Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Ride In a 1000-series Car

We'd never paid that much attention to the series of Metro cars we were riding. Sure, some were nicer than others, but we'd assumed they all met at least some sort of basic security requirements, or they wouldn't be on the tracks.
Last night, we came home on the Orange Line from Federal Center, SW to East Falls Church, and we got a whole new appreciation for cars.
To call it frightening would be going too far, but it certainly was unnerving in light of recent events.
The escalator at Federal Center drops you near the front of the Vienna-bound trains, and we usually aim for the second car.
Yesterday, the second car was out of service, so we ended up in the first car, which was a 1000-series relic from the '70s. These cars seem to be an early focus of the investigation into what went wrong on the Red Line Monday. All but one car on this train were 1000s.
You've ridden them. There are nearly 300 in Metro's rolling stock--about a quarter of all cars.
The ride is roller coasteresque--lots of jostling--the lights flicker, but the sounds are the most eerie. Groaning. Creaking. Squeaking. Wheezing. But lower down the register, there was deep repetitive clunking sound when the breaks were applied, which they were with great frequency on this trip.
Riders all around were exchanging nervous smiles as if to ask "this is cool, right?"
The stops at EVERY station were abrupt enough to cause people to brace, and even then, many had to step into the stop to keep from being tossed down the car.
"This driver sucks," blurted one rider quite loudly, which elicited several cackles.
It's hard to judge a driver's skill when they're driving an antiquated, worn out rail car that feels held together with string and chewing gum.
These rickety jalopies need to be retired.

More accident coverage:
Red Line accident on Wikipedia (h/t) @campariman
Operator applied brakes before crash (WaPo)
A milquetoast column by WaPo
Remembering the victims (WaPo)
Metro braces for lawsuits (Washington Times)
WMATA's sanitzed history (Balt. Sun)
The latest press release from Metro

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25 comments:

Malnurtured Snay said...

And where exactly is Metro going to get the money to do that? It sounds great to say -- let's get them out of service! -- but how then do you propose replacing them? Because isn't the alternative going to be running *considerably* fewer trains during rush hour service? And won't that just result in, "Man, all the trains are full and there aren't as many! Metro sucks!" It just seems like, whatever Metro does, damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

If they're safe, fine. If they're not, they shouldn't be in service. Our rant yesterday was not just about WMATA; it was also about the funding jurisdictions. Perhaps if WMATA took unsafe cars out of service that would finally create the political will, based on popular uproar, that would give WMATA the funds it needs to upgrade to a modern fleet.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I'm reading your re-tweets on Twitter: people at Chinatown are talking about how crowded the platforms are, and I've seen iMetro blog about how sometimes on a crowded platform, he's worried he'll be pushed onto the tracks. What you suggest would make this, which is already a problem, a serious safety issue, which is no way to address a different safety issue.

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

We can both hope that from this tragedy some serious reform will come to WMATA, which will then be in a better position to, again hopefully, get better funding and use it wisely.

Sarah said...

From what I have read, it sounds like Congress and others have little interest in paying for our safety (afterall, we aren't their constituents, right?). As a newbie to the DC area, I was wondering if other funding options have been considered. For example, I personally would not mind paying a dollar more per trip if it means that WMATA can buy some new cars. Also, maybe the Metro could get over their 'no food/no drinks' policy and begin selling concessions to bring in extra money. Finally, how about more advertisements? I don't care if I am bombarded with visual ads if it means that I am more safe. I really don't know...please don't slam me if I sound naive.

Rebecca said...

Yeah, I've always tried to avoid the 1000 Series because they rock and pitch so badly. I hate the bumps and squeals you hear on them. My friends always thought I was crazy for trying to avoid them, but I guess we know now they really are that rickety.

