The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority increased reliability on trains, which entails train car availability and lack of track failures, but decreased on-time performance in its Vital Signs Quarterly Report, covering the months of April, May and June, which WAMTA released Thursday.
Train reliability improved 35 percent from the second quarter of 2015. WMATA attributed this improvement to increases in mechanic training, streamlined part scheduling and procurement. It also cited the introduction of new 7000-series railcars and the subsequent retirement of 26 1000-series railcars — the oldest model in the WMATA fleet.
WMATA board of directors member Malcolm Augustine attributed the increase in train reliability to the WMATA board of directors’ concentrated effort on the issue. According to Augustine, the board is optimistic about reliability increasing even further as more 7000-series trains are introduced.
“I think what we’re really working with in this fleet is reliability, and the team is constantly working on different initiatives to try to keep those cars in service,” Augustine said at the Sept. 8 WMATA board of directors meeting. “What we’re really looking forward to is the 7000-series, and I think when the 7000-series cars come on board we’re hoping to see that reliability and availability of the fleet increase.”
Despite increased reliability, the report called attention to a 10 percent decrease of WMATA trains arriving on time from the second quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2016. Around 74 percent of WMATA trains arrived on schedule in the second quarter of 2016.
Grady Willard (SFS ’18), who took the Metro to his internship over the summer, said he experienced long wait times for both the Red and Blue Lines due to SafeTrack work.
“When they’re doing track work anywhere on the line it impacts everything, so that’s not surprising to me to hear that statistic,” Willard said. “The train system seems to me to be old and in serious need of repair. My issue is that when I get into a station and I see a 15 minute wait before the next train, that to me is a big deal. Whether I get in at 9:00 or 9:05 doesn’t really matter, but a 15 minute wait is a big deal.”
The Vital Signs Report attributed some delays to the implementation of SafeTrack, Metro’s aggressive track maintenance plan, in June.
On-time performance was highest in April at 80 percent and lowest in May at 69 percent. The Silver and Orange Lines reported the latest arrival times, with only 56 percent and 71 percent of Silver and Orange Line trains arriving on time, respectively.
WMATA’s recent performance improvements also extend to its bus system, which saw an increase of approximately 500 miles between failures. WMATA cited the replacement of older buses during this period as a catalyst for the improvement.
However, WMATA bus systems also saw a 1.7 percent decrease in on-time performance between 2015 and 2016, which the report attributed to increased bus ridership during SafeTrack periods.
“Increased wait times were also experienced in instances were buses were re-routed to supplement additional SafeTrack demands,” the report reads.
Acting Chief of Assurance, Quality and Performance Andrea Burnside pointed to improved relations with bus manufacturers as a contributing factor to increased bus reliability.
“That’s really good news because over the last couple years we’ve been talking about some of the challenges we’ve had with bus manufacturers,” Burnside said at the WMATA board of directors meeting. “It’s an industry-wide problem and because of all of the focused work we’ve done, all of these proactive actions are starting to pay off.”
In addition to riding the metro, Willard regularly took the G2 bus to the Dupont Circle Station. He did not notice an increase in wait time for buses.
“It was good. Half of the time I was the only person on the bus. I’ve never really had a problem with Metro buses,” Willard said. “I know that sometimes they can be crowded, but the G2 was always fine.”
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