(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Metro has released its final version of the SafeTrack plan, beginning with work between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations.
This morning Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld outlined the agency’s plan for working through Metrorail’s deferred maintenance backlog.
The “safety surge,” dubbed SafeTrack, “accomplishes in one year, work that otherwise would take about three years to complete.” It comes at a time when major Metro track problems and electrical fires seem to be increasingly commonplace.
The plan involves fifteen long-duration track outages between June 4 and May 8, 2017, to allow for extensive track work.
The goal: to achieve “safety and state of good repair of basic track structure.”
So what can Arlington riders expect? First, there will be a moratorium on early system openings and closings — the system will close at midnight, seven day a week.
Additionally, the following track outages are planned.
National Airport to Pentagon City
Impact: Entire line segment shut down
Service Reduction: Trains running every 12 minutes at Virginia Blue and Yellow Line stations
Aug. 20-Sept. 6
Eastern Market to Minnesota Ave/Benning Road
Impact: Entire line segment shut down
Service Reductions: Three lines affected. Orange and Silver lines running every 10 minutes, Blue Line running every 12 minutes.
West Falls Church to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Orange and Silver lines each running every 16 minutes
Nov. 12-Dec. 5
East Falls Church to Ballston
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Silver Line running every 18 minutes, Orange Line trains from Vienna to Ballston running every 18 minutes
Pentagon to Rossyln
Impact: Entire line segment shut down, Arlington Cemetery station closed
Service Reduction: Reduced service at all Blue Line stations
West Falls Church to East Falls Church
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Orange and Silver lines each running every 16 minutes
April 16-May 8
Braddock Road to Huntington/Van Dorn
Impact: Continuous single tracking
Service Reduction: Trains on Blue Line running every 18 minutes
In order to maximize productivity, all of the track outages will be continuous and will affect rush hour service. For the line segment shut downs, buses will replace trains around the station closures.
The safety surge will not only affect Metro riders, it’s expected to affect those who drive as well, in the form of additional traffic.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) May 6, 2016
Metro shutdown is so huge, traffic signals may have to be retimed to accommodate more drivers. #wmata
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) May 6, 2016
Here’s what Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) had to say about the plan.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 6, 2016
After the jump, the full press release from Metro.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By Lawrence Roberts
I was pleased to join fellow ARLnow columnists Mark Kelly and Peter Rousselot on a panel discussion at “ARLnow Presents: Hot Topics on Columbia Pike.” We had a spirited discussion of County issues and I hope you’ll watch the video when it appears on Arlington Independent Media and ARLnow.
While I don’t often agree with ARLnow’s “The Right Note” column, I was pleased that Mark identified Metro as the County’s highest transit priority.
Metro is vital to Arlington’s economy, serving tourists and providing the impetus for a commercial tax base carrying half of Arlington’s real estate tax burden – a substantially higher percentage than other area jurisdictions.
Metro is also vital to Arlington’s mobility – for commuters to and from Arlington as well as people using public transportation to get around the region without driving. Metro (and other transit options) helps Arlington avoid massive traffic gridlock in its urban corridors and along residential streets.
Today’s federal government could not function without Metro and the ripple effect of reduced federal activity without Metro would be highly detrimental to Arlington companies and workers intersecting with the federal sector.
So what are we to make of this week’s National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the L’Enfant Plaza accident in January 2015 that led to NTSB’s heavy criticism of Metro and, in particular its lack of a safety culture?
I believe that Arlington’s first reaction should be to acknowledge that Metro is essential to Arlington’s economy, its desirability as a place to live, its mobility, and the health of a commercial tax base that supports the many public services that Arlingtonians want and expect, including schools, public safety, parks and social services.
For that reason, Arlington government officials and residents should be at the forefront of efforts to support and encourage Metro as it undergoes necessary changes.
Second, Arlington should be working with our federal delegation and regional partners to demand dedicated funding streams for Metro – as most urban transit systems have.
