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Government Transportation United States

DC Metro Closes For Emergency Safety Inspection (nbcwashington.com) 110

McGruber writes with NBC's report that Washington, DC's Metrorail system has been completely shut down for at least 29 hours, so crews can check 600 underground jumper cables: A problem with those jumper cables caused a fire at the McPherson Square station early Monday and was also the cause of a fatal smoke incident in January, 2015, that killed one person and injured others. The safety checks could have been delayed until the weekend or conducted at night over about six days, officials said. But if the system were kept open, a public announcement about the risk would have to be made. That would have put passengers, and Metro, in the awkward position of publicly acknowledging that it was operating despite being aware of a potentially deadly safety problem. Metro also would have been liable in the case of any crashes or calamities. The shutdown prompted the Washington Post to publish an editorial titled It's official: Metro is a national embarrassment."
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DC Metro Closes For Emergency Safety Inspection

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  • If we all had flying cars this would not be a problem.
    • Well, since this is DC, better get VIP plates for them or you'll be in a holding pattern.

    • "If we all had flying cars this would not be a problem"

      My guess is that if we all had flying cars, they would be items one, four, and seven on our personal list of problems. Among the issues:

      1. Broken cars STOP. Broken aircraft DROP
      2. Ignoring the Check Engine light in a flying car until you have time/money to deal with it is likely to be a fatal strategy.
      3. Many drivers have substantial difficulty navigating safely in two dimensions. Another dimension is unlikely to make things any easier.
      4. Insuranc

  • Far too often these things aren't done because they are too hard. Glad to see them take it seriously and check everything out, although I feel the pain for commuters in DC.

    • by TopShelf ( 92521 )

      It's just too bad things had to get to this point to have the work done, just another example of how sorely we need to step up our maintenance and development of public infrastructure.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      (disclaimer, yes I am a Slashdot heretic, I read both the article and the comments attached to it)

      So, it looks like the DC Metro has a new general manager who is probably just now finally getting the reports from the establish Metro bureaucrats about how poorly maintained the whole DC underground deathtrap array is. If he can find a way to destroy the organizational inertia and make some real changes in how that rail line is run, this may end well. My cynical side wonders if he will actually work toward m

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I read both the article and the comments attached to it

        No wonder you posted as an AC. I did that once... I found out the links actually went to someone's grocery shopping list, written in Swahili, and that they'd never actually meant for us to read 'em in the first place!

        • No it was likely a link to the Washington Post or Fox News or some similar place and you mistook their reporting style for Swahili... either that or it was the advertising on the site getting in the way again...

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            The only Swahili I know is "Jambo." I used to know some other words but I've long since forgotten and I've not been back to southern Africa in a while. Oh, Jakola. (I have no idea how that's spelled - pronounced ja cool ah.) That means food. Jambo means hello. Hmm... About ten minutes after I send this, I'll remember a few more words.

            But, you're right. It probably was Fox. ;-)

      • This is just "maintenance theater". This problem has been festering for years, and then all of the sudden they decide it is a "crisis" and they need to shutdown the entire system for a full day in the middle of a work week. This maintenance could have easily been done during regular daily shutdowns from midnight to 5am. Or it could have been done on a weekend. Or they could have done it one line at a time, so that there would be enough buses/taxies/ubers to handle the displaced commuters.

        The only reason

    • Re:Good for them! (Score:4, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:24AM (#51707483) Homepage Journal

      Good for them! Over a first year since the first incident, they're finally getting around to it! What a responsible bunch!

  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:12AM (#51707395)

    If the first deadly accident with these jumper cables happened in January of last year, why did they wait so long to close down to inspect?

    • by PhoenixFlare ( 319467 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:21AM (#51707467) Journal

      Because...well, because it's the DC Metro and it's run by horrible people.

      The only thing they seem to actually care about is how much money they can make, while pushing things to the absolute limit in terms of customer service and equipment.

      I spent 6 years using the system to get back and forth from NoVA to downtown DC every day for work....and if I had to move back there now, I would be driving and paying for parking, absolutely no hesitation, even though it'd probably be at least twice the cost.

      See https://twitter.com/unsuckdcme... [twitter.com] for many, many examples.

      • "The only thing they seem to actually care about is how much money they can make,"

        Not so. They seem to be obsessed with the possibility that one or more passengers might eat or drink something. They CARE about preventing that.

        That said, I live out in the boonies nowadays and haven't experienced the DC metro for 8 or 10 years. But I recall it as being no worse than, and possibly a bit better than the Boston MTA, NYC subways, PATH, the Japanese subway and train systems, or the London underground. Has it c

        • by RDW ( 41497 )

          That said, I live out in the boonies nowadays and haven't experienced the DC metro for 8 or 10 years. But I recall it as being no worse than, and possibly a bit better than the Boston MTA, NYC subways, PATH, the Japanese subway and train systems, or the London underground. Has it changed?

