WASHINGTON — A year after the Metro smoke calamity that killed a woman and injured more than 80 other passengers, some Metro riders at the L’Enfant Plaza station say the incident frightened them, but most agree it hasn’t changed their commuting habits.
“It made me pray every day before the train moved so that way we could get here safely; that’s how it changed me,” says Catherine Hawkins, from Brandywine, Maryland.
On Jan. 12, 2015, a Yellow Line train leaving L’Enfant Plaza station and heading to Virginia abruptly stopped in a smoke-filled tunnel. Federal safety investigators concluded that the smoke was produced by an electrical arcing event and cited Metro for poor communications and a slow emergency response.
“I definitely do think, from time to time, about that smoke incident,” says Lindsey Bestebreurtje, of Arlington, Virginia, who says she wonders whether Metro is the best or safest way for her to get to and from work.
“I don’t have the option to drive to work; my office doesn’t provide a parking garage … so Metro is my best bet even if it’s not the best bet, because, honestly it’s quite expensive to ride and there can be delays,” Bestebreurtje says.
She’s not alone in feeling resigned to riding Metro.
“Right now I have no choice, if I had another choice I would definitely do it,” Hawkins says.
Other riders, rushing to catch trains, were stoic about the accident and their riding habits.
“It’s an incident that happened, but generally I need to go to work so I don’t think about it,” one rider named Mark said.
A rider named Sergio says Metro can be questionable.
“There is always something pending, something that is happening — it’s never OK; 100 percent efficient,” he says.
Metro riders are hopeful that there can be service and reliability improvements to a transit system that is central to their commutes.
“I wish they would make lots of improvements, including safety improvements,” Bestebreurtje says.
A timeline of the events of Jan. 12, 2015:
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