Essentially, the federal government takes the position that it heavily funded Metro’s construction and that its obligations largely stopped there without ensuring an adequate dedicated funding stream for operations and maintenance.
While federal warnings about safety are important, it is easy to lay blame on Metro management and employees without acknowledging that the federal government has not been a reliable partner in solving the chronic and well known problem of deferred maintenance due to lack of funding.
Metro’s importance to the federal workforce and travelers from across the country who come to the Nation’s Capital warrant strong federal financial support.
Third, we should not fall prey to the convenient and simplistic assertion that if only Metro management had been more disciplined about spending there would be no safety problem. Metro management could squeeze every ounce of waste, fraud and abuse out of the system without making a dent in the structural deficiencies in Metro funding.
Fourth, it is important not to jump on the bandwagon of finding fault with Metro at every turn. I had occasion to review the Washington Post’s 2015 stories about Metro. They constituted a steady drumbeat of identifying one problem after another that would lead one to conclude that no one is able to commute effectively or safely by Metro.
The Metrorail system will reopen at 5 a.m. Thursday, following today’s shutdown, but riders should expect possible single-tracking and delays as crews continue to fix damaged power cables along the tracks.
That’s the word from officials at a 6 p.m. press conference, in which Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld showed a video (above) of a damaged “jumper cable” found during today’s inspections. With most of the inspections complete, 26 damaged cables have been found — mostly along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines — and 18 have been repaired so far.
Fears of a traffic nightmare today largely did not materialize, as many workers either telecommuted, took buses or rode bikes to work. The morning commute was a bit slower than usual on some routes, while evening rush hour traffic — at least in Arlington — was lighter than usual.
Bus stops were certainly more crowded than usual today, but some of the biggest queues could be found at Reagan National Airport, as travelers waited for taxis.
The taxi line at Reagan. It literally 20 seconds to wish I was anywhere else but DC. pic.twitter.com/6LckRIMxQZ
— Greg Otto (@gregotto) March 16, 2016
So this whole shutting down wmata thing is working out well at DCA. No ubers, but I'm psyched to wait for a cab. pic.twitter.com/3AGOOPs4Q9
— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) March 16, 2016
After the jump: the press release from WMATA about the inspections and the planned reopening of the system Thursday.
Update at 6:10 p.m. — The federal government is open tomorrow. Federal workers has the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, says the Office of Personnel Management. Arlington County government is also open with a telework option.
Arlington’s congressional delegation is weighing in on tomorrow’s complete closure of the Metrorail system for safety inspections.
Rep. Don Beyer (D):
Our office has been in contact with the Office of Personnel Management. We have urged them to allow unscheduled leave for federal employees, and I urge other employers in the region to be equally flexible, allowing employees to take unscheduled leave or to work from home if at all possible.
I have confidence in the new leadership of Paul Wiedefeld and look forward learning more about the technical details behind this decision. We must overhaul this critical public transit system, and we must continue our federal investment in Metro in order for that to happen. Tomorrow we will get a glimpse of what our nation’s capital will look like without this essential system.
Sen. Mark Warner (D):
“It’s sad that it’s come to this, but hundreds of thousands of people depend on the safety of the Metro system. We need to take it seriously. I’m glad that Metro’s new leadership is treating system safety with an appropriate sense of urgency.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D):
“While this is an unprecedented step and a major inconvenience for thousands of daily commuters, it’s also the type of tough call that signals WMATA’s new management team is doing whatever it takes to ensure the safety of Metro riders. Employers across the region — including OPM — should offer their employees flexibility tomorrow as they face limited transit options.”
— Metro (@wmata) March 15, 2016
Metro will close its rail system to riders for a full 24 hours starting tonight at midnight, the transit agency announced the news at a press conference this afternoon.
The Metrorail system will close at midnight tonight and remain closed until 5 a.m. Thursday, according to officials. All six Metrorail lines and all 91 stations will be closed on Wednesday.
