Metro’s review found violations occurred most frequently on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, though the offenses were spread evenly during peak periods on weekdays. Most often, trains overran signals at National Airport and Silver Spring stations, and rail yards in Alexandria, Shady Grove and Brentwood. “Operator inattentiveness” was cited as a factor in each of the six incidents at National Airport, the station where signal overruns most frequently occurred.
Metro plans to upgrade signals with LED bulbs at the following problem-spots by the end of the year: National Airport, Silver Spring, Vienna, Grosvenor, Largo, and Farragut North. For violations that occurred in rail yards, primarily a problem as peak service begins, Metro recommended increased supervision.
In a further step to prevent the problem, Metro wants to lower the top speeds allowed by its trains from 75 to 59 mph — the max speed allowed on the system. In other cases, when operators might be permitted to override speed commands, Metro wants to limit trains speeds to 10 mph, rather than 75 mph, in an effort to cut down on the possibility of a high-speed collision. In another case, the top speed would be reduced from 15 mph to 10 mph.
The software changes are expected to be implemented on new, 7000-series trains over the next year, and on older trains over the course of two years — excluding the 1000-series trains, which Metro is retiring, and 4000-series trains, which it plans to replace due to known maintenance problems.
Signals dictate whether trains are supposed to pass through switches, where trains change tracks. Signal violations are a significant safety breach because they could result in collisions or damage to switch mechanisms. This summer, Metro fired a train operator following a “near miss” incident in which a train ran a red signal and moved into the path of an oncoming train, endangering two inspectors who had to jump out of the way.
Metro officials will present the report to the transit agency’s board at a committee meeting Thursday