What caused rush hour delay on Orange Line

On his way to the District during the Tuesday morning rush, Brian Rosenbloom was among the many Orange Line riders whose trip was disrupted when they reached the Court House station.

This is how he saw it from his perspective aboard the train.

Just prior to reaching the Court House station, the train came to stop. The conductor announced via the PA that he had received a “door open” signal and he asked for help from the people on the train to locate the open door and push it closed. A short while later, while we were still stuck in the tunnel due to the door problem, the conductor walked into the car I was standing in, and I overheard him talking with central control asking if he could “do a bypass” to get the train into the Court House station. Central control must have said “okay,” because shortly thereafter we rolled into the station. Once in the station, the train was offloaded.

About a minute after the car was off-loaded, I received from Metro an e-mail alert with the following message: “Orange Line: Expect delays to New Carrollton due to a sick customer aboard a train at Court House.”

Ten minutes later I received another alert. This one said, “Orange Line: Expect residual delays to New Carrollton due to an earlier medical emergency at Court House.”

Why would Metro misreport the true condition for the delay?

This is troubling. I wonder how many other “sick customers” were actually broken cars.

Twitter photos like the one at the top of this posting showed that the Court House platform was jammed after the off-load, and many delayed riders were angry.

Around this time, Metro was sending out several alerts via e-mail and Twitter.

To give you a sense of the timing, here’s the Twitter version on @Metrorailinfo:

At 9:02 a.m. New Carrollton-bound Orange Line passengers may experience delays – train w/ door problem offloading at Court House.

At 9:08 a.m. Orange Line: Expect delays to New Carrollton due to a sick customer aboard a train at Court House.

At 9:15 a.m. Orange Line: Expect residual delays to New Carrollton due to an earlier medical emergency at Court House.

At 9:34 a.m. Orange Line: Normal service has resumed at Court House.

The situation was confusing to people — like me — seeing the messages. Was this two trains with two problems, or one train with two problems? And as the rider’s letter indicates, the situation was confusing to people aboard the train as well.

But it wasn’t a question of hiding a train breakdown by putting out word about about a sick customer. It was two experiences with one train.

An “elderly male in first car had chest pains and shortness of breath, then passed out,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. Emergency responders from Arlington County took him for treatment.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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