Washington area bicyclists, who have been trying for more than a year to win permission from Metro riders. A solution to those long-screeching subway brakes has been found and should be installed on all the cars within a month, Metro Assistant General Manager Theodore Weigle predicted.
Three members of the Metro board, including one each from the District, Maryland and Virginia, spoke favorably of permitting bicycles yesterday and the staff promised to draft a plan. That is a substantial step forward. A year ago a similar proposal was killed by a board committee and some board members are known to be opposed.
David Strom, a member of a self-appointed group calling itself the Citizens Coalition for Bikes on Metrorail, welcomed the news. "Bikes are already permitted on BART (in San Francisco) and PATH (in New York)," he said. "Why not Metro?" Strom and his group have presented various proposals to Metro board members and key staffers.
Under one Strom proposal, bikers would buy annual permits and would be required to obey some rules before they could take their bikes on the train. Bikes would be restricted to the last care and use of the permit would be limited to weekends. Board members in the past have been concerned that throwing the system open to bikers would be disruptive, particularly during rush hours.
The brake noise problem on the subway became an epidemic last November. The screech of the train brakes forces riders to cover their ears and, in the opinion of many Metro officials, has caused some riders to abandon the subway. oMetro has conducted tests in recent weeks to discover the cause and find a solution.
A short-term "quick-quick fix," as Weigle called it, will be the installation of new brake pads on all of Metro's 300 cars. A six-car test train carrying new pads has been running on the Red Line and the tests have been successful. "The only noise you hear is the noise of the train itself, not the brakes," Weigle said.
An emergency order has been placed for at least 4,800 new pads to fit the entire Metro fleet. They will be installed as soon as they begin arriving, Weigle said. At the same time, Metro is continuing to test other types of brake systems in the conviction that the one Metro has requires too much maintenance.
In other Metro matters yesterday:
The biweekly operations report showed four fires on Metrobuses in recent weeks. No one was injured, through the interior of one bus was destroyed. Most of the fires started in the rear wheel wells, a notorious problem in buses. Weigle promised a report on the problem.
Metro's January ridership for both bus and subway showed a decline from the same month a year earlier, a fact attributed mostly to the large fare increase Jan. 1. Subway ridership for the month dropped 5 percent and bus ridership dropped 8 percent, but there were two fewer weekdays this year. The recent increase in gasoline prices has brought some people back to Metro, officials said, and the real impact of the fare increase will not be known for several months.
The board approved General Manager Richard S. Page's proposal to appoint Assistant General Manager William Boleyn to work with a task force of top local government administrators in ironing out complex issues surrounding Metro's budget and the way costs and revenues are allocated among eight local governments. The task force recently recommended 11 specific financial measures, and Page said he saw no major difficulty in implementing them.