Metro disciplines 5 connected to red signal error; hot trains and stations causing added delays

- The heat wave is doing its best to make Metro’s maintenance problems even more unbearable.

Hot and humid temperatures have made for even more uncomfortable rides along the already crowded transit system’s rail lines.

WAMU transportation reporter and FOX 5 contributor, Martin Di Caro, joined us from the Farragut North station in downtown Washington with a look some of the issues riders are facing.

HOT CARS

Metro is having major problems keeping the air conditioning units working in their rail cars, Caro said. The maintenance problems don’t end there, however. In addition to the air-conditioning systems - brake problems, door problems, and propulsion issues have caused recent difficulties. "Consultants have found that quite often rail cars are fixed and within seven days they're broken again after being put back into service," Caro said.

Newer cars are also having problems with their air conditioning. Metro tells Caro that a new software fix – hopefully ready by the end of the week - will prevent the a/c units from shutting off when the newer trains travel over a gap in the third rail.

"On any given day Metro can have upwards of twenty rail cars out of service just for air-conditioning issues," Caro said. This leads to overcrowded trains and uncomfortable riding conditions.

HOT STATIONS

The Farragut North and Dupont Circle stations have had issues keeping waiting passengers cool, Caro said. Instead of air-conditioning units, Metro stations are kept cool with devices called Chillers. The Chillers are fed cold water which is then used to keep the surrounding area cool. Caro said a leak in a pipe which supplies cold water to the Farragut and Dupont stations has kept the cooling system from doing its job. No word, he says, on when repairs will be made.

RED LIGHT VIOLATIONS

On July 5th, a red light violation between the Wheaton and Glenmont stations resulted in the firing of a train operator. Metro said the operator went through a red signal and almost caused a head-on collision with another train. On Monday, Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced disciplinary actions against five more employees involved in that incident. One of the employees disciplined allegedly failed to verify that the third rail had been de-energized before some passengers exited the rail cars – putting them at risk. Two superintendents and two rail traffic controllers have also been disciplined in connection to the July 5th incident.

Caro reports that eight red light signal violations have been reported this year and sixteen last year. Since 2012, sixty-six total red light signal violations have been reported. "The entire signal system, all the rules, are designed to prevent head-on collisions, train-on-train collisions and any time a train operator violates a red signal a stop signal, it's a serious issue," Caro said.

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