Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Hate WMATA delays? Here's an official update on Metro Forward repairs

November 3, 2011 - 03:50 PM
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(Photo: flickr/beadmobile)

WMATA is a complex and overwhelming system, and while I may point out the lady brawls and sleeping station managers I also try to be fair when covering the difficulties as well as achievements that come with running such a leviathan on a daily basis, minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day. It's certainly not easy! And besides, as an enterprise of thousands of people and with thousands of employees, Metro can't rein in every problem that arises immediately. Damage control is a way of life in that system, and to think strategically in spite of that is an impressive challenge.

In that spirit, I'd like to turn to a recent update on Metro's Capital Improvement Program. Surely you've seen the Metro Forward posters attempting to explain to commuters why all this work is happening. A part of the repairs is more inspections, and these increases alone result in some of our escalators being out of service. The program is set to run six years at the cost of $6 billion and began in this past year. The first year's budget is set at $854 million. These repairs aren't pocket change, and today the board heard how these repairs have been coming along so far. 

The rail repair work alone included:

• 72,544 linear feet of running rail (50% increase from FY2010)
•  22,070 fasteners (91% increase from FY2010)
• 14,564 track cross ties (102% increase from FY2010)
• 1,364 welds (1,086% increase from FY2010)

And, you ask, what the hell does that mean? WMATA has sought to explain what all this means to its riders in various ways, through press releases and videos. Look to WMATA's Metro Forward YouTube channel for video proof of what's happening during weekend track work, courtesy of social media manager Brian Anderson. Read on to understand why you keep running into single-tracking and shuttle buses and closed weekend stations. Other advances, according to Metro, included:

• 88 new Hybrid Electric buses received
• All 241 planned MetroAccess vehicles received and placed into service
• Escalator replacements are ongoing at Foggy Bottom Station and modernizations were completed at Dupont Circle (mezzanine to platform
escalators), Farragut North, Franconia-Springfield, Gallery Pl-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Metro Center, Union Station, and Wheaton Stations
• Design work commenced with extensive customer input on 7000 Series rail cars
• Completed kiosk enlargement at Rhode Island Station
• Installed concrete pavers and non-skid tiles at Shady Grove Station
• Launched new Intranet Portal, upgraded Maximo (Metro’s Asset Management  System), and implemented Metro ID Badge and Physical Access Control System
• IFO Enterprise Financial System Implementation

On top of that, WMATA is contending with how it's expanding a Silver Line, kicking off other new initiatives like Farragut Crossing and the ability to upload money onto our SmarTrip cards online, and renaming its stations in advance of a new Metro map. Here's the ones the board approved today, as the official WMATA release tells us:

• Navy Yard becomes Navy Yard-Ballpark.
• King Street becomes King St-Old Town.
• Waterfront-SEU will drop SEU, because the university no longer exists.
 • Forest Glen will be shown on the map with the universal "H" symbol to indicate the location of Holy Cross Hospital. Foggy Bottom and Medical Center will also be shown with "H" symbols reflecting proximity of hospitals.
• New York Ave-Florida Ave-Gallaudet U will be renamed "NoMa-Gallaudet U." "New York Ave" will be shown as a secondary name for one-year to assist customers during the transition.

Now these bits of news won't prove much comfort to the commuters who suffered through Dupont Circle's broken escalators today or the broken Bethesda escalators in recent weeks. They won't necessarily comfort people who are concerned about WMATA's ability to handle disasters (a question raised during the recent suicide at the Clarendon Metro station).

But they do comprise real work being done to better what's a struggling system with dropping ridership. But these are real advances, and despite the difficulties and delays bound to come along with the repairs for the next half decade (!), I'm grateful that we've prioritized the repairs to the tune of billions.

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