Fire and and smoke incidents on Metro's tracks have nearly doubled comparing the first quarter of 2014 with last year, but the transit agency is not calling it a spike.
According to Metro statistics, there were eight smoke incidents on the tracks in January, February and March 2014, double the four incidents during the same period in 2013. When it comes to fires on the tracks, Metro reported 29 in the first three months of this year, compared to 17 during the same period in 2013.
Metro says there were a number of smaller weather-related smoke incidents and fires at the beginning of 2014 because of the tough winter and ice that had built up on some of the electrified third rails.
"I would not call anything on this report a spike," Metro Chief Spokesperson Dan Stessel wrote in an email. "To me, a spike would be more like August 2009 or June 2011 -- both months where there were 34 smoke/fire incidents each."
Regardless of a spike or not, smoke and fire incidents on the tracks can slow down trains for extended periods of time as first responders often have to drop power to sections of the track and extinguish anything that is smoldering.
"There's always something going on, especially if you have to connect on the Red Line," said daily rider Candrea Cherry outside the Medical Center station. "If you are checking your daily updates, it'll say that it's been fixed. ...[Y]esterday, I was stuck on the Red Line but it wasn't fixed; the delay wasn't fixed."
Metro is in the middle of the largest rebuilding effort in the history of the transit agency and is pouring billions of dollars into a backlog of maintenance for the system.
Some riders are tough critics, though, and say the backlog isn't being addressed fast enough.
"I wouldn't say that it is maintained at the level that I would expect," quipped rider Angel Carter as she waited for her Red Line train Tuesday.