In the summer of 2010, there were reports of doors opening while trains were in motion. That’s bad – even for Metro.
The following is a Washington Post article from July, 2010, in which Metro management flat out lies about the situation:
“Metro has removed 100 cars from service in a sudden move that officials said was made as a precaution to guarantee passenger safety.
The unexpected announcement, which concerned door operation, was made shortly before midnight Saturday.
Metro said it expected the move, made after service ended Friday night, to affect service “somewhat” during the coming workweek.
“This is a precautionary and proactive action to ensure the highest level of safety for our riders,” said Interim General Manager Richard Sarles.
In the announcement, Metro said that 60 to 70 of the cars, which are in the 4000 series, are in use on an average weekday.
All of the cars are expected to be back in use within two to three weeks, Metro said.
In discussing the effect of the withdrawal of the cars from service, Metro said ridership on Monday is expected to be light because of the federal holiday.
Additionally, Metro said, many people may extend vacations after Monday so that the weekday ridership is likely to be lower than on a typical workweek. Each day, Metro said, additional cars should become available for service after testing and repair.
Metro’s fleet consists of 1120 cars, and on a typical work week 850 are used in the peak rush hour periods, Metro said.
The removal of the cars from service came on the eve of a day which traditionally puts the system to a severe test.
On July 4, passenger loads often approach record levels as hundreds of thousands of people pack into the trains to go to and from the Mall for the July 4 fireworks display.
Metro said the removal of the cars had no impact on service Saturday. Metro officials said they “expect little impact” on service Sunday, with plans calling for 800 cars to be in use at the height of the so-called fireworks rush, between 6 pm and midnight.
Metro said that the removal of the cars was not a response to a particular incident.
However, Metro said all of its 4000 series cars were taken out of service at the end of operations on Friday to allow its rail specialists to address a problem that could cause doors to open while the cars are moving.
Metro said the decision to remove the cars from service stemmed from tests and observations made by its own staff.
In its announcement, Metro said its specialists have been able to identify the cause of the concern about erratic door operations.
In addition, Metro said, it has also identified the necessary fix.
It involved circuitry in door motors, Metro said.
The cars have a total of 1,200 such motors, the announcement said, and engineers and mechanics will work around the clock to test and repair them all.
As cars are checked out, Metro said, they will be returned to service.”
Quotes (from above):
“Metro said that the removal of the cars was not a response to a particular incident.”
“However, Metro said all of its 4000 series cars were taken out of service at the end of operations on Friday to allow its rail specialists to address a problem that could cause doors to open while the cars are moving.”
“Metro said the decision to remove the cars from service stemmed from tests and observations made by its own staff.”
From the above quotes one would think that the decision has nothing to do with alarmed passengers reporting that the doors are opening while the trains are moving – as described in Metro’s own incident reports which were never made public — until now.
Some of those incident reports follow. Note – all of these incident reports are from before the rail cars were taken out of service, but in many cases there is no way to tell which of these are 4000 series cars:
