One year ago, two Red Line trains collided near the Fort Totten station, killing nine and injuring dozens. In the months that followed, serious questions were raised about safety within Metro. While the National Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue a final report on the crash, the safety agency has indicated there are significant deficiencies with Metro’s culture of safety. Presently there are four open NTSB investigations regarding Metro. In today’s Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson gives a review of the fallout from the accident.
In the year since the crash, Metro has been plagued with further safety lapses. A spat of track worker deaths and collisions in rail yards further tarnished Metro’s reputation. In January, John Catoe announced his resignation from the transit agency, noting the public’s loss in faith in Metro’s management was becoming too much of a distraction. In April, former NJ PATH manager Richard Sarles took over as Metro’s interim General Manager. This spring Metro also announced a leadership change in the safety department.
These changes aside, many are still left wondering if Metro is safer than it was a year ago. Over the past 12 months, the eyes of safety officials, journalists, bloggers and riders have all been on Metro’s safety record. Metro insists that changes are being implemented all of the time, with the goal of making the system one of the safest in the world. The progress has been slow. New safety systems have been promised, but are still in development. With unresolved questions about the Automatic Train Control system, trains have been forced to operate in manual mode, sparking delays and jerky rides.
As riders face upcoming fare hikes, concerns now often focus on quality of service rather than safety. Today, though, many riders will take pause and think of those nine people who died along the tracks between Fort Totten and Takoma. Also worth noting is the piece “Surviving Against All Odds” that tells the story of one crash victim as well as the first responders.