Following the fatal June 22 crash on Metrorail’s Red Line and several Metrobus accidents, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has begun implementing several new safety procedures.
Metrorail has switched its train operation to manual mode and has reconfigured its setup by putting older model cars in the center of the trains, according to Steven Taubenkibel, a Metro spokesperson. Metro is also in the early stages of testing a new software system that will alert Metro personnel to anomalies in the track circuit.
While the current crash prevention software only checks the tracks twice a day, the new software is in real time and can send alerts to the control center as soon as a track disturbance occurs, Taubenkibel said.
Taubenkibel could not say when the software will be in full use in Metro stations.
“We’re still in the early stages of testing,” he said. “We don’t have a final estimated cost, so we’re still in the early stages right now of that.”
The Metrobus union, Amalgamated Transit Union 689, has also begun an initiative — separate of WMATA — to have drivers adhere more strictly to operating procedures, Taubenkibel said. The campaign began Oct. 13 as a reaction to recent Metrobus incidents, according to The Washington Post.
Bus incidents are taken care of with strict follow-up investigations and disciplinary action, if necessary, Taubenkibel said. He said he could not provide any information regarding the number of accidents Metrobuses have been involved in this year or regarding the number of bus operators let go for disobeying regulations.
However, WMATA supports the drivers’ initiative, he said.
“We welcome that,” Taubenkibel said. “All operations personnel are expected to follow the standard operating procedures. So if the bus operators are doing that, then we welcome that.”
Operators taking part in this initiative planned to observe posted speed limits, activate the handicap lifts at every stop and refrain from passing other buses, according to the union’s Web site.
While these new actions have caused bus route times to slow slightly, there have been minimal delays, Taubenkibel said. The Georgia Avenue, 14th Street and 16th Street routes have been most affected.
One of these new safety adjustments has not gone over well with the public. Many passengers have been complaining about getting motion sickness from the sudden stops and starts caused by the new manual operation of the trains, according to the Post.
When the Post asked WMATA for its complaint records, workers hand-searched through every complaint and found 11 that mentioned nausea, according to Taubenkibel. He estimated that the 11 were out of about 20 million rides.
“So that’s a very, very, very small number,” he said.
The trains will be running on manual operation until further notice, Taubenkibel said. This will probably be until the investigations regarding the cause of the June 22 accident are concluded.
Jinesh Sha, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks Metrorail service has been the same this semester as in the past. He continues to take Metro trains despite the June 22 crash.
“I think that [Metro is] the best way of transport in D.C., and it’s convenient, and AU is obviously close to the Metro stop,” he said.
WMATA has been publicizing the recent safety modifications as much as possible, Taubenkibel said.
“We’re trying to do what we can to make the system as safe as possible, and so our customers expect us to run a safe operation ... so I think they understand what we’re trying to do: we’re trying to make it as safe as possible,” he said.