While Metro is still facing big potential service cuts later this year due to its budget shortfall, it is also working on ways to make rail trips faster.
Metro officials said Thursday they want to run trains at higher top speeds as soon as this summer. Because of a rule implemented back in 1986, all but one of Metro’s six lines currently top out at 59 miles per hour. But the system is designed and certified for trains to hit 65 to 75 miles per hour on certain parts.
“By going back to our design speeds, what we can provide to the customer is reduction in their journey time,” Tiffani Jenkins, Metro senior vice president for communication and signaling, said. “We can save anywhere up to two-and-half minutes on the Red Line.”
Metro said faster speeds could also save around $2 million in operating costs.
Meanwhile, the transit agency is continuing to try to bring back automation on Metrorail. Trains were automated when the system launched in 1976, but that stopped after nine people died in the 2009 Red Line crash near Fort Totten.
In December, the Red Line began using automatic door openings, which work 10 seconds faster at each stop than manual openings. Metro seeks to get safety approval to start using automatic doors systemwide this spring. Returning to automatic train operating will take a little longer, but Metro aims to start training its employees on it in the coming months.
According to Metro, automation will save it up to $10 million and reduce travel time by at least 5 minutes.
“Increasing the automation [and] improving our rules are all factors that help us to deliver the same level of service or better service using less resources,” Jenkins said. “So, [it is a] great opportunity for operational savings, as well as improvements to what we can deliver for our customers.”