Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Metro Rolls Dice with Our LIves

Metro rolled the dice with riders' lives yesterday, says a source with inside knowledge of the "catastrophic" door malfunction.

According to the source, Operations Control Central (OCC) was advised of a major door issue between Ft. Totten and Gallery Place and sent a road mechanic, a member of Metro's emergency response team, out to assess the problem.

The road mechanic found that the doors on one, 1000-series car were partially opening while the train was in motion, indicating a major problem.

Instead of taking the entire train out of service immediately, as is done with even the most routine door issues, OCC ordered the car maintenance department to shut down the one car but leave its paired, mate car, and the rest of the train, operating for revenue service.

And the train continued on with passengers totally unaware of the brewing problem.

Then, between Van Ness and Tenleytown, the door systems failure recurred, and some doors of the mate car flew wide open while the train was moving, endangering riders in what is considered one of the worst kinds of safety failure.

The source said the door problem was likely a fluke, but that it presented a "major failure of multiple fail-safe systems" designed precisely to keep the doors from opening while the train is moving.

When something like that happens, they said, there's no way to know what is broken so the train should have never been allowed to continue revenue service once OCC was notified of the initial problem.

They said that 99 times out of 100, given a failure as massive as the one that occurred, the entire train would have been taken out of service.

"If the doors of your car started popping off for no reason, you wouldn't continue on and simply tighten your seatbelt," the source said. "You wouldn't keep driving."

I asked two sources why Metro would risk riders' lives like that. While neither had inside knowledge, both surmised Metro was running low of operational revenue cars during the rush hour and OCC felt pressure to keep as many cars in service as possible.

"Revenue is Metro's top priority," one source said. "It's not safety. Someone in OCC should have their ass handed to them for this, but they won't."

As a footnote to the story, riders should recall Metro's "safety" move in the aftermath of the June 22, 2009 crash.

After the 1000-series cars involved in the collision telescoped upon impact, Metro pulled a PR stunt and "bellied" (put in the middle of trains) the 1000s, ostensibly to protect them from future crashes.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of physics realizes that putting the 1000s in the middle of the trains does nothing to protect them from a potential impact.

In fact, bellying them might put more riders in danger.

If you watch a train go by, the crowding is like a bell curve, less at the front, more as you get to the center, and then less as the train ends.

If there were to be a collision, the riders in the 1000-series cars--likely the most crowded cars on the trains--could still be crushed.

Now, if you're in a 1000, you have to worry that when they're packed like sardines, there could be another "uncommanded door opening," which is Metro-ese for what happened yesterday.

If the doors had flown open during crush+, yesterday's incident could have had a very tragic outcome.

Metro dodged a bullet--again.

Other items:
More waste on the Silver Line (Examiner)
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