          I was in the DC area a lot about 15 years ago, and found the system much, much nicer to use to use than most of the London Underground or the NYC subway, with few technical problems. In 2013 I went back and had the alarming experience of sitting on a train that started to fill with acrid fumes as something began to burn, luckily while still at one of the above ground stations. Passengers in 2015 weren't so lucky, when a smoke incident in a tunnel caused a fatality. Decades of neglect, including inadequate c

      • by Tran ( 721196 )

        yeah, maybe run by horrible people.
        I know you are not implying at all, but this is not limited to government. Working in the private sector (huge manufacturing company in the US, ~$20 billion, albeit our location is a tiny part (~34 million) ).

        We have similar issues - basically boils down to: maintenance is not sexy,

        unless a machine is brand spanking new. It is amazing how quickly maintenance is seen as a drain of resources rather than a necessary part of business. Even though i work in the offices rather

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Because...well, because it's the DC Metro and it's run by horrible people.

        The only thing they seem to actually care about is how much money they can make, while pushing things to the absolute limit in terms of customer service and equipment.

        I spent 6 years using the system to get back and forth from NoVA to downtown DC every day for work....and if I had to move back there now, I would be driving and paying for parking, absolutely no hesitation, even though it'd probably be at least twice the cost.

        See https://twitter.com/unsuckdcme... [twitter.com] for many, many examples.

        DC's metro system isn't that bad. You should try coming to Perth, Western Australia where not only does Transperth take 3 times as long as driving but they also claim that weather shut down one of their lines on a perfectly clear spring day... That is if you're lucky enough to be in an area serviced by Transperth.

        After a month or two on Perth's public transport system you'll go back singing the praises of the DC Metro.

        Also come to England and experience the wide open spaces of London's tube stations [wikimedia.org].

    • It takes time to be sure of the cause, sure that there are related items that need to be checked, sure you're not going to get fired for bringing it up...

    • by Koreantoast ( 527520 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:36AM (#51707569)
      WMATA did an inspection of the jumper cables back in February 2015 [wmata.com] and then replaced around 120 or so. They probably thought the problem was resolved at that point. Unfortunately, a new fire earlier this week revealed that the problem has not been resolved.
    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:38AM (#51707581) Homepage

      The biggest reason is that someone else was in charge last year.

      After the first* incident government agency (NTSB?) ordered the cables inspected, and WMATA (the people who run the DC Metro) use their own crews to do the inspection, in the off-hours.

      Now WMATA has a new leader, who's much more focused on safety (I think they said he came from the airline industry) ... and the incident happened again. So he said (or at least hinted at, I was driving while WTOP was broadcasting the press conference) that they can't trust the last inspection, and they're bringing in outside crews to do the inspection this time around.

      * "first" only in terms of this problem. Two family friends died in the 2009 red line crash, which killed nine people.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I remember that article. I don't recall any "two people" who died in it except a ANG general and his wife. Odds are, unless you're strange luck and the news didn't mention it, those would be your family friends. Unless there were other groups of two in the total group of nine that were fatally injured and the news didn't mention them. I seem to recall he was in the DC ANG but have no idea what the name was. (By sheer happenstance, I was in the area at the time.)

        • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

          Your logic is flawed. The two people didn't have to be connected to each other. They just had to be connected via friendship to oneiros' family.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            No, your reading comprehension is flawed. That's covered with the "strange luck" and is intentionally why I wrote "strange luck." After all, what are the odds of that? Not very high, not very high at all.

    • by wiredog ( 43288 )

      They did inspect it, and then one of the cables that had passed the inspection failed and caught fire yesterday.

    • by merky1 ( 83978 )

      They did inspect them. They just did such a craptacular job, that another lit on fire 2 days ago (luckily off hours). The problem with metro is purely political. Between all of the contracts and oversight, nothing gets done. Situations like this are a prime example why outsourcing in government fails horribly.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @09:18AM (#51707441)
    In related news, I-94 outside of Milwaukee will be shut down late Friday night to allow bridge construction to continue. Seriously though, infrastructure breaks down and needs major repairs from time to time, so why is this news to the point of causing the Washington Post to whine about some repairs as a "national embarrassment." (Believe me - no one outside of DC cares one bit about this story.)
    • by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @10:57AM (#51708217)

      I lived in DC for 5 years. Before, I lived in NYC for 5 years, and I'm now living in Chicago for 3, so I have some basis for comparison. The DC metro system is in an unusually high state of disrepair. Fixes don't happen until they're life threatening--and even then, they sometimes don't happen for a year.

