WTF?!? Metro Closing for 29 Hours Starting at Midnight

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rob Cannon


DCPS will be OPEN tomorrow, March 16. We are working with Metro to add additional bus service. Tardies and absences will be excused.”

Official word from WMATA:

All Metrorail service will be suspended Wednesday, March 16, for emergency inspections

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.

“While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here, and that is why we must take this action immediately,” Wiedefeld said. “When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it. That sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions, and this is one of those times. I fully recognize the hardship this will cause.”

The Metrorail system will close at its normal time tonight (midnight) and remain closed until 5 a.m. Thursday. All six Metrorail lines and all 91 stations will be closed on Wednesday.

The unprecedented action follows an early morning electrical fire involving a cable in the tunnel outside McPherson Square Station yesterday. There were no injuries; however, service was disrupted along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines throughout the day.

“The investigation into yesterday’s cable fire at McPherson Square is ongoing,” Wiedefeld said. “As a preliminary matter, the conditions appear disturbingly similar to those in the L’Enfant incident of a year ago, and our focus is squarely on mitigating any risk of a fire elsewhere on the system.”

Metrobus and MetroAccess service will continue to operate on a regular schedule. Alternate service options throughout the region will be extremely limited, and severe crowding is expected on buses. The public is advised to make alternate travel arrangements as early as possible.”

Well this is a new one. NBC Washington reports:

“The entire D.C. Metro system will shut down for 24 hours starting at midnight and lasting for the entire day Wednesday for an emergency investigation, two sources tell News4.”

Washington Post reports:

“The entire Metro system will shut down for at least 29 hours starting at midnight tonight for safety checks of electric cables, three Metro officials said.”

Any guesses on Uber surge pricing tomorrow?

150 Comment

  • Metro management should go take a field trip to Europe and see how a proper system functions.
    And anyone who bitches about the closing should vote for more public transportation subsidies (like those properly functioning systems across the pond).

  • This can’t be real, right?

  • It’ll be cheaper to charter a helicopter than to take an Uber.

  • Surge 1200.5X tomorrow at 7:30am.

  • Uber and traffic will be a shit show tomorrow.

  • This is madness. The city will come to a screeching halt. What is OPM going to do? This is straight crazy.

  • It’s going to look like Fury Road out there tomorrow morning.

  • OPM status update in 5,4,3….

  • I just came here for the schadenfreude. Everyone should buy a bike.

    • Yes, if the thousands who take the metro are all of a sudden on the streets, there won’t be any issues.

    • Not everyone can hack it on a bike. I can’t. Thankfully I’m only 2 miles from work – so walking is fine (though, that obviously is not going to work for some/many as well).

    • We’ll be back for reverse schadenfreude next time it sleets. 🙂

  • Also, I can’t help but wonder if the new GM is applying a modified Washington Monument Syndrome strategy here in an attempt to get WMATA’s constituent jurisdictions to up funding levels.

    • Yeah, this seems like a bit of a stunt. Why not wait until Saturday and if it were an absolute emergency why not close transit immediately?

      • maxwell smart

        Peak Cherry Blossom bloom is this weekend, so closing on Saturday would be a pretty big problem. And obviously if they close immediately, everyone would now be stranded at work… and I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to have a work slumber-party.

      • I’m guessing they don’t want to shut down during an upcoming weekend because cherry blossoms (and associated hordes of tourists) are almost here.

    • I was wondering this myself. Disastrous, or brilliant strategy to remind the region what traffic would look like without Metro. I remember when the Red Line between Silver Spring and Brookland was closed after the accident there, and that was carmeggedon in Downtown Silver Spring. That being said, fix Metro already!!!!!

      • I drove a friend home to Silver Spring that night, at around 9 PM. Even that late, the drive was terrible.

    • They couldn’t wait one day to let people, and jurisdictions, at least plan a little better?

  • Clueless

    If this ends up being true… GODSPEED, DC.

  • Metro must be in urgent need of repairs if they’re not waiting until the weekend or doing this in phases overnight. Gives me a lot of concern about my ride home tonight.

    • +1 My thoughts exactly!

    • Ha, I was thinking the same thing. Things must be really, really bad for them to do this.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Well, it is peak bloom, so the numbers on the weekend might actually be worse than during the week for once (though I don’t know for sure).

    • Full scale inspection at all nodes given recent fires etc according to NBC 4. They must know that their is an open and present danger on the system and want to identify it before it has catastrophic effects and takes lives.

  • Why is there nothing on!!!

  • at least they are not stranding us all at work today…

  • Wow. That’s racist.

  • Would the feds really call for a closure tomorrow?

    • I’d imagine option for unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework.

      • It’s too late for a lot of feds to prepare for that. At my agency, a lot of people are already out the door by 4:00.
        Which is why I’m wondering what was so urgent that they couldn’t at least provide more advance warning.

  • LOL they instigated a DDoS of their own website.
    it has not been a good week for WMATA.

  • Is the job program that you speak of restricted solely to one race? Is it not available to anyone that applies?

  • Thanks for the update. Would have been nice to have more than a few hours to prep

  • Dan, please remove this comment.

  • What kind of problems do they have requiring a total shutdown…that can be fixed in 24 hours?!

    • report doesn’t say they will be fixing anything; it says “investigation” (i.e., let’s see what the hell else is wrong since Monday was obviously a big problem)

    • I would like to know that as well!

    • During the Monday debacle, two trains nearly collided in a head-on collision at the Clarendon station. It hasn’t picked up much news traction, but can be found in the transit Twitter’verse and on Reddit. There’s obviously some major issues with the communication systems and the electrical wiring. At this point, Weidefeld is probably just praying that everyone gets home today with all limbs.

