Metro’s Bad Week Continues Apace

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) still can’t catch a break, though they won’t get much sympathy from me since their mess is of their own making.

After The Washington Post released a damning report earlier this week revealing that MetroRail’s track circuit problems are more widespread than Metro had previously admitted, Metro quickly went into damage control mode. Metro General Manager John Catoe declared that the system was safe, and that the report in The Post report was a “gross misrepresentation of the facts.” According to Catoe, Metro had made minor adjustments to only three track circuits since last month’s crash and had not found any serious problems anywhere in the system except with the circuit where the crash occurred. Metro also announced it had identified a vendor to implement a train detection backup system so that their ‘fail-safe’ ATP system will be . . . um . . . fail-safe.

But the facts still aren’t in Metro’s favor. The Post is reporting today that, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the track circuit at the center of last month’s crash has been intermittently malfunctioning since December 2007 and, despite claims that Metro performs monthly reviews of all circuit data for anomalies (this is now done daily), the problem had not been repaired. If this isn’t negligence, what is?

The NTSB also verified at least part of The Post’s earlier report that Catoe and Metro had denied . . . ’anomalies’ have been found on other track circuits, and are being investigated.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.