I know you’ve only been here since November, and you’ve been taking some risky and dramatic steps to try to fix Metro. But maybe it’s not fixable? Maybe it’s time to shut the system down for good, perhaps transform those underground tunnels into a sanctuary for bats? Refit them with bike lanes? Cave painting classes?
Because, Paul, it’s not just this morning’s disastrous commute that makes me think it’s time to give up on Metro. It’s what’s been happening for the past year or so:
- Friday’s Silver Line derailment occurred almost exactly one year after an empty train went off the rails between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations. The Aug. 6, 2015 accident happened about a month after Metro workers had discovered a defect in the track but then ignored it. For fans keeping score at home, there have now been 15 derailments since 2011.
- A train operator ran a red light signal near the Glenmont station on July 5 and drove toward the path of an oncoming train. This guy might have kept on going if not for the yelling and screaming of track workers who had to scramble to get out of the way. But then he had reason to be preoccupied. Patrick Lavin, who is Metro’s chief safety official, told reporters Thursday that the train operator had become angry because he was told he’d have to take his break at a station where the food options were not to his liking. It was an incredible lapse that could have been disastrous, and it was compounded by the fact that passengers were evacuated and led onto the tracks while high voltage electricity was still flowing through the third rail. Did I mention that this was just one of 10 red-signal violations this year?
- In January, a Green Line train did some unconscious uncoupling as it approached the Navy Yard station. Metro officials said the second and third cars came undone Jan. 6, gumming up the commute but causing no injuries.
- Metro officials bungled their handling of a potentially dangerous situation after an insulator exploded and caught fire at the Federal Center SW station on May 5. Metro workers allowed trains to continue on a damaged track after making only a “cursory” inspection, according to federal safety officials who threatened to shut down all or part of the system if Metro didn’t get its act together.
You wonder: Has Metro always been this messed up? Where was the oversight?
After Friday’s derailment, instead of debating whether Metro’s safety oversight should be moved from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) — as the National Transportation Safety Board recommended this year — perhaps we should have the FRA oversee the FTA while the FTA oversees Metro, or vice versa. Maybe the FBI and the EPA could lend a hand, too.
So I’m holding the scissors to my SmartTrip card right now, and I’m guessing other riders out there are thinking of cutting up their rail passes, too. I’m betting some already have.
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