Talkin’ Transit: Doors to Nowhere

Photo courtesy of
‘CSC_1718′ courtesy of ‘Ghost_Bear’

Remember a year ago when Metro said they were going to ‘crack down’ on the rash of “doors opening” off platform? That new safety and training programs would be implemented to keep such accidents from happening?

Guess what!

It hasn’t worked.

WaPo caught the story on Monday: over the last two months, there have been 17 incidents of train doors opening at stations with cars still in the tunnel. Of those 17, 14 of them were eight-car trains that weren’t properly berthed. During rush hour. Most on the Red Line. The other three were six-car trains…two of which not properly berthed.

Photo courtesy of
‘please stand clear of the doors’ courtesy of ‘rachaelvoorhees’

The reason for the 14? “Virtually all improper door incidents occur because operators forget they are in an eight-car train” and don’t get docked at the front of the platform.


This is just beyond ludicrous. It’s simple stupidity. (Not to mention the wide-open potential for jokes.) And this is the transit line whose boss was named “Best Transit Manager of the Year.”

Seriously, this is a simple measure that shouldn’t be happening. It’s a safety violation that WMATA assures the public they take as a serious offense; operators are suspended for 12 days without pay for the first incident. The second kicks them off running a train for 18 months, demoting them to operating a bus (explaining the surly attitudes by some drivers, I’m guessing), and the third results in a pink slip.

Metro tries to explain it away with the fact that six- and four-car trains are most often computer-controlled, while the eight-car trains – more common now thanks to increasing ridership – are operated manually. (Which begs the question as to why. Does the system need a computer upgrade? Why wasn’t this anticipated before?) Catchy slogans, increased training and more signage are all attempts by agency to stop the incidents – but the most obvious solution that they for some reason refuse to implement is running ALL trains to the front of the platform, rather than centering it. How hard is this? You operate a train, you run it to the front.

Even I could do that. (Heck, I can at least count to ten. That alone should qualify me.)

Metro says they won’t because they don’t want to “inconvenience riders accustomed to boarding at specific spots.” I call bogus on that one. We’re not stupid around here; we DCites can adjust quite easily, especially if a small change like that keeps us from being ushered into the transit netherworld full of rats and third rails. Even the Metro employee’s union – Amalgamated Transit Local 689 – advocates stopping the trains at the front.

What’s really disturbing about this is that despite Metro’s repeated assurances it wouldn’t be an issue any more, the system is on track to exceed last year’s count of 42 “improper door operations” involving eight-car trains. Through the first five months of this year? They’re already at 22. Um, hello?

At least we now know why Metro can’t balance their budget: “numbers” is clearly a concept beyond their grasp.

So let’s help them out, shall we? In comments, give your suggestions – outrageous to practical – on how Metro operators can remember how many cars they have. Or, if you prefer, how this “doors to nowhere” program can be eliminated from our daily commute. Let’s stop the stupidity – give smartness a chance…

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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5 thoughts on “Talkin’ Transit: Doors to Nowhere

  1. When I get on at Rosslyn to head home, there’s a lamp at the end of the lower platform. It flashes either blue or orange, showing which way the switch is guiding a train as it pulls in.

    Perhaps we just need these at each Metro platform, where the operator looks right at it every time they pull into a station. Except instead of a blue/orange/whatever color lamp, it says whether a train is six or eight cars?

    Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I think it does, even as I type it. And yet, if these people are dumb enough not to remember in the first place, maybe we need to dumb things down to their level. Beats falling out of a train onto a third rail because some retard Metro operator didn’t pass the fourth grade.

  2. Why not a placard in the operator’s booth that says “This is a 4/6/8 car train”? It would be kind of hard to forget then.

  3. Don’t pull up to the front. You might not be stupid, but around here, “we” are stupid. Time after time, I see the signs that say an 8-car train is coming, but the first and last car are almost always empty, because people don’t bother reading.

    Best solution: run 8-car trains all the damn time.

  4. Why isn’t there an effective advocacy group that can give voice to the thousands upon thousands of metro rail and bus riders who get screwed by Metro’s incompetence on a daily basis?

    If Metro had a petition with thousands of names on it asking all trains to stop at the end of platforms could they still claim riders don’t want this?

    And don’t tell me about or transitfirst. those two operate in the dark ages of the internet despite the great positions they take.

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