Metrorail service will remain at reduced capacity through at least Nov. 15, WMATA announced Thursday, following a derailment earlier this month that led the transit agency to pull 60% of its fleet of railcars from the tracks.
This extends the current timetable for restoration of service by at least another two weeks. Metro had initially said service would be reduced through at least Oct. 24, then extended it until Oct. 31.
Trains will continue to run every 15-20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30-40 minutes on all other lines. Silver Line service will keep running only between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW.
Metro is encouraging riders to use to use Metrobus as an alternative if possible.
“It has been a difficult few weeks for those who rely on transit in the region, and we thank our customers for their continued patience as we work to increase service as quickly as we can with safety being our top priority,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a release.
The transit agency pulled all of its 7000-series rail cars after Oct. 12's partial derailment on the Blue Line, which happened near the Arlington Cemetery station.
Nearly 200 riders sat on the dark train and then walked through a tunnel the equivalent of about six football fields to get to safety. Some riders reported smoke on the train and made panicked calls to family members to tell them they loved them, fearing the worst.
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One person was taken to a hospital. Many more people could have been hurt or even killed, Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said at a news conference earlier this month.
Metro’s top leaders faced many more questions about the state of the system in Thursday’s board meeting compared to the previous one.
Some board members questioned why riders are still paying full price if they aren’t getting full service.
”Clearly, we are not offering peak service during peak times, but yet we are still charging peak fares, are we not?” Board member Lucinda Babers asked.
“So the question is, Should we still be charging peak fares?” she said.
Metro Board Chairman Paul Smedberg said it’s likely that something will be done with respect to possibly lowering fares during this period.
Wiedefeld said Thursday that WMATA is continuing to work with the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission on a plan to get the 7000-series railcars back into service. Wiedefeld said the transit agency has finished inspections of all its 7000-series railcars for the wheel defect that caused the derailment.
Wiedefeld said he didn’t know about the wheel defect, which the transit agency had known about since 2017.
That stirred more questions about a potential coverup. A pamphlet with the headline “Safety Trumps Service” that Wiedefeld handed out in 2016 says “They didn’t tell me” is an excuse he wouldn’t accept.
WMATA is now working with the safety commission on a testing plan of the cars, he said. There is no timetable for getting them back in service.