Monday, November 23, 2009

Doors ... Again

Door problems are one of the top reasons trains are taken out of service and offloaded. Many times, according to WMATA, this is caused by customers trying to get into a train just as the doors are closing or by customers holding the doors in order to allow a few more people to get on.

Given the doors' fragility, it seems odd that Metro would initiate anything that could exacerbate the problem, but recently, we've gotten several emails, comments and tweets like the following from Charles, wondering if operators are giving passengers less time to get off and on trains in recent weeks.

Is it me, or did sometime around September Metro send out a memo to its drivers to close the doors ASAP at all their stops? I've been a rider for a few years, but I've noticed in the last few months a lot of doors closing when people haven't had a chance to get on the train yet.

It's really bugging me, because not only is it directly inconveniencing people, particularly the very old, very young or handicapped, but it also indirectly creates a culture of muscling your way onto trains so you don't get screwed over by the doors closing prematurely.

The drivers are clearly not paying attention to whether their trains are empty and the doors can be closed without any problems, or whether people are going to need some time to let everybody off and board in an orderly way.
Have you noticed this trend? We should note that some drivers at least, do maintain an awareness of the situation on the platform. Some don't.

The constant door issues are the reason we riders are often reminded, and sometimes scolded, by the operators to not touch the doors, so it was it was disturbing to see, again, that Metro employees apparently don't follow their own rules.

Take this story from reader Sarah:

On Nov. 20,at about 10 a.m. at the Pentagon City stop, I was waiting for my train. A Blue Line train came and was loading up. As the doors were closing, I looked up and saw a Metro employee on the train stick his hand in the door to stop it from closing to try to help out a pretty girl that was trying to get on.

I cannot count the number of lectures I have received in Metro stations and on trains about not trying to stop the doors from closing, I cannot believe a Metro employee would do that! Ridiculous!

Now we all know that some Metro employees have been known to use the system as their personal singles bar, and while that's absolutely unacceptable, it's even more appalling to see a Metro employee willfully doing something they know could cause a train to go out of service, delaying thousands.

Other items:
Safety concerns over Dulles rail bridge (WaPo)

Photo: sudama


Alex B. said...

It does seem as if they've had a quick trigger finger on the doors recently.

The thing is, what usually ends up happening is that they have to open and close the doors several times to actually get them to close, so the overall wait time in the station is longer.

Anonymous said...

The other day in Metro Center I saw a passenger grab the doors of an Orange line train, force them back open, and push his way on. These people need to be ejected from the system, their SmarTrip cards confiscated, and any transit benefits they might have cancelled. Their $4.50 a day is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the disastrous snarl that would result from a train offloading at the hub station in the middle of rush hour. People like this feel they're more important than, literally, thousands of other people. They need to understand they are not.

Varun said...

Read your post as I literally watched the same exact scenario play out right now at West Falls Church.

Kara said...

This morning there was a HUGE backup on the yellow and blue lines. Of course, as a result of stopping trains at the end of the platform more riders than normal are at the end of the train because that is now nearest to their final destination's exit for more people. Crystal city is also a popular exit point for morning commuters. Before all of the people could get off the train the operator was dooing the 'doors are closing' chime. I was one of the very lucky few who was able to get in to a now-more-vacant-than-usual train car while other people got caught between the doors (or were unable to board).

Anonymous said...

Seems to me operators are closing doors much more quickly. Years ago, I read that trains had a 30- to 40-second station stop; recently, I counted 15 seconds that the doors were open (at a crowded station!) and this appears to be the new norm.

Anonymous said...

Last week I left work around 5pm (unusual for me) a few days and was in Metro Center around 5:20 to 5:40 and I saw crowds of people at the middle of the train (I ride at the head) crowding the doors not letting people exit the train in a quick manner and then holding and pushing the doors open so they could get on.

I think in the cases I've seen that it's the passengers on the platform causing the problem.

I've had to shove, push, shouldercheck, and yell to get off trains because people on the platform are crowding the door so the outgoing flow is reduced to single file ( 2 adults can walk abreast while exiting a train ) and then they crowd more so passengers on the train can't finish exiting.

Anonymous said...

It is an old problem. Every day for years at metro center, l'enfant and other crowded stops on the orange line the driver never leaves the doors open long enough for the crowd to exit. Thus, the crowd waiting politely to board are suddenly pushing against doors closing before any even had a chance to board. The driver's rude actions force every one else to be rude. Perhaps it is the orange line drivers now training the other lines.

Alicia said...

It may be a big inconvenience (not to mention incredibly frustrating) to be left on the platform, but would you care as much if you knew that it meant the trains wouldn't bunch up? That if metro said the trains come every 12 mins (or 10 or 6) that they actually would?