More information from Metro:
Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, with support from the Authority’s Board of Directors, today announced the full closure of the Metrorail system on Wednesday, March 16, for emergency inspections of the system’s third-rail power cables following an early morning tunnel fire yesterday.
The inspections of approximately 600 “jumper cables” will occur along all tunnel segments on the Metrorail system. At the conclusion of the inspection process, there may be a need for additional rail service outages. Any further service impacts will be announced to the public as soon as they are known.
The news also appeared to crash the WMATA website earlier this afternoon.
oh my god did the wmata site crash pic.twitter.com/SUgSjbAMVS
— Tim Regan (@MrTimRegan) March 15, 2016
The move comes just one day after an early morning cable fire caused massive delays on Metro’s Blue and Orange lines.
Starting Sunday at 7 a.m., Metro will stop accepting paper farecards at turnstiles and will only accept SmarTrip cards.
It’s one of the final steps in Metro’s phasing out of paper farecards, which the agency stopped selling Dec. 31. The very last step will happen this summer, when Metro stops accepting paper cards as trade-ins.
“If you still have a paper farecard or a Metrochek after June 30, 2016, congratulations, you have a Metro souvenir,” Metro said on its website.
In addition to online reminders, signs have been placed in local Metro stations informing riders of the changes.
More Cars on Local Streets Due to I-66 Plans? — Will plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour send cars spilling onto local streets in Arlington? Not exactly. Traffic studies suggest the opposite will happen: more cars will use the highway rather than seek alternate routes through Arlington. [Washington Post]
Metro Begins Installation of Cable for Cell Service — Metro has begun the process of installing 100 miles of cable in Metrorail tunnels in order to allow mobile phone and better emergency radio coverage. [WMATA]
Optimism from Arlington’s New Metro Board Member — Freshman Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey is serving as the county’s representative on the WMATA board. Though he says the agency is facing “a fair number of problems,” he says Metro expects “to see some significant improvements” in 2016. [InsideNova]
Potholes on GW Parkway — The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway had to be closed from Spout Run to the Beltway for pothole repair last night. This morning, crews were dispatched to fill potholes in the southbound lanes. [Twitter]
County Combines Budget Hearings — In previous years, Arlington held separate budget hearings to discuss proposed expenditures and the tax rate. This year, those topics are being combined and members of the public can weigh in on either at two budget hearings: one on Tuesday, March 29 and another on Thursday, March 31. The county is also accepting online budget feedback. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
You know a top executive’s gig is tough when an entire room applauds after someone gets up and says, “thank you for taking the job.”
Wiedefeld started the night by telling the crowd he has been fighting a cold since the January blizzard, when Metro shut down for a couple days, and will be taking a decidedly unglamorous trip to Lincoln, Nebraska later this month to check on the manufacturer of Metro’s problematic 7000-series railcars.
Turning around Metro is an exhausting job and Wiedefeld sounded, well, a bit exhausted.
During the audience question-and-answer session, he was asked whether Metro should lower the expectations of riders for the reliability of a two-track system built in the 1970s for a sleepier capital city
“I do think we need to be more realistic about what’s achievable and what’s not,” Wiedefeld said. “You can only fit so much through a small tube, that’s just reality. We need to do a better job of educating the public, for sure.”
Despite that, Wiedefeld acknowledged Metro’s problems, took responsibility for rider frustration and promised change.
“I don’t think we’re doing the best we can do,” he continued. “We’re not putting out the service the best we could, and that’s the first thing we need to do.”
Under Wiedefeld, who was formerly the CEO of BWI Airport in Maryland, Metro has three main priorities: improve safety, improve basic service reliability, and get its fiscal house in order.
Wiedefeld is approaching the challenge from the bottom up: he’s been trying to spend as much time as possible with Metro’s front-line employees: those maintaining the rails, driving the buses and cleaning the trains. He said Metro’s headquarters and leaders have been too removed from its day-to-day operations on the ground, something he wants to improve.
