WASHINGTON – Two weeks after trains were stranded in a tunnel on the Green Line near Anacostia, Metro admits mistakes were made.
“It’s very troubling when you don’t follow all the protocols that could have alleviated the situation,” says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles.
The incident on Jan. 30 started with an arcing insulator, a part of the third rail that smokes from an errant electrical current.
Track crews and Metro Transit Police went to fix the problem, but they hit an emergency button to shut down all power when a train approached them.
No one in the command center told the officer that the train wouldn’t hit them, and the officer did not adequately notify the command center about hitting the emergency button, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn says.
“At various times during the incident, rail radio traffic hindered the ability for transportation personnel to communicate effectively,” he says.
An investigation also found that the operator of Train 512 and officials onboard did a poor job of communicating with passengers.
The operator, on the job for seven months, “failed to make their presence known to customers throughout the train [and] made inadequate announcements to share information with passengers,” the report says.
The operator of Train 507, which was stuck in the middle of the tunnel between Navy Yard and Anacostia, did a better job of handling the situation, Metro says.
That operator attended to a passenger with a seizure and other commuters with minor medical issues. The Metro employee also received high marks for keeping passengers regularly informed.
An incident was reported when a passenger started a self-evacuation despite pleas from the operator against it.
“The official did all the right things, said all the right things and, to have one person decide to lead other people out [on train 507], that’s very difficult to deal with,” Sarles says. “That really concerns me.”
According to the initial investigation, passengers also self-evacuated from the back of Train 512, impatient and unaware that an evacuation was taking place in the front of the train, which was already at the edge of the Anacostia station.
Metro says commanders were within two minutes of restoring power to the trains and getting them moving again when the self-evacuation began.
Passengers who remained onboard had to wait another full hour because of the evacuees, Sarles says.
The report also found that station mangers and officers at Anacostia and Navy Yard did a poor job coordinating Metrobuses and communicating with passengers about where to go and how to get home.
Taborn says he thinks all the different agencies within Metro and local fire departments should do a better job at training together, rather than having separate training.