Buses, cabs, bikes rule in DC subway shutdown

A metro employee shuts down escalators to the McPherson Square Station in Washington. Photo / AP
A metro employee shuts down escalators to the McPherson Square Station in Washington. Photo / AP

Washington's Metro system will resume rail service at 5am (10pm NZT) after an emergency one-day shutdown that caused chaos throughout the region.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said that crews had completed inspections of 80 per cent of the 600 "jumper cables" identical to one that caught fire on Tuesday and crippled service on three rail lines.

Crews inspecting 22 zones, identified 26 areas with defects and completed repairs to 18 of those. It was hoped the remaining could be completed later today. If that was not possible, or if other problems were found, it's possible the re-opening might include single-tracking or other service modifications, Wiedefeld said.

Wiedefeld showed a video of one exposed jumper cable that looked like a jumble of wires, its insulation peeled away.

"Today presented a hardship for the region," Wiedefeld acknowledged, thanking the public for its patience.

Kathy Walters of Ellicott City, Maryland, says her commute is long no matter what and she doesn't mind taking a cab. She says: "We can all suffer a little bit today. ... If they can fix it and make it better, it's all good to me."

Keisha Keith took the city-run Circulator bus, which was free. That replaced her usual bus-and-Metro trip. She says the bus was standing-room-only.

The US Department of Transportation announced that it plans to launch a safety inspection blitz of the Metro rail system beginning next week to review red-light running by train operators, imperfections in tracks and misuse of hand brakes.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would redirect millions of dollars in money unspent by Metro to address safety concerns.
The unprecedented one-day shutdown of the 160km rail system, on which passengers take 712,800 trips on an average weekday, came two days after electrical fire that was eerily reminiscent of one last year that resulted in one death and sent scores more to the hospital.

The region lurched through the first day since 1976 in which Metro was shut down for something other blizzard or hurricane passing through. Unlike those rare instances, the federal government, schools and offices were fully open for business.

But much has changed in 40 years, perhaps foremost among them the ability to tele-commute rather than journey to a workplace. Thousands of people clearly did just that.
During both morning and evening rush hour, traffic was not much heavier than normal and some drivers found it lighter than average. Some buses were more crowded than usual at peak hours, but riders reported that often there were seats or room to crowd in.

The District's taxis were out in force, but many drivers said that fares were not as plentiful as they had hoped.

Bicycles were out in numbers on pleasant spring day, and some riders said they had dusted them off after winter in the basement. More than twice as many bicyclists and pedestrians crossed the Key Bridge between Rosslyn and Georgetown this morning as normal, numbers from Arlington County's automated counters show.

Traffic experts said it would be days before clear conclusions can be drawn about how badly - or gently - the absence of Metro hit the region during peak periods Wednesday.
"I don't have a definite picture. From just rough estimates, I don't think it was as bad as it could have been. Nothing too crazy," said one Washington area traffic data analyst, who preferred not to be quoted without a pile of clear data in hand.

- Washington Post

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