Crowding on platforms along D.C.’s subway system has steadily gotten worse over the years, and now advocates are calling for change.
Patrick Sheehan, chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority accessibility advisory committee, said people with disabilities, in particular, are in peril as the station platforms become more crowded, WTOP reports.
“A lot of the disability community – because station platforms are getting more crowded – have had difficulty in boarding the trains, [and] getting enough time to figure out where the doors are,” Sheehan told the WMATA Board of Directors recently.
According to Sheehan, many riders have complained about the small window of time doors stay open to allow people on and off trains, which leads to pushing as people don’t want to be left behind.
“We would like to see the trains stay in the stations with the doors open for at least ten seconds,” he told board members. “That would allow people to get off the trains, allow people to get on the trains without having to rush forward.”
Earlier this month, federal officials launched an investigation into the transit agency after a formal complaint filed with the Federal Transit Administration claimed “Metro is so close to a deadly incident,” WAMU reports.
The complaint, filed by an unidentified passenger, said that on Nov. 10, a disabled train offloaded passengers on an already overcrowded platform at the Gallery Place station, creating chaos for riders.
“Metro station employees and loudspeakers did nothing to clear the platform, and it was extremely dangerous and scary. If anyone had panicked, people would have been crushed to death and pushed onto the rails … it was nearly impossible to move,” the complaint read.
An FTA investigator asked WMATA how it planned to respond to the overcrowding and a spokeswoman for WMATA said the agency is still trying to determine if it has the appropriate procedures in place to deal with station overcrowding, according to WAMU.
In October, the FTA began overseeing all safety operations at WMATA after repeated failures over the years left regulators with little faith in WMATA to police itself.
Platform crowding is just the most recent in a string of safety complaints at WMATA. A woman died on a WMATA train in Jan. 2014, after it became trapped in a tunnel and the tunnel filled with smoke.
Riders became so fed up with the poor service and safety issues at WMATA that earlier this year several of them formed a riders union.
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