Tech Issues Cripple Metro Services, MoCo Traffic Lights

Outages lead to massive problems

By Jim Iovino
|  Wednesday, Nov 4, 2009  |  Updated 9:16 PM EDT
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Metro Rep Explains Outages

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A power outage at Metro's headquarters led to massive problems systemwide Wednesday morning, allowing people to ride some buses for free and shutting down WMATA's Web site, call center and e-mail alert system.

Metro said it experienced a power outage at about 2:45 a.m. when a 27-year-old power distribution unit failed. The outage took down the data center responsible for communication functions.  The Customer Call Center could not make or receive calls until about 9 a.m. Metro's Web site came back online at about 8:30 a.m., but could not immediately be updated.

Metro has updated its list of problems:

All reservation and dispatch systems for MetroAccess returned to use at about 10 a.m. The MetroAccess call center and online reservation system returned to service also at about 10 a.m. The Bus and MetroAccess Operations Control Centers had early difficulty communicating with buses on the streets, however vehicle radios came back into service at about 10 a.m. The public address system in rail stations returned at 10:30 a.m.

Metrobus fareboxes were functioning, although some bus operators had difficulty logging onto them earlier this morning. If that was the case, customers were allowed to ride without paying. This affected a minimal number of buses.

As of mid-afternoon, customers were still unable to purchase fare with their debit cards. Customers have been limited to charge a maximum of $20 at a fare vending machine using a credit card at fare machines. The NextBus system is not operational.
SmartBenefits are not functioning. The e-alert system is not functioning.

All critical functions were back online by 3:30 p.m.

Even More Transit Problems

Meanwhile, the traffic management computer system in Montgomery County went down at about 3 a.m., causing traffic lights to not synchronize and instead operate in non-rush mode.   The change created numerous backups during the morning commute. 

Lights that were usually extended green are not.  Traffic management operators could not monitor the system because there is no communication.  Lights in Rockville and Takoma Park were running correctly because they were on different systems.

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