Wiedefeld has also been making an effort to be a more visible leader in the region. That’s what brought him to the Committee of 100. At the meeting, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey marveled that Wiedefeld was the first Metro general manager she had actually met in person in all of her years of public service.
The realities of Metrorail’s maintenance needs may require some fundamental changes in the way Metro operates. Poor maintenance, after all, is what’s causing much of Metro’s current unreliability. The agency doesn’t even have enough working rail cars to meet its promises about eight-car trains. The delivery of the new 7000-series cars — only 80 are in service so far — will help, but they must be maintained, in addition to track and the myriad other components of the Metro system.
“We need to take a hard look at how we’re doing things, particularly on the maintenance side,” Wiedefeld said. “These are big, complex systems.”
(Updated at 8:20 p.m.) Firefighters were dispatched to the Pentagon City Metro station for a report of smoke in a Metro tunnel earlier this evening.
Emergency crews found an insulator fire on the inbound side of the tunnel. Trains bypassed the station while firefighters investigated the problem, according to ACFD. By 8:10 p.m., the fire had been extinguished and firefighters began leaving the scene.
Trash fire at the Pentagon City Metro is extinguished. ACFD units are clearing the scene. WMATA will be reopening station shortly.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) February 5, 2016
According to Metro, trains are running as usual but “residual delays” may continue in both directions.
— @wmata (@wmata) January 25, 2016
Metro restored some aboveground service on several of its train lines today.
The transit authority reopened aboveground stations between Ballston and New Carrollton on the Orange Line, Union Station and Glenmont on the Red Line and Fort Totten and Branch Avenue on the Green Line at 11 a.m.
Though Metro announced yesterday its plans to reopen some stations that were closed during the blizzard, those plans did not originally include aboveground service restorations.
The stations between East Falls Church and Vienna and along the Silver Line are still currently closed. More stations may open throughout the day, according to Metro spokesman Richard Jordan. Though Jordan did not say which stations might be reopened next, he said to expect an update later this afternoon.
Fares will not be charged today, and trains will run every 20-25 minutes until midnight.
Metro will also restore service to the 5A bus route between L’Enfant Plaza and Dulles Airport at noon today.
Metro today announced it will reopen its stations for limited — but free — Metrorail and Metrobus service tomorrow.
Red, Orange and Green line trains only will run between 7 a.m. tomorrow and midnight.
Service on these lines will be limited to underground stops and trains will run every 20-25 minutes, Metro said.
Orange Line trains will run between Ballston and Eastern Market, Red Line trains will run between Medical Center and Union Station and Green Line trains will run between Fort Totten and Anacostia.
Buses will operate every 30 minutes on just 22 routes between 12 and 5 p.m. tomorrow. According to Metro, “many of these routes will operate on snow emergency routes only to keep vehicles off hilly terrain, narrow side streets and other problem areas.”
The following bus routes will have service tomorrow:
- D.C.: 32, 33, 36, 53, 70, 90, A6, A8, P12, S4, U8, X2
- Maryland: C4, D12, K6, Q2, V4, Y2, Z8
- Virginia: 16A, 16E, 28A
Nathaniel Moone, 45, was taken into custody this past Friday evening by Metro Transit Police, at the Eastern Market Metro station in D.C.
Police say Moone was the man who tried to rob a Wells Fargo bank in Rosslyn on Dec. 30, but fled before receiving any money. He later successfully robbed the Wells Fargo across from Costco in Pentagon City this past Thursday, Jan. 7.
Moone was identified by detectives following the Jan. 7 robbery and arrested the next day.
The full press release from the Arlington County Police Department:
A bank robbery suspect was taken into custody by the Metro Transit Police Department. Nathaniel Howard Moone, 45, of no fixed address, was arrested during the evening of January 8, 2015 as he exited the Eastern Market Metro station. Moone was charged with bank robbery and attempted bank robbery and is currently being held pending extradition.
