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Changes after Metrorail crash give some riders the queasies

One Metro train operator said colleagues refer to a train "hucking 'n' bucking" when the circuitry in different model cars causes their braking mechanisms to vary by two to three seconds. The cars braking out of sync leads to the herky-jerky motion, said the operator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Metro had not provided authorization to talk publicly.

Some operators smooth the ride by keeping the train in "coast" longer before applying the brakes. However, doing so increases the chances that the train will overshoot a platform, which typically results in disciplinary action, the operator said.

"Operators are fearful of that, so they just want to brake the train," the operator said.

Farbstein said the number of passengers who have complained about feeling ill because of the ride is relatively minuscule. Of the average 300 complaints that Metro has received daily since the June crash, Farbstein said, a total of 11 pertained to motion sickness.

She said she couldn't determine how many such complaints Metro received before June because there is no computerized category for "motion sickness" or "nausea." The complaints made since June 22 were tallied by hand, she said.

"We move an estimated 750,000 people per day, and we've had 11 complaints" in four months, Farbstein said. "Please put that in perspective. It's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people."

The blogger behind Unsuck DC Metro, which reports problems on Metro, says he has received "a few" complaints about motion sickness, but he hasn't heard "any sort of outcry about it." The rider advocacy group Metroriders.org said it hasn't received any.

But several of those who suffer said they have plenty of queasy company among friends and spouses. They said they haven't officially complained because they have been hoping the problem is temporary.

It's not just sick stomachs. The daily Red Line ride that Ryan Holman used to relish for 45 minutes of uninterrupted pleasure-reading now produces headaches, which she attributes to her eyes becoming fatigued from the jerking motion. She now passes the time listening to music or, at the most, scanning a newspaper.

"I used to go through a huge number of books," said Holman, 25, who rides the Red Line from Wheaton to Metro Center for her job at a directory publishing firm. "Now I've lost that time. I miss it."

Even so, Holman and others say they're willing to hang in there if a jerky ride means a potentially safer one.

"I'd much rather not be able to read on Metro than have something unsafe happen," Holman said. "It'd be nice if it got better, but I know there are other concerns besides whether the lady in the fifth car back is able to read."


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