Time to reaassemble railcars into single-series trains
In last month's NTSB hearing, experts concluded that moving the 1000-series cars to the center of train consists probably offered no safety benefit.
Metro began moving those cars, the oldest in the fleet, to the center of trains shortly after the crash in June. At the time, Metro cited safety as the reason for the change, saying that it was "common sense."
But a November crash in the West Falls Church rail yard suggests the opposite. The cars that sustained the most damage in that accident were the 1000-series cars in the center of the train. And that crash was probably at less than 20 miles per hour.
Last week, staff told the WMATA Board that running trains made up of different series decreases the average distance between breakdowns by 17%.
The last several months have been trying times for Metro riders. With manual operation reducing capacity and slowing trains, our commutes have often been marked by spending longer on more crowded trains. With trains breaking down more often, passengers are stuck with even more delay and inconvenience, apparently with little benefit to their safety.
Trains with mixed cars run more jerkily, as different series of cars accelerate slightly differently, and the electronic automated announcements on newer cars don't work when older cars are part of the train.
I don't think Metro made the decision to reconfigure trains in bad faith. Their move attempted to improve passenger safety and piece of mind. But it does not solve the problem presented by the 1000 series. And it has created new problems for the transit agency.
Metro should begin rebuilding trains by series. The agency can't afford the cost of extra breakdowns, and neither can customers. It's not worth spending massive amounts of time or money to reorganize them all over again, but worth remaking trains by series as the opportunity arises.
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