Metrorail will remain in its current, limited state through Nov. 15, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told members of the Metro Board Thursday.
That means trains will continue to run every 15 to 20 minutes on the Red Line and every 30-40 minutes on all other lines. In addition, Silver Line service will to continue to run only between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW.
Metro cut service down to basic levels earlier this month after the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission ordered Metro’s 7000-series cars — which make up roughly 60% of Metro’s fleet — out of service due to a wheel problem believed to have caused a derailment on the Blue Line on Oct. 12.
Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader said the public transit service is working to bring older 2000-series, 3000-series and 6000-series rail cars out of storage, aiming to make “targeted improvements” in service as early as next week such as reducing crowding. However, headways will remain the same.
As it stands now, Metro is running 31 six-car trains made up of those older “legacy” rail cars. As additional cars come out of storage and undergo safety and maintenance inspections, Metro hopes to use them as “gap” trains to fill service when there are breakdowns or other service issues.
Overall, Wiedefeld said the plan to return older cars could bring 50 trains into service, “but that will take time,” he said. In the meantime, Wiedefeld said Metro maintenance crews “are working around the clock to bring those cars back into service as quickly as possible.”
Metro said it would also work on reducing crowding as it continues to run limited service.
With the limited service now, the most crowding is being seen on the Red Line toward Glenmont and Green Line toward Branch Avenue in the 5 p.m. hour where there is frequently standing-room only on trains, Leader said.
As older trains return to service, Metro can also start to run eight-car trains instead of six-car trains, Leader said, which should also help with overcrowding.
The gradual plan to build back service using Metro’s older rail cars:
There was some early discussion from one of the board members about whether Metro should stop charging peak fare rates, given the limited service.
“Like, clearly we are not offering peak service during peak times but yet we’re still charging peak fares, are we not?” board member Lucinda Babers, the D.C deputy mayor for operations and infrastructure, said during the meeting Thursday.
Meanwhile, Metro is also working on a new inspection process that would eventually allow the system to bring back the 7000-series cars. The plans for the inspections have to be approved by the safety commission.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Blue Line derailment. Emergency inspections began after the derailment turned up 21 cases where wheel-axles were out alignment.
The NTSB said its investigators learned from Metro that the wheel issue — in which the wheels shifted too far apart on their axles — had turned up intermittently in regular inspections dating back to 2017 before a dramatic increase in the problem found during inspections this year before the derailment.
Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg appeared to ask Wiedefeld directly if he knew about the extent of the wheel issue before the Blue Line derailment. “No, I did not,” Wiedefeld said.
When asked where accountability for the incident lies, Wiedefeld said, “I think it’s too soon. I think we let the investigation take its course, and we will deal with those issues. But I think it’s the right thing to do — let the investigation run its course. That will lead us wherever it leads us.”