Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Metro Subway Safety Shutdown Makes for Very Long Day in D.C

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Metro Subway Safety Shutdown Makes for Very Long Day in D.C

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - An unprecedented 29-hour safety shutdown of subways in the nation's capital inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people on Wednesday, but despite predictions of "Metromageddon" or "Metropocalypse," it was hardly the end of the world. Many riders shrugged it off, saying it's what they've come to expect from the aging, troubled Metro system.

One popular Twitter feed about the system, @unsuck dcmetro, was running a poll on whether the shutdown would solve "Metro's flaming cables problem. Thousands voted, with more than three quarters saying no.

"Metro sucks, said Bob Jones, 26, of Arlington, Virginia as he waited for a bus. The subways are "always slow, always crowded, he complained.

The nation's second-busiest rail system stopped its trains at midnight Tuesday for a system-wide inspection of its third-rail power cables after an electrical fire on Monday. Officials planned to reopen at 5 a.m. today unless inspectors find an immediate safety threat, which the system's general manager said was unlikely.

Without working trains in the way, 22 inspection teams were walking 100 miles of underground track, checking power cables for potential problems. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said Wednesday afternoon that some repairs were already being made. Metro planned an update later in the day.

Riders take more than 700,000 trips on Metro trains every day because it's still a quick way to get downtown from Maryland, Virginia and the city's outer neighborhoods. But the system has become less reliable and ridership has suffered.

Metro's general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, who took over in November after running the Baltimore-Washington airport, acknowledged in a public letter last month that the agency must "improve safety and security, deliver more reliable service, and continue reforms to get our financial house in order.

The system has closed for days for weather, but this was believed to be the first shutdown for mechanical reasons.

"While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life and safety issue here, and this is why we must take this action immediately, Wiedefeld said. …

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