Of course yesterday afternoon, the two trains I took were comprised entirely of 1000 Series. Please note that no one was getting in the first two cars!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but this blog has really dropped the ball this week. While other DC blogs have been able to publish constructive, coherent, and informative posts to get information out to its readers, this blog has sounded compratively childish and has lacked the same sound reasoning as other blogs have shown. I used to read this blog avidly because I believed that its purpose was to inform the debate to make Metro better for everyone. I no longer believe that is true, but rather see a bunch of name calling that doesn't address the real issues. So long unsuckdcmetro, you served us well, but now its time to move on to something that can better serve the cause.

Jilldcpet said...

You've got to be kidding! This blog has been amazingly informative, entertaining and useful. Goodbye to you!

julieann said...

I read your tweet about hoping you were on 80's or later tech as signal returned on the orange line, coming out of Stadium-Armory station.

My first thought, upon looking around, was "is this a 1000-series train?" Sitting near the back of the car, I can see the numbers. Sure was.

My second thought: what if this train derails while we're on a raised track? A lot of the track between Stadium-Armory and New Carrollton is elevated above the ground by rather a lot (it's not like this on the green train! damn you, greenbelt parking lot for making me not want to ride from there! damn your three-stop-longer-and-a-swap-at-l'enfant ride!). I'm already paranoid about the precarious leaning that we experience on said elevated tracks, and now I just have more to worry about.

Possibly, I'm going to go crazy. Or become the sick passenger that seems to stick up my commute some mornings because of all the jerky stop-and-go action of the manual brake-age.

Melissa said...

I also found myself on a 1000-series car yesterday on the Green line, and I was more than a little unnerved.

I hadn't even intended to ride Metro(rail) at all yesterday - I had planned out a series of 3 buses that would get me home. But, after waiting 20 minutes for a bus near the Gallery Place station, I (figuratively) threw up my hands and headed down to catch a train to College Park, where I could pick up my usual bus home.

I was so fixated on trying not to end up on an end car - which is almost always where I sit on any train I ride, because they're usually less crowded, that I wasn't even paying attention to what kind of car I was stepping on. It was only when I saw the orange and brown seats that I realized it, and spent the rest of the trip home wincing at every sound.

Absolutely, these cars need to be replaced. I'd support a moderate fare increase, too, if I was sure that was where the incresed revenue would be directed.

But really, the ball is in Congress' court now. I've seen other commenters on this blog and others calling for Catoe's immediate dismissal, stating that he should be able to "successfully lobby the government for funding". Unfortunately, Congress and the federal government have been proving for a long time that they don't particularly care about the people who live and work in the nation's capital, so the blame for that can't be laid on Catoe's shoulders.

More advertising would be a welcome way to raise funds for Metro. Buses, especially - I can't count how many buses I've seen that have outdated advertising on the side, or Metro advertising. Same thing goes for trains. Metro needs to stop wasting money on things like expensive furniture for their offices (as reported by WTFMetro some time ago), and start focusing on what really matters - efficient, safe train cars and buses that actually (gasp!) run on time. What a novel concept.

Anonymous said...

How do you tell it's a 1000 series car? Is there a data plate with a "1xxx" you can see?

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

not a plate, but painted in black on the side near the front and perhaps back of the car. definitely on the front.

julieann said...

anon 10:26 -- on my 1000 series train yesterday, i was at the back, and it was on the side of the compartment. on the 6000 i was on this morning, the car number (6024 or something) was printed on the emergency door-opening switch.

Hostage Hoosier said...

i propose taking the $11 million in stimulus money they are using to build a sky bridge at Microsoft HQs and using it to update metro. there, that is the most constructive thing I have heard all week.

Anonymous said...

And in the interior the numbers are on the door to the cab.

Paul said...

I hope each and every person on those two trains sues Metro for every cent they have. If they ain't hit hard they will never learn.

I think the question here shouldn't be why 1000 series cars are still used, but why did the crash happen in the first place? Aren't there an automated computer system that's supposed to prevent these crashes? From what I'm reading, this isn't the first time the computer system has failed. Many Metro should have long ago considered that might have a serious flaw? That begs the question whether all of the other trains are safe...
Also, why are the trains two weeks overdue for scheduled maintanance?

