Pat Lavin that WMATA management had plenty of time to plan for and to reach the July deadline.
“This is not a ‘gotcha’ moment,” she said.