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Top officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) warned riders that they may be required to shut down entire lines of the city’s transit system for up to six months in order to address necessary maintenance concerns. Board Chairman Jack Evans stated that the required upkeep for the transit system “cannot be done on three hours a night and on weekends.” Evans stated that any of the six lines of the Metro could be affected – and wholly shut down – by the repairs. A final decision on how to best proceed will be made within a month to six weeks by General Manager Paul J Wiedefeld, who is in charge of the operations of the Metro.

Crowded metro
Passengers wait for the Metro on a crowded platform (Flickr/dbking)

This announcement comes after a series of troubling incidents on the Metro. A crash on the Metro’s Red Line in 2009 caused nine deaths, which shed light on numerous safety issues and a lack of managerial oversight which were responsible for the crash. In January 2015, one passenger was killed and another 80 passengers faced health issues after a train car filled with smoke from a cable fire. More recently, another cable fire on March 15th prompted authorities to shut down the metro for 29 hours in order to conduct a system-wide jumper cable inspection.

Some critics of the Metro – the fourth-busiest transit agency in the country in terms of passenger trips – blame the system’s many issues on the split-governance of the Metro, understaffing, internal politics, and difficulty obtaining adequate funding.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. In a Terrifying Instant in Car 1079, Lives Became Forever Intertwined – The Washington Post
  2. Metro Could Shut Down Entire Rail Lines to Do Extended Maintenance, Board Chair Says – The Washington Post
  3. 1 Dead, Dozens Hurt after Metro Car Fills with Smoke – The Washington Post
  4. D.C. Metro To Shut Down All Day Wednesday For ‘Emergency Investigation’ – NPR
  5. 2015 Public Transportation Fact Book – American Public Transportation Association
  6. Washington Metro, 40 and Creaking, Stares at a Midlife Crisis – The New York Times
  7. Here are 10 of the Biggest Problems Facing Metro, According to FTA – The Washington Post
  8. DC, Maryland, and Virginia: We Need to Talk about Metro – The Urban Institute