Safety, Service Cuts Before Metro's Board

WASHINGTON — Safety issues tied to failed radio communication, smoke and fire, and federal safety directives are on the agenda of the Metro Board of Directors meeting Thursday, along with ethics changes and proposals to dramatically cut service hours.

The full board is scheduled to approve public hearings on the plans to permanently cut back up to eight hours of service by shutting down at midnight Fridays and Saturdays and earlier on Sundays, or through one of a number of other options.

On Thursday, the board is expected to approve a public hearing on the proposals that would be scheduled for mid-October, and could include discussions of new bus options.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld says the extra time is needed for inspections and maintenance on the tracks.

The changes would come as investigations and reviews show ongoing work is not all being done correctly or by people who know how to do their jobs.

A peer review facilitated by the American Public Transportation Association that will be presented to the Metro Board’s Safety Committee Thursday finds power system staff do not all have the technical skills needed to do their jobs, and do not get adequate training.

Federal investigators identified similar issues for track inspectors and maintenance workers in a series of scathing reports this summer.

Other issues identified in the new review, which is not yet finalized, include dirt and grime on or in power systems, a lack of communication and a lack of individual responsibility.

Radios

Metro safety leaders are set to tell the Metro Board that the radio on a new train failed before two Red Line riders got fed up with waiting and exited into a tunnel where the third rail power was still on.

Preliminary findings show the train was out of contact with central controllers for at least four minutes.

Including the wait while the two riders were walked the short distance to the Farragut North platform, train riders were stuck for more than half an hour. The train initially stopped because of a faulty switch. Riders who wanted to continue home on Metro had to wait for another train to come through toward Shady Grove.

Ethics

The conflicting missions of Metro Board members appointed by various jurisdictions and agencies across the region, along with other long-held governance concerns, have led to the fifth set of recommended ethics changes in the last 10 years.

The Metro Board’s Governance Committee will hear the latest advice from consultants from the Jones Day law firm, who recommend improving Metro bylaws to include a “clear, focused comprehensive description of the roles of the Board and officers and the rules for taking action.”

The recommendations also include an improved code of ethics and a list of documents that can help new board members figure out how things work.

Action on the changes is expected next month.

Development

The full Metro Board is scheduled to approve the $3 million sale of one acre of land at Congress Heights, and to approve a public hearing on parking changes at the New Carrollton Metro.

The New Carrollton changes would lead to an expanded bus loop and Kiss and Ride area. Surface parking spots that are taken away eventually will be replaced by spots in a parking garage.

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