Sunday, May 08, 2016

DC Metro chastised by federal government, even threatened with total shutdown, after issuing Safe Track Plan

In a rather shocking development Saturday afternoon, the Federal Transit Authority (part of US Department of Transportation) wrote a scathing memo to Metro  which seems to threaten to shut down the entire subway system indefinitely and orders major training stand-downs.  It sounds possible that the stand-down could require more day line shut downs this week, maybe next weekend before the May 16 training deadline.  It’s not clear that it can always replace service suspensions with buses.

The memo rebukes Metro management for poor handling of an arcing insulator incident at the Federal Center station (near the Capitol) on the Blue-Orange-Silver lines early Thursday morning, May 5.

On Friday, Metro announced its Safe Track Plan (posting here May 5) which may not be as disruptive as had been feared, but which closes midnight-3AM weekend service, maybe permanently, on weekends without a clear indication as to whether it can offer replacement bus or circulator service to help “nightlife” businesses that could be severely affected or even forced to close. 

But the FTA seemed dismissive of the plan, as if it had been not been radical enough.

It seems very poor that such a Safe Track Plan would be announced and published, before the FTA reacted.  It seems as though Metro and Paul Wiedefeld should have waited until hearing from the FTA on Thursday’s incident, rather than risk such an embarrassing and threatening reply. 

I was in Baltimore, Saturday afternoon, eating lunch on Charles Street and about to take the free Circulator (every effective service) to a film in the Maryland Film Festival, when the news story on the FTA threat popped up on my smartphone.  I thought it was a prank at first.

The NBC Washington story (Adam Tuss) on the memo with a video is here. The Washington Post story by Robert McCarthy is even more alarming.  It seems shocking that City councilmember Jack Evans would support a total shutdown if necessary. 
Tuss interviewed Wiedefeld on NBC Washington early Sunday morning. Riders will not get any discounts on rush hour fares. 

It appears that the Metro was not designed to be a 24-hour always on service the way NYC transit is.  It may turn out that even after the year long surge maintenance that hours of operation will be shorter.  It’s not clear that businesses have braced for this. For example, Washington DC has relatively little 24-hour public parking, at least in the areas of town that need it, given real estate development.  Private business should solve this customer service problem. 

Update: May 11

The US Department of Transportation issued another "threat" to close down Metro indefinitely Tuesday afternoon, again while I was out;  it popped up on my phone just as an opera lecture was to start. Adam Tuss and NBC4 reported on the matter here.  Adam Tuss got into a snarky series of tweets challenging DOT secretary Foxx's politicizing the mess, here, and I even joined in on my smart phone, waiting for the opera to start. 

Update: May 19

Metro published its revised Safety Surge schedule today here

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