If there’s one lesson to take away from Arlington’s Metro Safety Seminar Wednesday night, it’s don’t evacuate a train until told to do so. Even though a woman died after not being able to evacuate a disabled, smoke-filled train outside of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station earlier this year.
In the case of smoke in a tunnel, Arlington County Fire Department and Metro will work together to figure out the source of the smoke and decide if evacuation is necessary, officials said Wednesday at the seminar in Ballston.
Self-evacuating early often leads to injuries and more trouble, said Robert Joy of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority during a panel on Metro safety hosted by the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission (EPAC).
There’s also the problem of the third rail, which is a major electrocution hazard, running at more than 700 volts, Joy said.
Joy was joined by ACFD Captain David Santini and ART Director Stephen Yaffee to speak about how to be a safe rider on public transit, including Metrobus, Metro or ART bus. The panel spoke to a small audience, mostly consisting of older Arlington residents, many of whom identified themselves as members of EPAC.
For the most part, audience members were concerned about smoke filling Metro cars, noting the L’Enfant Plaza incident in January.
Smoke in Metro tunnels is not an unusual occurrence, Sanitini said.
“We report to smoke on the Metro several times a month,” he said, adding that most are “minor in nature” usually resulting from trash burning on the rails or small insulator fires.
In the case of smoke filling the cars, passengers should listen to the intercoms, Joy said, as the conductors will tell people when to evacuate.
“Just because the trains stop doesn’t mean it’s an emergency,” he said. “And we’ve had some people self-evacuate a perfectly good train.”
If a train needs to be evacuated, firefighters will come to the train to help passengers evacuate, Santini said. Metro also posts instructions for opening the doors in emergencies and how to evacuate.
Evacuation should be the last resort as walking in the tunnels and jumping from the train can result in injuries, such as broken ankles or legs, he said.
Joy acknowledged that there were problems with understanding the intercoms, which can make emergency situations more stressful. Dust often gets in the speakers, which make them hard to hear.
“We understand that the intercom system isn’t always up to snuff,” Joy said. “I sometimes wonder what they are saying.”
Fixing the intercoms by making sure they are cleaned is an easy step that Metro can do to make riding safer, said John Brown, director of Arlington County Office of Emergency Management.
“I don’t think we can wait for a federal report. There’s low hanging fruit that we know we can fix,” Brown said.
Throughout the discussion, audience members offered suggestions that Metro can implement to improve passenger safety, including more information on car walls. These suggestions will be compiled in a letter and brought before the Arlington County Board, said Board member Libby Garvey.
Garvey and Brown also took a couple of minutes to talk about emergency preparedness in general, telling the audience they should know what to do for everyday emergencies, like weather-related events, or in the case of a decidedly not-everyday emergency: a nuclear attack.
“We really all need to be prepared, not just for these events that happen pretty regularly but also when the unimaginable happens,” Brown said.
In the case of a nuclear attack, people should “shelter in place” and put as much concrete between them and outside, Garvey said.
The last thing people should do is go outside and see what happened, she said. Instead, people should “camp inside” until its safe to go outside.
“We all need to be prepared for camping for three days,” Garvey said.
In 2004, Metro Chief Richard White predicted a “death spiral” for the Metrorail system due to chronic underfunding.
Federal and state budget disputes were preventing Metro from getting the $1.5 billion in maintenance investment it needed, leading White to warn of “a systemic service meltdown.”
Eleven years later, White’s prediction seems to be coming true. And he wasn’t the only one to see it coming.
“Right now, there’s no money for transportation funding in anyone’s budget,” Chris Zimmerman, who at the time served on both the Arlington County Board and the Metro board, told the Washington Post in 2004. “I’ve got a state government that’s happy to let everything fall into the toilet. And we’ve got local governments that have limited means to raise money. We’ve got nothing to work with.”