7149945 REPORT OF DOOR OPENING WHILE TRAIN MOVING, A01, CMD, DOOR, 111 4074, RAIL CAR, BREDA, 4000 DC, A CAR
7149780 REPORT OF DOORS OPENING WHILE TRAIN IN MOTION, B10, CMD, DOOR, 115 4001, RAIL CAR, BREDA, 4000 DC, B CAR
7137664 REPORT OF DOOR LEAF OPENED OPPOSITE SIDE OF PLATFORM, B09, RTR, DOPS, 127
7097166 REPORT OF DOORS OPENING WHILE THE TRAIN WAS MOVING, D05, CMD, DOOR, 909
7083150 REPORT OF DOORS OPENING OUTSIDE THE PLATFORM LIMITS AT K06 AND K07.
5955268 REPORT OF DOOR OPENING WHILE TRAIN WAS IN MOTION DUE TO CUSTOMER LEANING ON DOORS., A02, CMD, DOOR, 254
7146974 TRAIN REQUESTED OUT OF SERVICE BY CMNT ON CENV INSTRUCTIONS, SEE MAXIMO #7146964 ON CAR 4074, DOOR OPENED WHILE CAR WAS MOVING
7137611 A CUSTOMER REPORTED TRAIN 127 OPENED 1 DOOR LEAF ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE PLATFORM
7086204 CUSTOMER REPORTED DOORS OPENED WHILE TRAIN WAS MOVING, B06, CMD, DOOR, 101 4070, RAIL CAR, BREDA, 4000 DC, A CAR
6221265 CUSTOMER REPORTED TWO DOORS OPENED WHILE TRAIN WAS MOVING, F03, CMD, DOOR, 515
6221254 CUSTOMER REPORTED DOOR #5 OPENED WHILE TRAIN WAS MOVING, F03, CMD, DOOR, 504
5934511 REPORT BY CUSTOMER (TO OPERATOR) THAT DOOR # 1 OPENED APPROX. 3 INCHES WHILE TRAIN WAS IN MOTION, C07, CMD, DOOR, 301
Remember, Metro said, “…the removal of the cars was not a response to a particular incident.”
That was a bald-faced lie, and sadly typical.
There had been reports of doors opening while trains were in motion for at least several weeks before management made the command decision to make the repairs. Before any action was taken, I asked a rail car maint. (CMNT) mechanic about it (to see if there was anything to the reports) and he confirmed them and said that CMNT had found that in some cases the wires that supply power to the door motors had intermittently shorted together — bypassing all of the safety checks – causing the motor to run when it should not. You’d think that might be considered a critical safety issue requiring immediate action, but not at Metro.
As I said, that was _weeks_ before any action was taken. Then, when they finally did react, they spun it as if we had discovered the problem ourselves and acted proactively! I think that’s the definition of “chutzpah”.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that it took them as long as it did to react. At least management decided to take the cars out of service _before_ one or more passengers fell out and got run over and/or electrocuted.
This problem was (is?) also indicative of a design flaw — apparently power is only removed from one of the wires to the motor when the door has reached the ‘open’ or ‘closed’ position. A safer design is to remove power from all wires — that way even if they short together the motor will not run. My guess would be that Metro will not correct the underlying flaw. Most likely they simply used electrical tape and/or heat shrink tubing to insulate the wires and maybe attempt to separate them better. I was not involved in the repairs (“not my department”) so I don’t know what was done, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was just a quick fix.
In today’s prepared testimony by Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC) chair Matthew Bassett before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and DC Oversight, it was revealed that Metro appeared to hide critical safety information from riders and the very group meant to oversee the safety of its operations.
Just prior to the July 4 weekend, Metro made an announcement that it would pull all of the 4000-series cars “to address a possible short in the car door circuitry that could cause the doors to open while the cars are in motion. The removal of the cars was not prompted by a particular incident, but performance tests and observations conducted by Metro’s operations staff.”
Sounds proactive, right?
According to today’s testimony, the TOC wanted more information about these alleged performance tests and observations.
Metro couldn’t seem to get its act together to come up with a simple answer to a relatively simple question.
Perhaps because, according to the prepared testimony, “one particular incident did not motivate the decision to remove the 4000-series, but rather a number of incidents.” This information, it turns out, came from “front-line personnel during an Aug. 10 railcar maintenance shop visit,” more than a month after the TOC made its initial request for information and weeks after the cars were “cleared” for service.
Metro appears to have flat out lied to the public and kept its oversight body completely out of the loop the entire time.
Bassett’s prepared testimony, which you can read here, cites some positive steps Metro has taken toward a safer system, but revelations like this could undermine it all. Another case of one step forward, two steps back? Remember this case of Metro BS?
We don’t know how many times we’ll have to dredge up interim GM Sarles’ bold, yet apparently meaningless statement, but here it is again: “I don’t want to hide problems. That’s the worst thing you can do.”
Prove you mean it!”
Remember, this was just over a year after the worst wreck in Metro’s history – just after they had promised to be more responsive and open with the public, as well as the TOC.
Old habits die hard I guess.