Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Orange Meltdown

From an anonymous reader:

Yesterday morning, I got on the Orange Line at Vienna. As usual, there were only two turnstiles open going into Metro, causing a significant backup. Why they do this, I don't know. But, this is not why my commute sucked more than usual.

The first warning sign was that the operator didn't know what train he was driving or what the next stop was. He sounded young, so I assumed he was new.

Once we got to Dunn Loring, we held as the operator to get the doors closed. Station attendants were running around on the platform trying to help.

After 8 minutes of this, I was certain we were going to offload.

While I am in no way religious, I said a little prayer and explained to whatever deity it is that controls Metro that I had a very busy day at work and a conference call at 9:30. I asked it to please, not let this happen today.

Sure enough, the doors eventually closed, and the operator announced we would be single tracking to Ballston due to a train broken down on the tracks ahead of us.

He then proceeded to speak to someone at Metro with the internal intercom on.

The conversation was mildly concerning, and was something to the effect that he had a code [alphanumeric] problem, couldn't see the other train on the tracks but would wait for a signal to go forward.

Yeah, just what you want to hear.

It took us what seems like forever to get to Ballston, and when we finally did, we really started to move, which was fantastic ... until we hit Virginia Square where the operator couldn't get the doors closed again. He tried closing them for five minutes, but finally announced that the train was out of service. The platform was packed already due to the delays, and now our train which was packed like sardines was offloaded onto an already packed platform.

I was one of the last people off the train, and there was no room for me to get off. We were packed right to the edge of the platform, and I had mild concerns I would fall if someone so much as sneezed.

The platform was so packed that people who were trying to get to the escalators couldn't get through. They yelled to be let through and everyone else yelled that they were stuck and couldn't move. It was chaos.

While we waited on the platform Metro announced they were running "especially late" due to the two train malfunctions. Shortly thereafter, I received an email notification from Metro about the disruption between Dunn Loring and Ballston ... which we had cleared 20 minutes prior.

The train sat on the tracks for another 10 minutes as workers inside the train tried to get the doors closed. After 7 minutes, according to the notification board, another train came, this one packed to the brim as well due to the earlier delays.

I normally wait for several trains to pass when it's crowded, but I was carried on to the train by people pushing behind me.

We held for another 5 minutes as the train struggled to get the doors closed due to the sheer volume of passengers. At each subsequent stop we encountered the same problem.

I normally give myself 60 to 75 minutes to make what is, according to Metro's online trip planner, a 45 minute commute. Today, it took nearly TWO HOURS. There was never any email notification of the further delays or that Metro was running "especially late." So, I missed my conference call and had to stay late to make up the time I missed.

Thanks Metro! It's totally worth the $10.80.

Other items:
SmarTrip cards available at Safeway (WMATA)
How Metro track circuits are supposed to work (WAMU)
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