At approximately 4:48 pm on December 30, 2015, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center was alerted of an attempted bank robbery that had just taken place at the Wells Fargo, located in the 1300 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. The subject attempted to rob the bank by passing a note to the teller but became frustrated and fled the scene on foot.
At approximately 10:10 am on January 7, 2016, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center was alerted of a bank robbery that had just taken place at the Wells Fargo, located in the 1400 block of S. Fern Street. The subjected entered the bank and handed a teller a note that demanded money. The teller gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money and the subject fled on foot. The suspect remained at-large for a little over twenty-four hours.
“Our detectives were able to identify this suspect in a timely manner as a direct result of our outstanding relationship and the ability to share resources with our partners at Metro Transit Police Department,” comments Daniel J. Murray, Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations Division for Arlington County Police Department.
Violent Attack at Pentagon City Metro — A seemingly random act of violence at the Pentagon City Metro station injured a man late last month. Details of the attack were just released: a 19-year-old man collapsed on the platform after being sucker-punched. Witnesses took cell phone photos of the attacker, who fled. The incident is one of a string of recent violent incidents at Metro stations. [Fox 5 DC]
GGW Questions Garvey’s Leadership — Will new County Board Chair Libby Garvey move Arlington forward with smart infrastructure investments, or pull back and scale down the county’s ambitions? That’s the question being posed by urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington, which has been critical of Garvey’s anti-streetcar stance. [Greater Greater Washington]
Garvey Announces Reelection Bid — Thought she has positioned herself as a somewhat anti-establishment figure in the local party, Libby Garvey detailed her Democratic bonafides while announcing her reelection bid at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting earlier this week. Garvey is facing a primary challenge on her left, from small business owner Erik Gutshall. [Libby Garvey]
Grant for ‘Little Saigon’ History — A $9,000 grant will allow Arlington County to produce a full-color booklet preserving the history of Arlington’s “Little Saigon” — a concentration of Vietnamese immigrants and businesses in Clarendon in the 1970s, before the opening of Metro. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Yesterday’s evening commute for Ballston resident Andrea Gagliardi was following the normal routine, until she found herself helping a disabled man find his way home.
The man — who Gagliardi described as approximately 50 years old, mute and mentally disabled — was being helped by another woman when she arrived at the Courthouse Metro station. That woman was visibly upset, saying someone had dropped him off at the station, leaving him to figure out how to get to an address written on the back of a business card.
“I couldn’t believe someone had just left him,” Gagliardi told ARLnow.com this morning. “The other woman was truly an angel for finding him and initiating the help because I might not have noticed him if she hadn’t called me over.”
The woman asked Gagliardi if she recognized the address. Though she didn’t, she thought she recognized the ZIP code and confirmed it was also in Ballston.
“I offered to take him on the train since I was going that direction, hoping there would be police at my station,” she said. “I wasn’t going to try and take him to the address. It could’ve been any place that wasn’t safe for him or me to be.”
“I didn’t feel threatened by the man at all,” Gagliardi added. “He was pleasant and friendly throughout the trip. I just think he was embarrassed, so I kept ensuring him we would figure it out together.”
Gagliardi was surprised to find a lack of police presence at the Ballston station and decided to get the attention of the station manager, who at first thought the man couldn’t speak English. Once he realized the man couldn’t speak at all, that’s when Gagliardi said he understood the gravity of the situation and Metro officials took over.
“The manager led him away from the crowds, so I left the station looking for a police officer, but no such luck,” she said. “I knew I had done the right thing, but I started feeling guilty thinking I should’ve stayed and made sure he was okay. If I could do it again, I would’ve stayed.”
The incident Monday was the third time in a little over the year Gagliardi has come to the assistance of someone in need at an Arlington Metro station. The first was an intoxicated man who almost fell onto the tracks, and last month a woman was stuck on an elevator.
“At first I thought why does this always happen to me,” she said. “But in each of the three scenarios I’ve been involved in, there have been other people also helping.”
Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.
Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]
Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]
Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]
Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]
Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]