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Federal Investigators Rip DC Metro For Improvising Train Schedules In Repair Zones

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The latest federal investigation of the D.C. Metro reveals that officials are repeatedly improvising train schedules in work zones, causing chaotic and unpredictable commutes.

Inspectors with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) found that throughout SafeTrack repair surges over the summer, D.C. Metro officials did not follow any organized pattern for train scheduling, essentially making it up. The fresh report details numerous instances where outbound trains ran consecutively while inbound trains were held in tunnels leaving commuters stranded on overcrowded platforms, reports The Washington Post.

Investigators documented the problems during Surge 1, 5 and 7, covering the beginning of SafeTrack in June through repairs conducted in August. The most recent information on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) progress available to the FTA is from August.

“WMATA did not have a clear pattern of where trains were going today,” observed a FTA inspector during Surge 1 repairs. “Twice they had four trains in a row run on right side toward D.C. while holding a Vienna train in the tunnel for 10 minutes.”

The victims of the poorly planned scheduling are the riders, who have complained about excessive wait times and overcrowding throughout the SafeTrack maintenance work. Metro officials warn riders before each Surge to expect delays and post an estimate of the interval trains will be running at, but officials at the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) have not been successful in keeping trains on a set pace.

“Recommend better planning by ROCC to keep from sending to many trains in one direction without having a train going back,” an FTA inspector wrote regarding SafeTrack repairs. “At times there was three trains going toward Shady Grove and nothing going back toward D.C. There were a lot of trains going out of service. Passengers had to offload and then get on next train, at one point the same passengers offloaded at two stations in a row.”

Orange Line trains traveling between the Vienna and West Falls Church stations are single-tracking for 42 days during Surge 9 SafeTrack repairs, a process which began Sept. 15. D.C. Metro officials are warning riders at the Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations to anticipate large disruptions to regular service throughout the maintenance work. Officials will also conduct repairs every weekend through the surge, which ends Oct. 26.

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