Delays on Blue and Yellow Lines Due to Cracked Rail

by ARLnow.com January 4, 2012 at 8:47 am 3,205 46 Comments

Metro commuters who use the Blue and Yellow Lines are facing delays this morning.

A cracked Yellow Line rail, caused by the recent dramatic downward swing in temperatures, is forcing trains to use a single track near the Pentagon.

The track problem is causing 20-30 minutes delays on the Yellow Line and slight delays on the Blue Line, according to WMATA. As a result, Metro is advising customers to use the Blue Line instead of the Yellow.

Crews will not be able to fix the cracked rail until after the morning rush hour, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA

  • Dwigt

    Seems to be an annual occurrence around that area. Nice rail system.

  • Jason S.

    Properly assign blame to poor engineering, construction, or materials.

    • drax

      More like the system is now seeing its age, and the money isn’t there for proper maintenance.

      • Jason S.

        If they had more money, they would do their jobs. If they had more money they would properly attach brakes. If they had more money they would actually fix escalators. If they had more money they would actually answer customers’ questions. If they had more money, they would clean the cars.

        Here’s one: if they want more money, fire the worthless Metro employees draining their budgets and producing no meaningful results. Here’s a way to save money: fire everybody who had anything to do with the train losing parts on the track. Then, while you’re at it, fire anybody sleeping on the job, texting on the job, wandering away on the job. When employees are doing their jobs properly, the money will go much further.

        • CrystalMikey

          Or reading ARLnow on the job…

        • Dwigt

          Their constant crying about lack of funding is so much BS. The area owes so much of its prosperity to Metro, they should have more than enough revenue from all the development to keep it running and make all the upgrades and improvements they need. The Metro should not lack for anything and should be the most modern and efficient system in the US, based on how much growth and revenue it has been responsible for.

  • ArLater

    If the trains are single tracking already and the cracked rail is just sitting there now with no trains going by, why can repair work not begin until after rush hour??

    • Jason S.

      They need more money to repair it during rush hour.

    • ArlRes

      bc they have to get machinery on the track, and also if they put track workers out there during rush hour, trains will have to slow to under 15mph and it would significantly back up the system. Waiting until after rush hour lets everyone get to their destinations quicker, and has less of an impact on service since that track is down either way. At least the other track runs at full speed.

  • Without knowing exactly what “cracked rail” means, I can only assume it means the steel track section actually cracked. It is difficult to believe this happened because of the temperature drop. It likely is either a manufacture defect (if a newer rail section) or a stress fracture.

    • CW

      Yes, a stress fracture. Ever heard of “thermal stress”?

      • Sorry. I should have been more clear. I meant a stress fracture associated with the stress induced by the use of the track by rail cars. The design, manufacture, and installation of rails is such that regional temperature swings should not crack the rail unless there is a defect in that process.

        • Ron Paul


          • Quality control. It is certainly not designed in.

          • Josh S

            How do you know?

            I agree that it is likely that a manufacturing defect contributed to this, but even with quality control, defects can slip through. Especially if this was not a visible defect. We’re not talking about aircraft parts, here – I doubt they are x-raying the parts before they leave the factory.

        • CW

          Agreed, though I’d not put it past metro to fail to meet the necessary tolerances on expansion/contraction in some manner or another. Cold rails are also more brittle and thus more likely to fail due to the loads experienced during operation.

  • Chad

    So I normally get on at Pentagon City and ride the Blue Line to the Farragut West stop. This morning I stroll into the station to find people shoulder to shoulder on the platform. So, the first train that pulls up is a Yellow Line train with the conductor (is that what you call them?) shouting over the loud speaker, “this train is a special yellow line train going like the blue line to the Smithsonian.” I think great, I’ll get on this one. Apparently what that actually meant was “this is a special yellow line train going like the blue line, but not really at all like the blue line and just going exactly like a normal yellow line train does every morning.”

    Great communication by Metro, yet again.

  • brian

    chinese steel?

  • AbeFroman

    I can’t imagine how bad the orange line will be in a couple years once the silver, blue and orange are sharing the same tracks through the city. Its going to be worse than the red line for maintenance and failures.

    • SB

      It shouldn’t be. The *number* of trains will still be the same as it is now. They are reducing the number of blue trains with the project to route some blue over the bridge. That reduction would be offset by added silver trains. The switch at Rosslyn is already at capacity with trains per hour so the number can’t increase. But the volume will increase and cause more packed trains/stations. That shouldn’t impact track maintenance though.

  • charlie

    it has never been this cold so please give Metro a break. they had no idea it would ever get this cold here. didn’t plan on it.

    • Josh S

      Except for all the other times that it has been this cold (or colder) and tracks didn’t break.

      Or all the other thousands of sections of tracks that didn’t break this morning, despite being just as cold.

      One section of track breaks on one cold morning and Metro is dumb.


      • charlie

        yes. did any tracks break in NY today? this week? this month?
        no, you never hear of that happening.
        our subway is third-world, on a good day.

