Mar 28, 2016
The second busiest subway in the country was shut down in the middle of a workweek for 29 hours for system-wide emergency inspections of its third-rail power cables after a series of electrical fires. Two days prior to the closure, there was a track fire similar to the one in January 2015 which caused the death of a passenger. Although the March fire occurred before Metro opened and no one was hurt, the damage was done. There were long delays and dangerous over-crowding on the platforms.
The closure of Metro meant that hundreds of thousands of people who commute to work and school daily on Metro had less than 12 hours to scramble to find another way or just not go in at all. Even though many people who ride Metro thought it should be shut down if it isn’t safe, there is a much bigger question.
Why, after a passenger was killed on Metro, after NTSB recommendations, was the frayed jumper cable problem allowed to continue? It’s been over a year and they still haven’t fixed it?!
In fact, Metro has become increasingly dangerous. Twenty-nine riders were injured in a collision at Woodley Park in 2004, four workers were killed between 2005 and 2007, and 23 passengers were injured in a 2007 derailment at Mount Vernon Square. The worst disaster, so far, was the 2009 Red line crash at Fort Totten: nine people were killed and 52 were hospitalized. All of these incidents involved equipment or infrastructure failures or breakdowns.
Metro is 40-years old. It has serious infrastructure problems: the tracks, third-rail jumper cables, the cars, the notorious escalators, deteriorating platforms and so on. It has gotten so bad that it is a roll of the dice if Metro can get people to work or to the airport on time or even at all.
It didn’t have to come to this. Less money is going into maintenance even as the system ages. The federal share of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) budget has steadily decreased over 20 percent since the mid-1990s.
The Federal and local governments are ruining Metro by not doing what is necessary to keep it up and running safely.