There was recently an article in the New Scientist ( about why buses and trains bunch up. It has everything to do with passengers' behavior.

Basically, there's a window of time within which operators can stay at a given stop before they start to bunch up with other trains or buses.

So, this may be Metro's way of trying to get their trains on schedule.

Joshua Davis said...

This happens all the time at Ballston when doing the afternoon commute. The operator closes the doors before everyone has even gotten off the train, much less the handful of people trying to get on. I even had one operator close the doors on people, give a lecture, and then announce the train would be waiting at the station for one minute for schedule correction. Guess he was a little too eager to get off his shift.

Anonymous said...

at Metro Center last week people were still trying to get off the train when the train operator tried closing the doors.

Anonymous said...

I haven't noticed such a trend of closing doors, but what I do notice is patrons who take two steps into the car and then loiter there looking around to decide where they should go.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that train operators are suddenly micromanagers over a few seconds once they have to actually deal with people entering/exiting the trains. If I was a psychologist I might say that it's a convenient little "vent" for them to slam the doors on, and then scold the passengers who annoy them all day.

If there are too many people on the platform it is usually because they have not run enough trains through that particular station in the past few minutes, and they should deal with the consequences instead of retroactively trying to correct a mistake they already made by slamming a door in my face for waiting politely.

It would be awesome if they could kick people out for prying the doors open in a selfish manner but I don't really trust metro workers to make that decision and run around enforcing it correctly.

Anonymous said...

I think it's all probably a result of not using the automated system. Since cars are now under manual control, the trains are often behind schedule by several minutes, pressuring operators to save time where they can, like at stations. And since door controls are also now set to manual (I believe they used to be automated), drivers may not just be counting off the right number of seconds.

At the very least, there should be Metro employees at major stations during rush to signal the driver when to close the doors. That would alleviate most of the complaints almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

was waiting on the platform at metro center when a red train pulled up. the train was packed, but a lot of people were trying to get out, including a wheelchaired rider. before the wheelchaired rider could even get off (and before anyone on the platform could get on, because we were trying to give the offloading riders space), the train was closing its door. the wheelchaired rider never had a chance to get off.

Anonymous said...

This is no more nor less than the usual metro driver lack of interest in safety and good service. When there is a large crowd there is NO WAY that conductor can see down the platform to even guess how the "movement" is progressing- out or in? just starting in one direction? moving well in both? They just "go" when they want the doors to shut, and be damned the consequences.

Don't bother alerting metro by email either. You will get a reply that teaches you the meaning of the door chimes and a reply email address that will bounce back as "access denied." (That email service must be run by the union, it is so efficient in its inability to not help a customer. hah!)

stillbelieveskins said...

I just found this blog, and damn if it isn't the best coverage of Metro around! You need to go big time with this.

You hit EVERY SINGLE issue Metro has and with a voice that's spot on.

Post, et al, listen up. You're looking for the future of journalism. Here it is.

Steph said...

I was at Metro Center yesterday heading to Gallery Place. A crowded train came in, let people off, and then just as people were able to start getting on, they closed the doors. I got on with my friend (out of towner) following. I made it, they door shut in her face, but I couldn't back out back onto the platoform. I signalled her to go one stop, and I met her there, but they left a ton of people on the platform and the train was not close to full.

Paul said...

About 2 months ago I was on an eastbound Orange or Blue line train and was on my usual rout to L' Enfant Plaza to transfer. When we arrived a few people stepped out of the train to let the passengers off the train and before me and 10+ riders were able to get off the doors shut. The other passengers who got off and no other passengers were able to get on the car. The car was also almost empty at this point. We tried to signal the driver but she took off to Federal Center SW station. I emailed wmata and they got backing to me with "I have forwarded your e-mail to the division responsible for this station, so that the superintendent can investigate this incident and re-instruct the operator on proper door closing procedures." So far I haven't seen it happen again.

Anonymous said...

Gallery Place always has this problem: Crowded train unloads and conductor closes doors before more than a few people can get on. Gallery Place had this problem before the accident. My theory is they want to unload everyone and get an empty train to Metro Center.

They will hold the train with the smart chick in the wheel chair is there. She gets a metro employee on the platform with a walkie talkie to tell the conductor to hold the train until she can get on.

Anonymous said...

I have definately noticed this.

Just a theory, but maybe this is Metro's latest strategy to prevent trains crashing into each other? Trains are only allowed X minutes at the station, passengers be damned, then they have to get out of there?

Anonymous said...

Witnessed this twice recently -- passengers get off, and the doors are closed on the first of the dozens waiting to get on. And then the driver gives a lecture about "taking this train out of service."

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