Overcrowding a concern on Metro system still hobbled by sidelined railcars

More people are choosing to ride Metrorail, and it’s leading to crowding issues on a system still hobbled by a lack of railcars.

Metro said it set a pandemic-era record with more than 300,000 rail trips Wednesday, thanks to commuters, a convention and the Washington Capitals’ season opener.

The agency also said that since Labor Day, there has been a 35% increase in ridership around 8 a.m., and a 13% increase around 5 p.m.

“So we have significant crowding concerns going on at certain times of the day,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke. “I know the community is frustrated. I know our passengers are frustrated. We share their frustration. We are doing everything we can.”

“It is a safety issue if we have crowded trains,” said Metro Board member Matt Letourneau, “just as much as any sort of mechanical issue is.”

Metro and its riders have been awaiting word from safety regulators about possibly increasing the number of troubled 7000-series railcars the system can run.

On Thursday, Clarke revealed that although Metro has been cleared to run up to 20 7000-series trains, it is only able to field up to 16, because of other logistical and technical requirements from Metrorail’s safety watchdog, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.

The 7000-series cars, which make up more than half of Metro’s fleet, have been sidelined since a derailment last fall, which has been blamed on the cars’ wheel sets falling out of line with the tracks.

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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