Monday, June 22, 2009

Red Line Collision Mars Commute

The big news of the evening was a collision between two Red Line trains on the DC Metro. The most recent reports tally 6 deaths and more than 70 injuries. The crash between two inbound trains occurred under the New Hampshire Avenue overpass, just north of Fort Totten station. The accident happened at about 5:02p. 

I work in Silver Spring, a Red Line stop north of the crash site. I live in DC's Petworth neighborhood, just off the Green Line. At the time of the accident, I was still at work, although I was preparing to leave. Every day I travel over this stretch of track, and my commute was quite a bit longer this evening. I thought I'd post a few of my observations from today.

Firstly, I found out about the incident not from WMATA, but from Maryland's MTA. The MTA operates MARC commuter trains, and I'm subscribed to their service announcements. They announced that Brunswick Line trains would be holding at Union Station indefinitely due to the incident. 

Needing to know how to get home, I tried Metro's website, which was receiving so much traffic that it refused to load. Originally, WTOP reported that trains were operating between Glenmont and Takoma, where I could transfer to my local bus line (50s Line). However, when I got to Silver Spring Metro, the station manager just repeatedly yelled "No Trains, No Trains, No Trains." There was no crowd of people, he just kept repeating it. When I approached, he just repeated it with more focus. This was despite the fact that I could hear the train operator upstairs announcing that her train was going to Glenmont. And while the vast majority of commuters do travel toward DC, some do commute to Glenmont. Therefore it was not entirely expedient to announce "No Trains." 

I met my boyfriend, who also works in Silver Spring, at the nearby McDonald's. He had left work at 5:00, and gone to Silver Spring like usual. He boarded a train, which was held "due to delays" for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes, the train was taken out of service, and everyone was told they would not be able to go downtown. Stranded, and unaware of local bus routes, he called his brother to come pick him up. I caught a ride with them to College Park, where I could catch the Green Line.

At the station, I was surprised to hear the announcements. They reported that due to a "train experiencing mechanical difficulties," major disruptions were occurring on the Red Line. Mechanical Difficulties? That's a bit light Metro. It also didn't jibe with the PIDS screens, which reported Red Line service disruptions because of "police activity at Fort Totten." It seems a bit disingenuous to underrepresent something like this. Most passengers have alternative methods to find out about these things (e.g. cell phones), and to attribute 6 deaths to "mechanical difficulties" is a bit of a stretch. 

I got off at Fort Totten, because I was curious. I walked toward the scene, to see what was visible. I passed a person waiting on the Shuttle, who wondered why he had to find out about this from his Aunt in Florida and not from Metro. I heard others on the news later espouse similar views. From Metro, mum was the word.

The area around New Hampshire and First NE was wild. News crews littered the fringe of the scene, with knots of onlookers scattered about. Most of the area closest to the overpass was roped off, with police, fire, and rescue personnel still working on the search for the injured. Walking further up, I eventually caught a glimpse of the rear of the second train, but I couldn't see the telescoped car. There were fire trucks and ambulances from several jurisdictions, including Kensington and Wheaton in Maryland. Also present was the Prince George's County Ambulance/Bus. 

Finally, I trekked back to Fort Totten, and rode the Green Line home. I'm not fearful of riding the Metro. In fact, I have little alternative, but it's still the safest mode of travel in the region. The last time an accident killed a Metro rider was in 1982. Hopefully it will be a lot longer until the next time. 

Photos from my trek. All photos are from/on Blair Road south of Oglethorpe Street.

The next one is actually from 1st and New Hampshire NE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Condolences to the victims and their families. Once again Metro fais to inform its customers about what is happening. I heard one lady waiting at a Red Line station found out about this from friends in London!

More importantly, it appears that Metro has ignored NTSB safety warnings. I think most of the top management at Metro should be fired and let's bring in people who know how to run a transit system.