Zimmerman resigned from the Metro board in 2010, and stepped down from the County Board in 2014. Now serving as Vice President for Economic Development for the group Smart Growth America, Zimmerman shared some thoughts on Metro’s current woes during a phone interview with ARLnow.com.
In 2002, Zimmerman and the Metro Board were actively seeking additional capital funding for Metro from Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — but to little avail. With inadequate funding, Metro wouldn’t be able to afford the track and station maintenance and new trains needed to keep the system running smoothly.
“It was foreseeable and it was foreseen,” he said of Metro’s problems today.
What would it take to fix the chronic system breakdowns that are causing long, frustrating commutes and chasing away riders? Zimmerman said it would take a lot more than that $1.5 billion figure sought in 2004 — and would likely require intervention by the federal government in the form of increased annual funding.
“What would actually make a difference is if [the federal government] would partner with our system… we have federal folks on the board but we don’t really have a federal funding partner,” he said. The feds have been providing funds to Metro for capital improvements, but Zimmerman argues that the level of funding doesn’t reflect Metro’s critical importance in helping the federal workforce in D.C. get to their jobs.
Metro said that an inbound Orange Line train offloaded at East Falls Church just before 8:30 a.m. due to a brake problem.
That, coupled with reduced rush hour service on the two lines due to power issues around the Stadium-Armory station following last week’s transformer fire, has caused big delays.
Via Twitter, riders are reporting longer-than-usual waits between Orange and Silver Line trains. Trains that are arriving at Arlington stations are full, causing overcrowding at the stations as riders continue to wait for trains.
I've been in Clarendon metro for 40 minutes now. About 5 cars have arrived that were packed. Stem-to-stern. Fml https://t.co/md5kbILKzA
— Rachel Joy Larris (@RachelLarris) September 28, 2015
— Courtney Fogwell (@CourtneyFogwell) September 28, 2015
— David Buzby (@buzbyindc) September 28, 2015
Metro says that repairs on its nine-megawatt power substation near Stadium-Armory are expected to drag out over the next six months or so. During that time, speed restrictions will be in place around the station, and Orange and Silver Line trains will run less frequently during rush hour while skipping the station entirely — a strategy intended to reduce congestion while coping with the lack of track power around Stadium Armory.
“On Friday, Metro began running Orange and Silver line trains every 8 minutes during rush hours, rather than every 6 minutes, to reduce the number of trains in service at any one time,” the transit agency said in a press release. “Metro is also increasing the number of 8-car trains on the Orange and Blue lines to provide additional capacity.”
Hat tip to @unsuckdcmetro
Metro is describing the incident as a “medical emergency.” A Twitter user said a woman walked off the platform and onto the tracks.
“Lady just walked smooth off the platform onto the tracks at Ballston station right in front of me,” said @Durrrius.
Fire department radio traffic indicates that the patient has been removed from the tracks and is now being treated by medics.
Metro says that trains are again moving through the station, with residual delays in both directions.
Metro Transit Police responded to the Pentagon City Metro station around the beginning of the evening rush hour for a “report of [a] suspicious package,” Metro said via Twitter.
According to Metro spokesman Mike Tolbert, a “suspicious note” was found on a train. The note was similar to another note — a bomb threat — that caused delays on the Blue, Silver and Orange lines this morning, Tolbert said.
Trains single tracked between the Pentagon City and National Airport stations for about a half hour as a result of the investigation. Metro said officers determined that the threat was “unfounded” and an all clear was given. Full service resumed, though with significant residual delays.
The incident even caused delays on the Green Line in D.C. “due to earlier congestion from delayed Yellow Line trains.”
WMATA says it has placed a speed restriction on the bridge, limiting trains to just 15 miles per hour. The restriction is “part of Metro’s aggressive campaign to fix track conditions identified following inspections after the derailment of a non-passenger train in early August,” the transit agency said online.
Replacement of metal fasteners on the Yellow Line bridge is currently underway, Metro said, but may take 6-8 weeks.
