Metrorail's Red Line continues to deteriorate

Dec. 2, 2004, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 19 years, 6 months ago

Lack of funding and old trains slow down Blazers

All information has been compiled from The Washington Post articles "Metro Town Hall Meeting Lively" and "Metrospective." Additional information was compiled from the WMATA web site press release "New York Ave. Metrorail Station Grand Opening."

The Metrorail Red Line has been slowing down in recent months as budget shortfalls have caused trains to operate on slower schedules and Metro fares to increase. Additionally, Metrorail's Red Line is facing problems as older trains deteriorate, reported The Washington Post.

Within the past two months, the Red Line has experienced its first two crashes since 1996, which not only caused inconvenience but brought attention to the system's mechanical failures and slow deterioration. Recently, to level with its customers, Metro hosted its first "town hall" meeting at Metro Headquarters on Nov. 16 to explain the situation and allow customers to voice their concerns regarding funding, expansion and service.

During the two-hour meeting, moderated by The Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, the 230 attendees voiced their concerns about service for the disabled. One person even suggested that Metrorail create an advisory group to provide constant feedback to the board.

Although many of the complaints have been surfacing over recent months, Metro has been experiencing mechanical problems and financial difficulties since Feb. 2004. An internal audit last winter revealed that Metro was losing $1 million alone from its failure to monitor parking facility cashiers. In March 2004, a fire in a Red Line station halted commuters during rush hour.

According to The Washington Post, some of these mechanical failures are caused by the age of Red Line cars. Many of the cars operating today were built in the 1970s and are not scheduled to be replaced until 2012. Those cars built in the 1980s will have their operational lives extended by as much as 20 years. Metro has, however, employed 192 new cars with increased structural integrity. In order to maintain the current fleet, Metro is still experiencing major budget shortfalls increasing fares to compensate for their financial losses.

Regardless of a limited budget, Metro opened a New York Avenue station on Nov. 20. The $103.7 million construction project was paid for by Metrorail, local governments and the federal government, according to the WMATA web site. The main concern with the new station is the additional time it will take for trains to slow down and to service the station. The New York Avenue station is expected to add two to three minutes of travel time between the Rode Island Avenue Station and Union Station.

Junior Sophia Esparza has been experiencing the longer waits on the Red Line and increased Metro fares over the past several months. "It's getting more expensive, and there are always hold-ups," said Esparza. She does not think that service can become much worse.

Esparza also has become somewhat disgruntled by the fare increases and noted that she can spend up to $15 in a single week just for basic transportation on the Red Line. According to the WMATA web site, fares can now range between $1.35 and $3.90 per trip.

But regardless of the problems associated with the Red Line, Esparza believes that commuters will not stop riding Metrorail. "I don't think that people are going to stop taking Metro because they need it," commented Esparza.

Senior Alex Gersh has also noted an overall increase in waiting time for a Red Line train but has not experienced long waits on a regular basis. "Sometimes it comes in two minutes. Sometimes it comes in ten minutes," said Gersh.

Gersh is not surprised about the crashes and thinks that the main problem is the allocation of funding and the lack of federal funding. "They don't have enough money to keep the system running," noted Gersh. "As long as [Metro] is not getting the funding it needs, it will continue to deteriorate."

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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