One year after L’Enfant Plaza incident, Metro riders still wary

Smoke fills a Washington Metro system subway car near the L'Enfant Plaza station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.  (AP Photo/Andrew Litwin)
Smoke fills a Washington Metro system subway car near the L’Enfant Plaza station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. The transit network in the nation’s capital remained hobbled Tuesday morning after an electrical malfunction that filled the busy subway station with smoke, killing one woman and sending dozens of people to hospitals. (AP Photo/Andrew Litwin) (AP/Andrew Litwin)
In this Jan. 12, 2015, file photo, a firefighter attends people on a bus to assess triage needs after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington. One woman died and more than 80 others were sickened by smoke after an electrical malfunction in January 2015 caused a train to fill with smoke while it stopped in a tunnel in downtown Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 12, 2015, file photo, a firefighter attends people on a bus to assess triage needs after people were evacuated from a smoke-filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington. Federal transportation safety officials will be gathering information about a fatal malfunction on Washington’s subway system during a rare investigative hearing. One woman died and more than 80 others were sickened by smoke after an electrical malfunction in January caused a train to fill with smoke while it stopped in a tunnel in downtown Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (AP)
Metro Transit Police officers, secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Metro Transit Police officers secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Reynaldo Hernandez
Reynaldo Hernandez holds a cloth over his smoke-covered face as he coughs deeply after being evacuated from a smoke-filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP)
A couple holds hands as the man coughs while speaking with a firefighter after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke.  Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A couple holds hands as the man coughs while speaking with a firefighter after people were evacuated from a smoke-filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (AP)
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Smoke fills a Washington Metro system subway car near the L'Enfant Plaza station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015.  (AP Photo/Andrew Litwin)
In this Jan. 12, 2015, file photo, a firefighter attends people on a bus to assess triage needs after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington. One woman died and more than 80 others were sickened by smoke after an electrical malfunction in January 2015 caused a train to fill with smoke while it stopped in a tunnel in downtown Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Metro Transit Police officers, secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Reynaldo Hernandez
A couple holds hands as the man coughs while speaking with a firefighter after people were evacuated from a smoke filled Metro subway tunnel in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke.  Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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:

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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