“While it may seem like slow-going, we do not expect significant delays,” the agency said. “However, if there is another issue such as a disabled train, switch problem or medical emergency, the speed restriction may result in congestion prior to the speed restriction area.”
Additional 15 mph restrictions are in place on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between Foggy Bottom and Farragut West, and in three sections on the Red Line. Readers and an ARLnow.com reporter have also observed trains running slowly in a portion of the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
In addition to the slow restrictions, Metro says it has also placed “medium restrictions” of up to 40 mph in certain parts of the Metrorail system.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) September 1, 2015
A third entrance to the Pentagon City Metro station is slated to open as soon as next month.
Arlington County is wrapping up work on a Metro entrance on the northeast corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S., next to the offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, the latter of which is moving to Alexandria in two years.
The stairs-only entrance and pedestrian access tunnel connect to what is currently a set of glass doors in the station’s mezzanine. While no official opening date has been set yet, the opening is “tentatively scheduled for the end of September,” according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.
The entrance and tunnel was actually first built in 1984, but “for a number of reasons, was never opened to the public,” according to the county. In order to open it, the county needed to rehabilitate the tunnel, repairing lighting, electrical connections, leaks, deteriorated doors and gates, floor tiles and other 30-year-old infrastructure. The county also added security cameras, an emergency call box and new signage.
The total cost of the project is $1.3 million. The county says the expense is worth it in order to provide another entrance to a busy station next to the Arlington’s largest shopping center. The new entrance may also help accommodate a coming influx of riders from new development in the area, including a new Whole Foods.
“The opening of the entryway will provide an additional access/egress point to this busy Metrorail station, one of the County’s highest ridership stations, and to the adjacent retail center, Fashion Centre,” the county said in its recent Capital Improvement Plan.
The county, not WMATA, will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the tunnel.
One BR Rental Near Clarendon: $4,300/month — A sub-800 square foot one bedroom apartment in a newly built building in Lyon Park, near Clarendon, is leasing for a staggering $4,300 per month. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Metro Delays Planned This Weekend — Trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines will run every 20 minutes this weekend due to “emergency call box installation and testing for a safer ride.” [WMATA]
Ballston Office Building Sold — JBG Cos. has sold a five-story office building on Fairfax Drive in Ballston to a partnership that hopes to eventually tear it down and build a new mixed use development. The building sold for about $22 million. [Washington Business Journal]
Delhi Dhaba Turning 25 — Delhi Dhaba restaurant in Clarendon is turning 25 next year. “Although it’s not at the pinnacle of Indian food in Northern Virginia, Delhi Dhaba is a great restaurant with more than decent service,” writes a reviewer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Park Service Studying Bricks — The National Park Service is studying the original bricks at Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s family house in what is now Arlington National Cemetery, in order to help with a preservation and renovation effort. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Whole Foods Eying Ballston Development? — Whole Foods is reportedly considering leasing a 43,000 square foot retail space in a new 12-story, 431-unit apartment building that’s set to replace the Rosenthal Mazda dealership at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd in Ballston. The organic grocer is said to be “in advanced talks” to fill the space and is “very bullish” on Ballston in general. [Bisnow]
Car Drives Off I-66, Into Woods — A car drove off the eastbound lanes of I-66 and into the woods yesterday afternoon. Nobody was hurt in the accident, which happened between the Monroe Street bridge and Spout Run. [Twitter]
More Opposition to Fire Station Move — Residents of the Old Dominion community aren’t the only ones opposed to a proposal to move Fire Station 8 to the neighborhood. Some residents of the Hall’s Hill/High View Park community, where the fire station is located, say that it is a “hub of the neighborhood” and should stay put. Fire Station 8 has some historic distinction, as the first African-American-run firehouse south of the Mason-Dixon Line. [Falls Church News-Press]
Metro Proposes Blue Line Boost — The good news: Metro is proposing changes to its rush hour service that would have trains on the overcrowded Blue Line run every eight minutes instead of every 12 minutes. The bad news: the proposal would increase the headway between trains on the Orange, Silver, Green and Yellow Lines, from six minutes to eight minutes. [Greater Greater Washington, WAMU]
Arlington Startup Raises $21 Million — Ballston-based Distil Networks, a cybersecurity startup founded in 2011, has raised $21 million in a “Series B” venture round. The company is planning to add 100 new employees over the next 12 months. It has offices in Arlington, San Francisco and Raleigh, N.C., and has plans to open another office somewhere in Northern Virginia. [DC Inno, Tech Crunch]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Metrorail service is suspended between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom due to a reported arcing insulator outside the Foggy Bottom station.
