De­spite im­prove­ments, daily Metro rid­ers re­main frus­trated.

Rid­ers skep­ti­cal of trains’ of­fload­ing pas­sen­gers stats

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

Just hours af­ter Metro had touted a “sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment” in train reli­a­bil­ity, a small fire on the Red Line at Gallery Place left rush-hour pas­sen­gers wait­ing up to 30 min­utes as trains sin­gle-tracked through the evening on Tues­day.

Sta­tis­tics show that Metro has re­duced of­fload­ing pas­sen­gers by more than 50 per­cent this year com­pared to the same pe­riod last year, but day-to-day rid­ers say they’re still frus­trated with the be­lea­guered tran­sit sys­tem.

“Some of us have jobs. Con­stantly be­ing late be­cause you don’t know if Metro is go­ing to run on time causes hard­ships,” said Jules Rucker, who lives near the Ad­di­son Road Metro sta­tion.

Mr. Rucker said his bosses now know the prob­lem and are more un­der­stand­ing about em­ploy­ees be­ing late be­cause of Metro de­lays. But that wasn’t al­ways the case.

“I al­most got writ­ten up a cou­ple times,” he said. “You can’t re­ally plan for the de­lays.”

Jim Mitchell, who got caught up in Tues­day evening’s Red Line de­lays, said he un­der­stands that Metro’s year­long SafeTrack pro­gram re­pairs have caused some de­lays, but he added that the prob­lem has got­ten out of hand.

“Even with the re­pairs, it’s ridicu­lous,” he said. “The amount of times they’re of­fload­ing trains is in­sane.”

When told about Metro’s 50 per­cent re­duc­tion in off­loaded trains this year, Mr. Mitchell was frank with his opin­ion: “I don’t be­lieve it.”

Metro re­ported Tues­day af­ter­noon that trains are far more re­li­able this year due to the on­go­ing, ac­cel­er­ated re­tire­ment of all 1000 and 4000 Se­ries rail­cars, which are the sys­tem’s old­est and least re­li­able. That, com­bined with a “get well” main­te­nance pro­gram on other rail­cars, has greatly cut the num­ber of off­loads each day.

So far, 70 per­cent of 1000 Se­ries rail­cars and nearly half of 4000 Se­ries rail­cars have been re­moved per­ma­nently from ser­vice. All of the older cars are ex­pected to be taken out of ser­vice by the end of the year.

“These are all signs that Metro is start­ing to get ‘back to good,’” Metro Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Wiede­feld said, us­ing the motto of his pro­gram to get the sys­tem run­ning smoothly again. “Once we com­plete the year­long SafeTrack pro­gram in June, cus­tomers will no­tice their com­mutes are more pre­dictable — and more likely to be on time.”

In the first three months of the year, 218 trains were off­loaded — a rate of 2.4 off­loads per day. That’s com­pared 433 off­loads dur­ing the same pe­riod last year.

And Metro’s “mean dis­tance be­tween de­lays,” which mea­sures how far a rail­car trav­els be­fore it en­coun­ters a prob­lem, im­proved by nearly 70 per­cent. Rail­cars av­er­age 48,064 miles be­tween de­lays in the first quar­ter of 2016. That num­ber jumped 81,451 miles in the first quar­ter of 2017.

Not long af­ter Metro touted those stats, the tran­sit agency sent out a se­ries of alerts telling rid­ers to avoid the Red Line, which was sin­gle-track­ing due a small fire on the tracks on the Glen­mont-bound side of the sta­tion.

Twit­ter users posted pic­tures of packed plat­forms, and one rider said she waited for an hour at the Gal­laudet sta­tion for a train that wasn’t packed with peo­ple. And some of those who ac­tu­ally got onto a train re­ported be­ing stuck for up to an hour on their com­mute.

Mr. Mitchell was at the Far­ragut North stop of the Red Line when his train was off­loaded Tues­day. He said an­other came to pick up stranded pas­sen­gers, but it was on the other side of the plat­form caus­ing even more prob­lems for rid­ers. “The plat­form was a mess,” he said. The prob­lems got so bad that Metro re­sorted to ask­ing rid­ers to tak­ing buses to re­lieve con­ges­tion at Red Line sta­tions. By 6 p.m. de­lays had reached an hour, ac­cord­ing to Rail Tran­sit OPS, a Twit­ter ac­count that tracks Metro per­for­mance.

“It seems like there’s no one at the helm who knows what they’re do­ing,” Mr. Mitchell said.

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