        • OX4

          When was the last time a cracked rail occurred on the Metro system? I suppose the system is supposed to operate at 100% availability with a 0% maintenance failure rate. In that case, expect to pay about $20 per trip as Metro designs the system to your personal standard.

          • Dwigt

            It is a repeating problem. Blue Line tracks cracked last winter too. I wish Metro’s standards were as high as its riders. It should at least not be too hard to aspire to fixing recurring cracked rail problems.

          • Metro is designed to a 1960’s and 1970’s standard. We’ve grown significantly since then. Metro hasn’t kept pace.

          • CW

            Both OX4 and OB are right. The system should be kept to a modern standard, fees should be sufficient to cover costs, and yet despite this, due to Murphy’s Law and other basic principles of the universe, things will still break.

        • brif

          right, the nyc subway never experiences any cracked rails.


          • While I don’t doubt tracks crack all the time, your citation is five years old and doesn’t answer charlie’s “today? this week? this month?” point. This century, yes.

            If the most recent citation on NYC is five years old, they likely either do a good job of inspecting and maintaining their tracks, or it isn’t a big problem.

          • charlie

            or maybe their system is newer?

            seriously, we have the strangest service interruptions on our model subway.

            and, i don’t ride Metro. i can see a metro station from my house and from my office but it is almost 3x as along as driving by SUV. and my parking is paid for as part of my employment compensation plan.

            and using metro on the weekends has basically been ruled out by the endless “weekend” service disruptions.

          • Dwigt

            If only those weekend service disruptions were to fix old brittle rails that crack at the first sign of a little cold weather. If only…..

          • wat

            when was the last time you rode metro for time comparison sake during the morning/evening commutes?

            Does your employer also offer benefits for metro compensation? If so have you compared that vs. gas+maintenance+extra insurance (you pay more for commuting more)?

          • CW

            Darn good point. How many people can your car carry for how many miles before it breaks in one manner or another? Probably fewer than a metro train when adjusted for capacity.

          • Done and Done

            Mine does break down occasionally, BUT I also happen to put aside extra money each month to cover insurance, maintenance and repairs (and upgrades for when I want to trade it in on a newer, more reliable model). Metro doesn’t do that, and if they did, it would cost $20 per trip like OX4 said.

          • Josh S

            Hey, charles – how many potholes caused by road freezing have you driven over or around on those commutes? More than one? Dang, DC area road-builders are so dumb!

          • Charlie

            I properly maintain all of my cars. I have never been stranded anywhere by any of them. Ever.

          • brif

            i was responding to charlie’s statement that you never hear of tracks breaking in NY which is not true. According to that article and others, it’s not always clear why a cracked rail occurs.


        • wat

          Percentage wise comparison, how much of each is outdoors and exposed to the elements? Then percentage wise, do the number of weather related damages match up with what you’d expect in NYC?

        • Josh S


          Back-pedalling is dangerous – you might fall over….

  • OX4

    “i can see a metro station from my house”

    *raises an eyebrow*

    “and from my office”

    *raises both eyebrows*

    “driving by SUV”

    *shakes head in dismay*

    “my parking is paid for as part of my employment compensation plan”

    *gives up on the world*

    • Glebe Roader

      I have to be in agreement with charlie here. Both my home and office are walkable to a metro station but I drive, also.

      Counting walking, metro to transfer station, transferring, metro to station near office and walking, it takes 75 minutes each way. That’s 150 minutes per day, or 2 1/2 hours.

      Driving takes 30 minutes each way That’s 1 hour per day.

      Given an extra 1 1/2 hour per day to spend with the kids, it’s a no-brainer.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Finally someone speaks truth

    • Charlie

      Sorry to disappoint.

      Yes. I have done metro to work. Bus and rail and walking combo. The time difference is considerable.

      The cost difference is minimal. 55cents/mile. Or fare. Close.

      Comfort –amazing difference. Don’t have to wait on cold platform. Squeeze on orange line. Listen to my music and not someone else. And if there is a pothole or water main break, I have more options than just being toldcto get off the train.

      Metro is not practical for everyone. And it is definitely not reliable.

  • wat

    ITT, people talking about things they don’t understand.

  • John Andre

    Once again Metro shows off its unreliability whenever a major weather change hits town!

    For the record…it seems that older subway systems [NYC, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, etc., etc.] do a FAR BETTER JOB whenever they need to do routine maintenance on their systems. At least we never seem to hear whether their ridership has to deal with the hassles continually plaguing Metro.

    • Josh S

      Why would we hear even a fraction of the problems faced by users of the NYC, Chicago, Boston, Philly systems? Do you think this cracked rail here made news anywhere else but here?

      I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the complaining about public transportation is just as vocal in all of those cities as it is here.

      Yet, somehow WMATA carries more people every year than any of those places, except NY. All the more remarkable when you consider that Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia (even SF) all have central cities with much larger populations than DC.


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