Firefighters were originally called to the Rosslyn station around 8:20 a.m. for a report of smoke in the station.
The station was evacuated but first responders only found a slight odor of smoke, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani.
Having not found any smoke or fire in Rosslyn, Arlington firefighters are currently scaling back their initially large response. However, Arlington police remain on scene, assisting with crowd control.
Large crowds of commuters seeking alternate means of transportation have been reported outside the Rosslyn station and other Arlington stations along the Orange Line.
— JensueFerrell (@JensueFerrell) May 11, 2015
Outside Rosslyn Metro pic.twitter.com/o1S4DsuGSd
— Elizabeth Widas (@emt211) May 11, 2015
— Valerie Insinna (@ValerieInsinna) May 11, 2015
— Kymberly Escobar (@kymesco) May 11, 2015
— David Hawkins (@khnashi) May 11, 2015
— Ashley Pratte (@AshPratte) May 11, 2015
— Micah Himmel (@Micah_Himmel) May 11, 2015
Photo (top) via @WashingtonFlack
New Metro Train Debuts on Blue Line — Metro’s new 7000-series train made its public debut on the Blue Line this morning. Riders welcomed the next-generation rail cars with generally positive tweets. [Storify, Twitter]
Home Prices, Sales Rise — The volume of home sales in Arlington in March was 219, which is up 25 percent year-over-year. Housing sale prices also rose. The average sale price of all residential properties was up 1.3 percent to $628,483. The average price of single-family homes sold in March, meanwhile, was $919,858. [InsideNova]
Arlington to Employ Ebola Monitor — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve the acceptance of a $30,970 state grant earmarked for Ebola monitoring. “Grant funds will support ongoing monitoring and response coordination efforts for travelers returning from Ebola affected countries,” according to the staff report. “The funding supports temporary employment of a Health District Monitoring Coordinator ($29,400) and related office supplies ($1,570).” [Arlington County]
W-L Grad Dies — A student who graduated at the top of his Washington-Lee High School class in 2013 has been found dead after taking his own life. The student was a sophomore at William & Mary and was active in various theater groups. [William & Mary]
County Considering Hiking Parking Fees — The Arlington County Board this month is expected to consider a staff proposal to raise the short term parking rate from $1.25 to $1.50 per hour and the long term rate from $1 to $1.25. The Board will also consider extending the end of metered parking hours from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. [InsideNova]
Arlingtonians Worried About Climate Change — According to a new study, 65 percent of Arlington residents say they’re worried about climate change. That compares to 74 percent of D.C. residents who say they’re worried about climate change and a national average of 52 percent. [DCist, Yale]
NTSB Examining Arlington Smoke Incident — Looking for clues into the fatal smoke Jan. 12 smoke incident near the L’Enfant Metro station, NTSB investigators are looking at arcing electrical components from a Feb. 11 smoke incident between the Courthouse and Rosslyn Metro stations. Meanwhile, Metro is trying to figure out how to accelerate a plan to replace older power cables. [Washington Post]
‘Ready for Hillary’ Ready to Shut Down — The Rosslyn-based super PAC Ready for Hillary is preparing to shut down when Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign officially ramps up. The PAC has compiled a list of 3.8 million supporters and 130,000 donors. It raised $14 million with a staff of 1-2 dozen. [Associated Press]
Photo courtesy @jamijrodgers
The Blue Line will be the recipient of the first of Metro’s next generation of trains next month.