      While I was living in DC, at least 2 DC metro events made the national news: the first was the train collision that killed a few people because the conductors weren't coordinated, and the second was due to an escalator brake collapsing, leading to multiple injuries. I've also had to find alternative means of transportation due to 2 fires in the metro system. People aren't complaining that work is being done on the system. People are complaining that there is very little maintenance and that problems get so severe that a whole system shutdown is needed.

      There have been a number of articles in the Post about the state of disrepair for the DC metro system. Many people have speculated that the system is corrupt. They certainly charge enough for the service. A 30 minute trip costs about $2.25, and a one hour trip costs about $5.00.

      After having used the NYC, DC and Chicago systems extensively--and the BART system--I'd have to say that the DC system is a disaster. The problem is particularly acute for the DC area since the city is not designed to handle the amount of traffic its population would otherwise need.

      • I grew up in NYC, and have been living near DC for almost 10 years now.

        It's not so much that the DC system is in a greater state of disrepair (NYC's subway system is breaking down all the time), but rather that the DC system is much more fragile. In NYC, there are both local and express tracks, and in lower Manhattan multiple lines within a few blocks of each other, such that when a section of track needs repair, it is much easier to re-route. Growing up, the only time the entire system ever shut down was

    • In related news, I-94 outside of Milwaukee will be shut down late Friday night to allow bridge construction to continue.

      That's just one single bridge, not an entire system, being shutdown for planned construction over a weekend.... after plenty of notice was given to the people who use the bridge.

      Do you remember when Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge failed back on December 13, 2000? [wikipedia.org] To be similar to what's happening in DC, people would have been killed during a Milwaukee bridge collapse, then a second Milwaukee bridge would have to have collapsed a few months later, then all of of Milwaukee's interstates would have had to be shutd

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or rather, the culture that allowed this to happen.

    Last January, an electrical fire caused by problems in feeder wires that provide power to the rails killed someone. The NTSB ordered DC Metro to inspect ALL such feeder wires.

    Last Monday, another electrical fire was caused by a problem in feeder wires - wires that were apparently "inspected" and "passed" just a few months ago.

    In other words, the previous inspections were falsified. In US Navy parlance, they were "gundecked". [urbandictionary.com]

    My guess is a few mid-level man

  • It's an election year, so the metro is filling up with the black ooze that is the souls of congress and other politicians.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In 2014 I travelled for the first time to the United States, and I was astonished at the public transit system. It felt like stepping into a third world country. It was dirty, smelt of human urine (?!), there were people wandering around shouting loudly and insanely to no one, and the rolling stock felt like it was taken straight from 1950's, rather than being clean and modern. I found it all very frightening.

    I don't know what went wrong there, but if I lived there I would try to never use that system as

    • by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @10:37AM (#51708047) Journal

      That's 'cause we can afford cars. No, seriously. We don't rely on mass transit - it's a cultural thing. Look at the percentages and socio-economic class of people who use the (limited) mass transit available.

      Also, I have to wonder if you're stupid or just ignorant - and, if the latter, it is willfully so? Seriously. The US is a rather diverse and large place. I notice you compared the mass transit of the US to just cities in other countries - which demonstrates an even greater willingness to bias your statements.

      I'd also wonder why you'd lie... You've absolutely, zero chance, not seen all of the public transit in the US. So, I doubt you were astonished by such a thing as you've not seen it.

      Which leads me to this... You're almost certainly, by deduction, a liar - and you've probably not been to any of the places you seem to claim you've been and that includes the places you're contrasting with. It's telling, in some ways, that you used Moscow - I've been to Moscow and been on public transit there (you'll need to narrow down which transit(s) you speak of) and am inclined to think you've never actually been.

      So, you're probably actually from the US. Your writing style, the grammar and verbiage used, indicate that you're really from the US. That means you probably don't own a passport and haven't been out of the US in your life. I'm not sure why you'd lie - except to troll. However, trolls are my source of amusement at times - more so when I'm bored, and it's fun to pick apart the idiocy they spout for their own amusement. Thank you for the fun game. I appreciated it and the folks who read the response may also be aware of the idiocies in your post.

      • by smithmc ( 451373 )
        I don't know where you're from, but the mass-transit system with which I have the most personal experience - the NYC subway - *does* stink of urine sometimes, and sometimes *does* have crazy shouting people in it. On the other hand, it is one of the oldest and most extensive metro systems in the world, and is relatively cheap for what you get - $2.75 for a ride from the Queens/Nassau border all the way into Manhattan and up into the Bronx if you want, is a pretty good deal IMO. I've ridden the Underground
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Sure, I don't think that runs counter to anything I said - do you?

          Well, I suppose you must, given the tone and that you bothered replying.

