The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Metro shaves 10 minutes off wait time on Blue, Orange and Silver lines

During 7000-series cars’ continued suspension, Metro is adding more trains as 6000-series cars come back online

A Metro train pulls up to the Naylor Road station with the Suitland Parkway in the background. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
3 min

As Metro continues to search for ways to safely bring 60 percent of its rail car fleet back into service, the transit agency said Friday that it is cutting wait times by slowly adding other trains.

The latest improvement: shaving an average of 10 minutes off wait times on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines.

Metro has been forced to run reduced rail service with longer waits since Oct. 17, when Metrorail’s regulatory agency suspended all 748 of the transit agency’s 7000-series cars after a federal investigation into a derailment. National Transportation Safety Board investigators had found a defect under the derailed car that pushed the wheels apart by two inches.

Fleetwide emergency inspections revealed that about 20 other trains had the defect, which makes trains more prone to slipping off tracks.

The suspension of the series took away Metro’s most advanced cars, leaving the transit agency with a limited supply of older models to operate the 91-station system.

During the four-month suspension, Metro has shortened waits on most lines by finding and fixing older rail cars. Some date back to 1981, while 184 cars that make up Metro’s 6000 series are slowly returning after a 2020 suspension for multiple train separations.

Steep ridership losses will force changes to Metro service after pandemic, transit leaders say

More than 50 trains have been available on the rail system daily for the past week, which is a first since the 7000 series was suspended.

Starting Monday, weekday waits on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines will be reduced from a half-hour to 20 minutes, on average, matching the frequency of the Green and Yellow lines, Metro said. Trains on the Red line, Metro’s busiest, will continue to arrive about every 12 minutes.

The time between trains on weekends will be 24 minutes, on average, on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines; 20 minutes on the Green and Yellow lines; and 12 minutes on the Red Line, Metro said.

Metro orders measurement devices that could hasten an end to train shortage

“Our focus on making the legacy fleet available is allowing us to gradually add trains for passenger service, and I thank our workforce for their dedication and around-the-clock efforts to improve rail service,” Metro general manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement.

Metro recently purchased three inspection stations that transit officials plan to test in the coming weeks. Wiedefeld said Thursday that the purchase might help to end the train shortage. Metro has said the reinstatement of the 7000 series won’t occur before April.

The automated inspection stations would take measurements of rail cars as they pass, checking for defects or malfunctions in the wheels and axles. Wiedefeld said the stations will be used to gather data on the 7000 series and help find solutions to the defect, but transit officials hope they can be used regularly to check the safety of all cars.

Metro can’t put the 7000 series back into service until proving it can do so safely and the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission lifts its suspension.