Today’s the big day for WMATA and the NTSB. This morning at 9:30am, NTSB will release their initial findings in the 2009 crash that claimed 9 lives as two trains collided outside the Fort Totten metro station. The preliminary documents will be released at the conclusion of the hearing, which will be livecast on the NTSB website.
If I had to make some predictions, I would imagine that fault will be placed on the system’s Automated Train Operation (ATO) system and the WEE-Z bond sensors (which Don explained last year) as well as on the not-at-all crashworthy 1000-series cars. I would also expect to see serious complaints about the leadership under John Catoe, as well as difficulties in the mid-level ranks at Metro to be blamed for the crash. Metro has said that they are working on an improvement to the ATO system, which has been disabled since the crash, but refused to answer any questions. In addition, Metro’s board has started the process for replacing the 1000-series cars, which will take several years to complete.
WMATA has been hiding behind this investigation, and its findings, since shortly after the crash, and has used the lack of a final report to mask their actions in the field from the press and the public. We can finally start to expect answers to questions like “What are you doing to fix the ATO system?” and “How is that real-time backup going?” Metro has had over a year to defer answers for most of their safety-related concerns until such time as the NTSB findings were released. Today will be some rough knocks for WMATA and their leadership, but it’s also the start of the real fix to the system. Today is when WMATA gets their final marching orders to fix ATO and return the system to scheduled operation, and that’s something I think we can all get behind.
We’ll have details as soon as they’re available.