The first 7000-series train is scheduled to enter passenger service on Tuesday, April 14, Metro announced today.
“The introduction of the first new train will be the most significant milestone to date for a project that has spanned nearly five years from approval and funding, through design and engineering, to testing and certification,” Metro said today, in a press release.
The brand new eight-car is expected to depart the Franconia-Springfield station shortly after 7:00 a.m. on April 14, serving Blue Line stations in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington County, the District and Prince George’s County. The Blue Line has weathered service cuts since Metro began Silver Line service last summer.
The 7000 series will feature a blue-and-gray interior color scheme and “new technologies that are generations ahead of Metro’s current railcars.” Among the features riders can expect, as detailed by Metro:
- Stainless steel car body for increased durability
- 64 vinyl padded seats and seat-back hand grasps
- Six different station destination signs, including two dynamic LCD route maps and four video screens in each car
- LCD map displays to allow customers to easily track their location
- LED screens that provide current and upcoming station information
- Improved seats that provide more knee room and better lumbar support
- Wider aisles (34 inches verses 32 inches on older cars) to facilitate movement within the car
- Additional space near the doors for standees and wheelchairs
- Resilient nonslip flooring, rather than carpet
- High-tech automated public address systems
- Closed circuit cameras for added safety and security
- More reliable door systems using proven technology
- Added handholds in the door area and vertical poles added at each seat – for a total of 25% more linear feet of bars than in Metro’s 6000-series cars
- Enhanced lighting and privacy screens in the vestibule area
There are also a number of significant new safety features, as outlined in the Metro press release, excerpted after the jump.
For the second day in a row, Arlington County firefighters are investigating a report of smoke in the Metrorail tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
No smoke was found in the Rosslyn station upon firefighters’ arrival.
ACFD responded to the Rosslyn Metro station last night (Saturday) for a similar report of fire and smoke, in the same part of the tunnel as tonight’s incident. It was later determined that the fire was extinguished after power was cut to the third rail.
The Blue, Orange and Silver lines are single-tracking between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom as a result of the incident. No injuries have been reported.
The smoke was originally said to be on the Foggy Bottom side, about 800 yards from that station. D.C. firefighters also responded to the Foggy Bottom station.
As of 9:00 p.m., Arlington firefighters were being told that the fire was closer to the Rosslyn station and firefighters prepared to enter the tunnel with Metro maintenance personnel.
Firefighters have not seen any sign of smoke, and as 9:20 p.m. it was determined that the fire was extinguished after power was cut to the third rail. Arlington fire units are now being put back into service.
*UPDATE* Rosslyn Metro. Fire is out. Releasing all units.
— ARL Firefighters (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2015
According to earlier scanner traffic, trains were single tracking outbound to Virginia through the tunnel, but are not currently running inbound. With Metrorail service suspended over the Yellow Line bridge due to snow and ice accumulation, that meant that no Metro trains were running from Virginia to the District.
— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) February 22, 2015
As of 9:15 p.m., Metro said service over the bridge had been restored and Yellow Line trains were running again. Metro also said trains were single tracking in each direction between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom. Metro is advising Blue, Orange and Silver Line riders to expect delays.
SERVICE UPDATE: Due to ice/snow buildup on Yellow Line bridge, all Yellow trains will run btwn Huntington & Foggy Btm, via Rosslyn. #wmata
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) February 22, 2015
Blue Line: Trains are single tracking btwn Pentagon City & Foggy Bottom due to track problem outside Foggy Bottom. Expect delays in both dir
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) February 22, 2015
During the incident, Arlington firefighters said they were having trouble communicating with their D.C. counterparts, possibly due to D.C.’s use of encrypted public safety radios.
— ARL Firefighters (@IAFF2800) February 22, 2015