- (Photo: Jay Westcott)
This Sunday night has not likely been the best for people riding the Red Line. Another person has been struck and killed by a Metro train, WMATA reports, with delays affecting both directions. WMATA is now single-tracking between Medical Center and Friendship Heights. There have been reports of heavy police and fire department presence at the Bethesda station, where the person is reported to have been struck, in the last two hours. The automated Metrorail alert first went out, according to the agency's RSS feed, at 8:21 p.m., although the disruption does not seem to have been tweeted from the @WMATA Twitter account.
According to WMATA's chief spokesperson Dan Stessel, the person was an adult female and the act was apparently intentional — a suicide, in other words. "We are single tracking around the incident with 5-7 minute delays," Stessel told me around 9:40 p.m.
Unlike some recent train collisions, tonight's incident has happened during what would likely be a low-ridership time, especially due to all the track work this weekend. Five Red Line stations (Takoma, Silver Spring, Forest Glen, Wheaton, and Glenmont) have been closed this weekend. The track work, at least, has not been affected by the death, according to Stessel, since the stations are on the other end of the Red Line. When a 39-year-old man committed suicide by Metro train at Clarendon during rush hour last month, the WMATA system suffered huge delays and raised questions about the transit agency's ability to respond to crises, an issue the Metro board is currently investigating and discussing this fall.
Trains strike people for different reasons but people's minds often first turn to the question of suicide — WMATA has announced it will be increasing efforts to discourage impulsive acts with employee training as well as emergency hotline postings at the Metro station. I wrote about the broader issue of suicide-by-train as well as the underlying accessibility elements to killing yourself shortly after the Clarendon suicide last month. By my count, the adult female who apparently killed herself at the Bethesda Metro station tonight is the seventh person in 2011 to do so on WMATA rail tracks.