          To demonstrate, I don't think I've seen any disturbing things in the subways in the Boston area nor on the buses. The buses in the area I'm local with at the moment aren't bad at all - or weren't the last time I was on them. I've not been on them at all since I came down here to spend the winter but I've been on them before. I've not been on any of Boston's subways in a f

      • Actually, he was 100% right.

        Looking at NYC because it's the closest peer to Moscow: NYC claims it is impossible to run more than 30 trains per hour [wikipedia.org] on its most crowded subway lines, while Moscow routinely runs 42-44 trains per hour [wikipedia.org] on its lines. NYC subway stops are routinely dumps [newsday.com]; Moscow stops are architectural marvels [ggpht.com]. So it's not surprising that Moscow's subway has 60% more riders per mile [wikipedia.org].

        As for smaller US cities, they typically consist of just buses except for maybe one central corridor. The buses are

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          He was right about what? He lied, he wasn't *right* about anything.

          Moscow is really neat - I didn't argue against that nor did I, in any way, indicate that NYC was anything other than what it was. Did you read what they wrote? Did you read what I wrote? I'm thinking that you didn't or, for some reason, either added things to their post or to my post. I responded to what they said and I meant everything that I said.

          I'm not sure why you inserted NYC's subway system. It's not the topic and neither of us mentio

    • Let's be fair. Our public transit system is more like a second world country ;-) With the exception of certain historic lines (ie: San Francisco's trolley's), the rolling stock doesn't date to the 50s, but can be as old as the 70s or 80s, though most cities with trains that old are in the process of actively refreshing their stock.

      I've visited Europe several times now, but have yet to visit Asia. The older parts of the public transit systems in Europe are generally comparable to the US, though I'll admit

  • "You only have two remaining free articles for this month"
    Yet I didn't notice a single free article, they were plastered with ads anyway.
    (I don't have an ad blocker installed on the work computer, I guess I should install one)

  • by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2016 @10:33AM (#51708009)

    There is a serious incident on Monday, one of a number that have been raising concern. The metro decides to shut down the system to do a major safety inspection. That is somehow bad?

    The summary suggests that they could have waited until the weekend, which is true or done it at night over a longer period of time, which is also true. Of course, if another incident had occurred in either of those time frames and lives were lost, what then?

    Have we really gotten to the point in the US that no matter what the authorities do, even with matters of safety, it is always bad?

    • by decsnake ( 6658 )

      Have we really gotten to the point in the US that no matter what the authorities do, even with matters of safety, it is always bad?

      the answer to that question is, clearly, yes.

    • by smithmc ( 451373 )

      There is a serious incident on Monday, one of a number that have been raising concern. The metro decides to shut down the system to do a major safety inspection. That is somehow bad?

      Yes, when they supposedly inspected all the cables last year, and supposedly found them to be OK. That is somehow bad.

      • ...but a step in the right direction. After a long string of charlatan political hacks at the helm, DC Metro finally has a guy in charge with the balls to do something so terribly impolitic as shut down the system for 29 hours during the week with little warning, to fix stuff.

        This was a ballsy move, any way you slice it. He's gonna take some heat for this, but it was the right thing to do. But he has a long way to go. 3-flight escalators in and out of stations haven't run in years, cars desperately need up

    • There is a serious incident on Monday, one of a number that have been raising concern. The metro decides to shut down the system to do a major safety inspection. That is somehow bad?

      The editorial (3rd link in the story) posed this question:

      But if the situation was dire enough to require a unilateral shutdown at midnight, why was it simultaneously okay for people to ride home on Tuesday night?

    • If this were the only safety incident, sure.

      But at this point, they have the credibility of a US Senator talking about corruption when it comes to safety.

    • There is a serious incident on Monday, one of a number that have been raising concern. The metro decides to shut down the system to do a major safety inspection. That is somehow bad?

      It's a WaPo opinion "article". Some "journalist" got his jimmies rustled and had to whaa whaa whaa about it. WaPo editors, having nothing of worth to publish and having no standards, ran with it.

  • It's official: Metro is a national embarrassment."

    The US electoral process, on the other hand, is an international embarrassment. I never watch reality TV, and even I'm keeping track of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since when do power cables spontaneously combust? What actually caused the fires, has there been any disclosure?

  • In Canada Via Rail increasing security after receiving threat
    Sniffer dogs and RCMP being deployed at some stations
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/... [www.cbc.ca]
  • I just spent the afternoon inspecting and repairing 2 (two) COTS portable heaters in my parent's hous, both of which had failed in the last several weeks.

    Both had similar failures - one of the AC-power lines had over-heated at the (automotive "spade" connector), singing the cable insulation until it shorted out elsewhere. Inadequate jointing design. One cable I replaced, another - where a plastic-bodied time clock was physically close - I took the clock out of the circuit, leaving the thermostat operating.

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