MTA explains Metro malfunctions
Earlier this week Getting There published an email from reader Leonard Frankford recounting his problems with the Baltimore Metro. Today brought a reply from the Maryland Transit Administration explaining what went wrong. Herre's what spokesman David Clark had to say:
Thanks for the opportunity to provide some information about delays on the Metro Subway line described by your reader.
On July 28, 2010 at 7:11 AM, a train at the Owings Mills Station indicated an open door. Since the problem could not be quickly resolved, passengers were asked to wait for another train at 7:17 AM. The train was taken out of service and passengers were placed on the next scheduled train when it arrived at the Owings Mills Station. A replacement train was placed in service eastbound at Reisterstown Plaza. Around the same time another train became disabled due to air pressure problems at Milford Mill, and customers were asked to wait for the next train. A replacement train for the second disabled train also entered service eastbound at Reisterstown Plaza.
Given the time needed to troubleshoot and remove disabled trains, passengers were delayed as follows:
--Because one track was blocked at Owings Mills we held trains at Old Court Station. This created a 30-minute delay for Owings Mills riders.
--Because one track was blocked at Milford Mill we had to single track between Reisterstown Plaza and Old Court. This created a 25-minute delay for Milford Mill riders.
The two “not in service” trains your reader saw were the two disabled trains heading back to the maintenance yard which is located just south of the Reisterstown Plaza Station. Our records show three trains traveled westbound during that period.
Metro Controllers did make station announcements throughout the delay period. Every Metro station has a working public address system, but we agree the announcement can sometimes sound garbled. The new public address system now being installed will not only include clear, computer-generated announcements, but will also include a visual display on signs in the stations. We believe this will be a major customer information enhancement.
Some thoughts: First, these loudspeaker issues should have never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point where announcements can't be understood. The MTA mindset has been that communications with rail passengers is a convenience but not a safety issue. That needs to change once the new system is installed and begins having its own issues. It is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which issuing a clear, understandable announcement is a matter of life and death. This applies to the light rail and MARC as well as the subway.
Second, riders should get over this impulse to see every train that passes them with an "out of service" sign as a personal insult. Folks, it's not about you. The MTA isn't trying to make passengers late. An out-of-service train can be assumed to be out of service for a good reason. Usually, it's limping back to the yard in a condition not suitable for hauling passengers.
Third, the MTA would improve relationships wiith riders if it understood that it's human nature to be suspicious after being kept waiting for a long time. It would make sense, when an out-of-service train goes by waiting passengers, to make a brief announcement of why it's not taking on riders. Knowing why doesn't get one to the destination any faster, but it does give riders the sense they are being taken seriously.