Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

The case of broken Metro railcar doors is hardly open and shut

May 7, 2012 - 02:31 PM
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(Photo: Jay Westcott)

WMATA's doors have created more than a few problems in the last few months, and the transit agency's latest Vital Signs report, which includes the statistics through March of 2012 and will be presented later this week to the Board of Directors, confirms the severity of the issue. During the first quarter of 2012, Metro experienced 17% more delays due to railcar issues than in the first quarter of 2011, and many of these issues relate to the Metro railcar doors.

Any D.C. commuter is familiar with some of the door concerns — rail doors that don't open, doors that close too fast, doors that malfunction after commuters try to hold them open or dive through at the last minute. Metro has about 1,100 railcars and most commuters have encountered at least a few that don't work properly. The Post identified door problems as the number-one source of Metro delays in a sharp mid-March piece on the topic.

Now WMATA reports that two-thirds of the delays on the 2000 and 3000-series of Metro railcars and 47% of the 6000-series of railcars come from problems with the railcar doors. The overall reliability of our Metrorail service is 7% worse than it was a year ago. WMATA notes that, despite the increase in delays from a year earlier, "new troubleshooting procedures" actually decreased the number of door failures in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the months directly before. Yet door malfunctions are, WMATA again confirms, the biggest source of delays over three minutes. Last Friday's report of Metro problems mention a Red Line train offloaded due to a door problem (14 minutes of delay) and an Orange Line train also suffering from issues (six minutes of delay). Another couple door problems happened the day before and another couple the day before that. "Persistent" is the word WMATA has used to describe these mechanical issues. WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles has struggled with his transit system's doors ever since assuming power as an interim manager. Nearly two years ago, Sarles recalled 100 of the 4000-series railcars to repair and address, horrifyingly, "a possible short in the car door circuitry that could cause the doors to open while the cars are in motion."

WMATA also announced highlights from the new Vital Signs report, if you're curious.

But there's no sidestepping the door problem ... those statistics reveal their own damning picture. And how can Metro move to end the ongoing struggle? By summer of 2012, the transit agency hopes to complete "installation of new sealed door relays" for the 2000, 3000, and 6000 series of railcars and test the closing mechanism in search of longer term solutions. But let's not kid ourselves. These doors have created problems for a long time, with various troubling reports emerging every few months recently. These new stats, straight from WMATA, show they've gotten worse.

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