Friday, October 9, 2009

This Will Bite Metro in the Last Car One Day

Seriously Metro, there's a trend here with these nonworking intercoms. Care to do anything about it, or do you see them as "rider communications problems?"

From reader S.E.

On Monday morning, I was in the last car of a Red Line train headed downtown. At the Brookland station at 8:55, a person in an electric wheelchair was exiting the train when the chair somehow got caught on the threshold. The doors closed around the wheelchair, complicating things.

I didn’t see it initially happen, but looked up as a group of people were trying to help push the doors open and free the chair.

The doors sprung open several times, only to close again as the train conductor attempted to resolve the situation in her own way: She also announced on the PA that people should stand clear of the doors, etc., making it obvious that she was unaware of the situation.

While we were in the last car, I find it hard to believe that she could not see an electric wheelchair halfway out of the car from her station.

In addition, one of the passengers attempted to call her via the intercom but got no response.

Eventually, passengers were able to push the wheelchair through the door. Several of the helpers were also exiting at that station, so they jumped out of the car – only to have the doors slammed on them again.

One passenger’s backpack was caught, and, once freed, his foot actually became caught in the door. The train conductor opened and closed the doors one last time, only to remind us via the PA that “when the doors chime, please stand clear of the doors.”

I don’t want to get this conductor in trouble – she’s one of the most easily understood on the PA, and in terms of her job performance, that’s all I know, but I do appreciate it. However, I am, as typical with Metro, more concerned with the systemic failure evident here:

The conductor could not see that a wheelchair was caught in the train door.

She assumed people were blocking the doors rather than realizing a situation was unfolding (and this was Brookland, a relatively quiet station, where you’re much less likely to get people diving on board than at Gallery Place, etc).

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the intercom appeared to fail.

Related posts:
Anyone home?
Another emergency call goes unanswered
Metro comes clean about nonworking intercoms

Other items:
Mind the budget gap (WaPo)
Major delays this weekend (WMATA)
Good luck moving bus stop (WaPo)
MADD questions Metro's alcohol/drug policy (Examiner)

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Matt' said...

Just to note:
Brookland and Silver Spring are both curved platform stations. On the INBOUND track, the operator cannot physically see the end of the train because the middle of the train gets in the way.

To resolve this problem, concave mirrors are present on the platform at the 4-car, 6-car, and 8-car stops. But it would still be difficult for the operator to see exactly what was happening in the rear.

I'm not making excuses, I'm just clarifying one of the contributing factors.

And before you criticise Metro for building two curved platform stations in the first place, remember that the B-route of the Red Line (to Glenmont) is sandwiched in between the CSX tracks, therefore being beholden to their geometry. The sandwiching was done to maintain access to industrial sidings from the B&O (now CSX) line.

Timothy O'Connell said...

Wow--I didn't know that that was a common (or at least a recurring) occurrence: I've seen nearly that exact same thing happen in almost the exact same way at that stop (which is 0.5 miles from my house) on two different occasions.


Anonymous said...

Late night + near empty train + criminal activity + broken intercom = yet another WMATA lawsuit we'll all pay for either with higher fares or poorer (if you can imagine) service.

Anonymous said...

How long before the union makes the argument that non-functioning intercoms are precisely why operators should be allowed to use their cell phones-- in the event of an emergency, just call or text your operator!

Anonymous said...

I was the person who tried to use the intercom. (I had to run the length of the car to get to it, since the operator's door was closed on our end, there was only one available button in the car, at the other end.) When I pressed the button, it lit up, but when I said "don't close the doors, there is a person with a wheelchair stuck," I didn't hear anything back. That wasn't our first attempt at communication, either. The first people who tried to help the lady in the wheelchair yelled out the window "DONT CLOSE THE DOORS!" But I guess the curved train and the six car length didn't allow the sound to travel all the way up the platform. When the people finally were able to get the wheelchair out of the gap, I thought it was because the train operator had heard me, until those people were unable to get back into the train. Kudos to those people who got up to help the woman in need. Its nice to see the better side of metro riders for a change. But wouldn't the operator think something was up since it took so long for the "obstruction" to clear from the doorway?

Anonymous said...

the intercoms only work if you hold the button down while you are talking. Not just press it in and then talk.

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