Metro cars sep­a­rate, force some rid­ers to walk tracks.

Com­muters walk to safety in in­ci­dent days be­fore vote to cut late-night ser­vice

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MCDERMOTT

A sub­way mal­func­tion forced com­muters out of their cars and onto the tracks to walk to safety Mon­day morn­ing, just days be­fore the Metro Board is to vote on re­duc­ing ser­vice hours well beyond next year.

Two sub­way cars sep­a­rated from an eight-car train on the Red Line near the Twin­brook sta­tion in Montgomery County just be­fore 9 a.m. Mon­day. Fewer than 40 peo­ple were aboard the stranded cars, and no in­juries were re­ported.

Metro said the train’s safety sys­tem worked, stop­ping the cars once the prob­lem was iden­ti­fied. Most of the de­cou­pled cars’ rid­ers were off­loaded onto the sta­tion plat­form, but two com­muters in the lead car had to trek about 300 feet down the tracks to the plat­form. Both cars were re­moved from ser­vice.

In­con­ve­nience has been a watch­word dur­ing Metro’s year­long SafeTrack main­te­nance ef­fort, whose 25-day track shut­down on the Red Line be­tween the Fort Totten and NoMa sta­tions re­cently ended and af­fected nearly 200,000 trips per day.

Come Thursday, the Metro Board of Di­rec­tors is to vote on keep­ing latenight ser­vice cuts in place un­til 2019 — an in­con­ve­nience D.C. of­fi­cials have protested and threat­ened to veto. The board also will dis­cuss a fed­eral re­port that says track in­spec­tors have feared re­tal­i­a­tion from their su­per­vi­sors if they re­ported prob­lems within the 117-mile sub­way.

Cur­rent late-night ser­vice re­duc­tions (with clos­ings at 11:30 p.m. on week­days and 1 a.m. on week­ends) are set to end in June, but Metro of­fi­cials have asked that the early clos­ings con­tinue through June 2019 to al­low more main­te­nance and re­pairs on the longne­glected tracks to be done. In ad­di­tion, the ear­li­est trains on Sun­days would start at 8 a.m.

Be­fore SafeTrack, trains ran as late as 3 a.m. on week­ends and mid­night on week­days.

D.C. of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing those on the board, have pushed back, say­ing the latenight ser­vice cuts dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurt low-in­come and mi­nor­ity rid­ers as well as the city’s bar, restau­rant and ho­tel econ­omy.

Metro Board Chair­man Jack Evans, who is also a D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber, and fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant Cor­bett Price, the city’s other board rep­re­sen­ta­tive, threat­ened to veto the pro­posal if the board votes to ap­prove it this week.

“We be­lieve we’ve com­pro­mised enor­mously. The board can do what it wants to do. I’ve made my de­ci­sion clear on be­half of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Evans said this month. “We will ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tional veto.”

A rarely used op­tion in Metro’s 40year his­tory, a veto would force Metro to re­sume sub­way clos­ings at mid­night on week­days and at 3 a.m. on week­ends when SafeTrack ends June 30.

Un­der Metro by­laws, a pro­posal is ve­toed when both rep­re­sen­ta­tives of a ju­ris­dic­tion vote against it.

On Thursday, the Metro Board also will hold its first pub­lic dis­cus­sion on a Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board re­port about the slow-speed de­rail­ment of a Sil­ver Line train in North­ern Vir­ginia on July 29.

Tran­scripts of in­ter­views for the re­port re­leased by NTSB this month showed that Metro in­spec­tors failed to give an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment of the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of sub­way tracks be­cause they feared be­ing fired by their su­per­vi­sors. That led in­spec­tors to fill out the same in­for­ma­tion on their in­spec­tion forms for months on end and fail to miss the crum­bling rail­road ties that caused the de­rail­ment.

One in­spec­tor was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave and given a drug and al­co­hol test af­ter he placed a speed re­stric­tion on trains run­ning be­tween Brad­dock Road and Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port due to prob­lems with rail ties. The in­spec­tor was cleared of all charges af­ter the Fed­eral Transit Ad­min­is­tra­tion stepped in and con­firmed the ties were de­fec­tive.

“That causes track walk­ers to have to watch their backs ver­sus just tak­ing what ac­tions need to be taken,” the in­spec­tor said in an NTSB in­ter­view.

The full re­port will be re­leased to the pub­lic at Thursday’s board meet­ing.

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