Anonymous said...

@anon 10:04. you must be refering to a different blog. this is one is great. snarky sometimes for sure, but a true gem among dc blogs.

Anonymous said...

This and the previous post, and the comments following them, have been very interesting. I think we have all learned several important things. To summarize:
1. Metro should immediately take the 1000 series cars, all 290 of them, out of service. Today. There will be about 25% fewer trains, but thats ok - the overcrowding will be short-term only.
2. Metro should buy 290 replacement cars first thing tomorrow. Heck, make it an even 300. The dealerships don't keep that many in stock at one time, so they will have to be specially ordered. They should be here and ready to go in about 3 years. Then the short-term overcrowding (see #1, above) will be over.
3. To come up with the cash to make the first payments on the new cars, in the short run, Metro employees should all be required to use their personal credit cards.
4. In the longer run, the cost of the new cars will be paid for by a fare increase. About $1.00 across the board sounds about right. To the extent this discourages ridership, it helps with #1.
5. Every single person on both of the trains should sue the heck out of Metro - for "every cent they have." The managers cannot be held personally liable - they are indemnified by Metro for actions within the scope of their duties. But Metro will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to all injured passengers, the costs of which will be covered by another fare increase - say an additional $1 across the board, further reducing ridership. This will really teach the system a lesson.
6. Since "Metro kills people," every person responsible for the crash, from the general manager on down, should be criminally prosecuted for negligent homicide. This will ensure that justice is done, and more importantly, that no one ever again takes over the reins of senior management of Metro, because they will be on notice that if they make a mistake, they will go to jail.

Anonymous said...

Re: this blog dropping the ball. Are you insane? What name calling are you talking about? This blog has been nothing but a service to readers. The twitter collections are a great vent, and the tweets Unsuck has sent out over the past several days really helped me with my commute. You don't have to agree with everything posted here, but I find most stuff here dead on. Go Unsuck. You are liked by many!

Anonymous said...

So I just read the article in today's Washington Post about how someone claims it's because they didn't have enough funding. We all know it wasn't a lack of funding, it was a lack of PRIORITIES. I've seen the rates rise over the years, and as a rider I haven't seen that many improvements to the system. They're doing the same things all these other "broke" businesses are doing in the current economy--blaming all their woes on money problems when it was really all about POOR LEADERSHIP. Let's stop bailing out the sinking ships by giving them more money to squander; instead, re-organize, FIRE people, put someone competent in charge that will make changes. Safety should have been a number one priority considering the number of people who ride EVERY DAY, They're lucky they only killed a handful--it could have been much worse. I've been on trains that have "run over debris" and other accidents. If someone in charge had priorities, these sorts of incidents would NEVER occur.

s1ncer1ty said...

To the anon who claims this blog is childish and uninformative -- I learned about the collision from this blog and its author's tweets, not WMATA. I was very easily able to find my way home by bus after I learned MARC service was also cancelled, because this blog posted easily accessable bus routes. WMATA's bus routes are in .pdf form and don't load on my phone. Dropped the ball? Hardly. Good DAY, sir.

Anonymous said...

Again to the drop the ball person. you must work for wmata.

Anonymous said...

This post is overreacting. This is a subway. All the cars--including the newer ones--jostle, make noise, and occasionally have flickering lights tend to flicker. Clearly these cars should be removed based on the recommendations of the NTSB, but to think that every single one of them is a deathtrap is naive.

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

To 7:08 anonymous: Don't think we said the 1000s were "a deathtrap." Newer cars don't groan and creak like 1000s, and we've NEVER been in a subway that jostled and jerked as much as ANY Metro train, no matter what series the cars are from.
Suppose we agree that the 1000s should be removed based on NTSB recs.

Let's get Metro Fixed said...

To 7:08 anonymous: Rode a 5000-series this morning. The ride is incomparably better.

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