Metro Rail Car Replacements, Safety Surge Announced

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld announced Monday plans for repairs and renovations for its rail cars starting next Wednesday, in addition to preplanned Safetrack Safety Surges that will continue for the remainder of the month.

Safety Surges are planned outages on Metro’s tracking system that facilitate the completion of three years’ worth of repairs in approximately one year. WMATA has planned 16 total Safety Surges between June 2016 and June 2017 and has completed 11 so far.

The next surge is planned on the Blue Line between the Rossyln Metro station and the Pentagon City station from Feb. 11 to Feb. 28.

According to a Feb. 6 press release, Wiedefeld has committed to having all old and low-functioning cars out of passenger service by the end of this year under the “Back2Good” program.

Metro has begun retiring its 4000-series cars, which are the least reliable cars and were responsible for significant delays in 2016, according to a press release from WMATA.

Since February 2016, Metro has been replacing its 1000-series cars and intends to continue to replace this series together with the 4000-series beginning next week. Both models are being replaced with the newer models as those cars arrive.

According to WMATA, the 4000-series rail cars being replaced are Metro’s least reliable car, and only travel about 27,259 miles between delays, while their best performing cars, the 6000-series, are nearly four times more reliable.

The repairs themselves are expected to close the Blue Line running from Rosslyn to the Pentagon for 18 days starting next week.

The scheduled outages and renovations come after high and low points for the transit agency.
Metro received widespread praise for its service during the presidential inauguration weekend for both the swearing-in ceremonies Jan. 20 and the Women’s March on Washington the following day. The agency increased service on both days and recorded more than a million rides during that weekend without disruptions to service.

However, a severe power failure Monday at a Friendship Heights Metro station caused major delays on four lines during the morning rush hour. Red Line riders were delayed up to 40 minutes while trains were forced to share a track for one stop between Van Ness and Friendship Heights.

A problem with a power switch near the Stadium-Armory station and a broken-down train at the Foggy Bottom stop delayed commutes for Blue, Orange and Silver line riders.

Grady Willard (SFS ’18) takes the Metro to his internship downtown, from Rosslyn to Farragut West. According to Willard, these repairs will not impact his commute since his route also runs along the orange and silver lines.

“Both should be running and maybe a bit more frequently, which will be good,” Willard said. “The only problem is for students who are trying to get somewhere in Virginia south of Pentagon. That will take extra time, but I’m trying to get from Rosslyn into the city, and trains should still be operating.”

Peter Hamilton (COL ’20), who uses the Orange and Red Lines to commute to his internship, said he notices the need to replace older train cars.

“Metro gets the job done. The cars aren’t filthy or anything like that, but there is a very retro feel when you get onto the older cars,” Hamilton said. “It feels like you’re getting pushed back to the 80s.

Everything is strangely carpeted and the seats are cracked. The new cars are super nice.”
Although he says he will not be affected by delays, Hamilton said he knows people who frequently must wait extended times to use the Red Line.

“I haven’t been personally affected by the delays too much, but I did have one of my friends who was waiting at a station for 30 minutes for a train that passes every five minutes, so that’s been a problem for them, but honestly, the service is good,” Hamilton said.

Metro is also amid debates over cutting costs and is considering fare hikes to offset costs it incurred this year due to repairs and extended services, including a deficit from increased service during the inauguration weekend. Over the weekend, the WMATA board met to discuss ways to improve the agency’s fiscal standing, proposing either cuts to service or increased fares.

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