Most of that decrease came from a dramatic reduction in the number of debris fires, incidents where trash, debris, or leaves on the tracks catch fire. In the first quarter of this year, there were seven of these incidents, a 53 percent drop from last year, according to agency statistics.
The reason for the significant decrease? Metro Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin said in the report that the agency has been doing a better job of cleaning tracks and clearing rubbish and leaves before they build up and become a problem.
The first three months of this year and last year each had just one fire related to the electrical cables that provide power to the third-rail, which can sometimes start a fire when cables aren’t secured off the ground or when insulation wears away.
But the number of arcing incidents on the tracks — electrical discharge, often caused by wet or muddy conditions — actually increased this year. There were 11 such incidents in January, February and March of 2016, and 12 of those incidents during the same months this year.
“To resolve these aspects, proactive drain cleaning and mud removal in at risk areas (e.g., Red Line) is occurring, and improvements to the insulator inspection process have been made, both in the field and prior to field replacement,” Lavin said in the report.
Metro has two months left in its SafeTrack maintenance program, but officials say that starting July 1, they will switch to a nighttime preventive maintenance program that will allow workers to test for stray current on the tracks to help cut down on arcing incidents.