New Lights Put to Test To Boost Platform Safety

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007

Yes, those lights along the platform edges at the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station are a different color. They are red on the upper-level Red Line platform and yellow on the lower-level Yellow and Green Line platforms. The traditional ones were white.

Metro is conducting a six-month test of the new lights, which flash when trains enter and exit the station, to see whether they will keep passengers away from the edge of the platform when trains approach. The agency is testing red and yellow lights to see which work best as a deterrent, not because the colors match the train lines.

Metro also has installed the lights to cut energy and maintenance costs. The new ones use light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, which give the same amount of light as the 40-watt incandescent bulbs but use one-third the energy and last longer, Metro officials said.

The LED lights also cost a lot more. Regular bulbs cost about $1.50 apiece and last three months. The off-the-shelf price for the LED lights is $76 each, but they are supposed to last 10 to 12 years, officials said.

The new lights also would decrease work for Metro employees and train delays for riders because tracks are often taken out of service to change hard-to-reach bulbs. It costs Metro as much as $400,000 a year in labor, personnel and maintenance costs to replace edge lights. Officials estimate that the new lights could save as much as $100,000 a year.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company