  • If they’re closing for 24 hours to go through and fire all the incompetent management/staff, I’m all for it.

  • One could imagine they found something pretty bad after the cable fire yesterday. If something were to happen between that discovery and before track work that would be hypothetically scheduled for weekend, one could just imagine the liability Metro would face.

  • Now where will all the unruly teenagers pestering riders do all day? Why don’t they think about the children!

  • Still can’t tell if this is a hoax/trolling by disgruntled metro employees.

  • MVT

    Press conference is late just like the trains…..

  • Stuff like this is why, for me, the question “do you feel safe on metro” has absolutely zero to do with other passengers. I have avoided metro rail like the plague since the 2009 red line accident. And I’m happier, healthier and richer as a result.

  • The City cant even accommodate all the cars that would be on the road if everyone who usually takes the train in had to drive… wouldn’t be room for all of those vehicles

  • I don’t know if this is an issue with personnel as much as budgeting. We’ve got some serious infrastructure problems across the board, including bridges and roads, because governments don’t like tucking away money for future replacements. Years of deferred maintenance has broadsided Metro, leading to budget woes and fare increases. We’re paying for poor management in the 1990s at this point.

    • Yet metro hasn’t actually spent all of its capital budget in years because of mismanagement.

  • actually the extent of the racism in metro’s hiring and overall HR practices is well documented and abhorrent. if you don’t know what TiredOfTheSameExcuses is complaining about your should educate yourself before commenting further.

  • Anyone up for some pure speculation? Let’s do it.

    I would bet that in the investigation into Monday’s cable fire, WMATA discovered some sort of design flaw in their electrical connections so catastrophic that they need to immediately make sure that the other ones won’t fail as well. The danger of the situation walks a tight rope; it must be pretty darn bad to shut down Metro tomorrow, but not quite bad enough to shut it down immediately.

    Now let’s see how wrong I turn out to be. I just hope this isn’t just the new GM letting the area know that there is a new sheriff in town.

    • That is basically what they are saying during the press conference. They are trying to avoid loss of life by inspecting the entire system end to end.

      • Yeah, though from what Paul Wiedefeld is saying, I’m not particularly convinced of the urgency of the request. I’m thinking WMATA legal counsel drove this decision.

      • They are trying to avoid “another” loss of life by inspecting the entire system end to end.

    • I don’t know if they are going to expect all 120 miles-worth of track, but they might. There is no way that they could do this quickly between Tuesday close and Wednesday open, and whatever is up with the cable issue from yesterday is clearly a big enough deal that they don’t want to do it piecemeal over the course of several nights. The moratorium on weekend closures during the cherry blossoms also means that, barring Metro wanting to lift that, they only can do checks during the weeknights.

      • WaPo said they’d be checking wiring in the tunnels because yesterday’s incident was so similar to the L’Enfant tragedy. I guess above ground areas would be OK (relatively speaking) because smoke would dissipate so they don’t necessarily need to cover the entire system tomorrow.
        As for liability, same article said that the board was concerned about liability if they did the inspections over the course of a week and something happened in the meantime.

      • No as I understand it, its just the underground cables/connectors since this is where you have a smoke hazard. It sucks if there is a fire outdoors, but that is not as much a danger to life I’d suppose. As to whether legal counsel drove this – of course they did since WMATA just got sued in January for the L’Enfant smoke event, and with the McPherson Sq. fire just happening, they are on notice and if anything were to happen now, its beyond mere negligence, so they have to act.

        I applaud this, whether it’s Washington Monument theory or otherwise. We all like to complain when things break, because they don’t get inspected, and when they need to be inspected, we also wish to complain. I’d rather have one day of telework to ensure system reliability and safety, rather than take years off my life with the constant delays that would happen when there are 2-3 smoke events a year that totally shitcan a days commute. Give up one day now, or several days down the road to address this piecemeal seems to be the choice for WMATA. Combined with recency bias and liability concerns, its a no-brainer.

        That being said – which bars are offering #WMATADAY specials?

    • Oooh – speculation? I bet it’s gremlins.

  • Shutting down the ENTIRE metro system, in the middle of a work-week? Does anyone else think that something larger is at play here, or was yesterday’s cable fire this major of a cause for alarm?

  • Don’t forget to stop by the grocery store to pickup your milk, eggs, bread, ect.

  • 1) bwahaha hahaha just when I have DCstalgia, this happens
    2) will be curious how OPM handles this. I was never allowed to telework as a fed in a sensitive security position so would I be forced to take leave because I couldn’t get to the pentagon?
    3) how is metro this much of a shit show. It’s awful. It used to be state of the art now it’s not even state of the fart. It’s embarrassing. I feel really bad for the tourists who now have to figure out the alphabet in order to walk anywhere.
    4) but really, I wish you all luck. Hope you can stay home and watch pat Collins cover it.

  • Glad I brought my laptop home today!

  • haha, just noticed the “happy birthday Uber” in the link address – nice one Dan!

  • Dat URL tho.

  • Metrocalypse now!!

  • I Dont Get It

    I just returned from being the Paul Revere of U Street yelling “The Metro is closing,the Metro is closing” at the dry cleaners, TJs, CVS, etc.

    P.S. Why is Fox News interviewing Jim Graham??????

  • DC CapHill

    Annnnnnddddddd still nothing from OPM…

  • Just a ploy to up ridership numbers on the new street car!

  • No info on the PIDs or station announcements, at least where I am. Screw you, tourists!
    It really does scare me that this is even necessary. Makes me wonder what would’ve happened if yesterday’s fire had happened later.

  • That One Guy

    I imagine parking is going to cray cray and what happens when all of the downtown parking garages are filled?

  • I Dont Get It

    Dumbest comment I’ve heard on local TV coverage: “So far, Metro buses are not impacted by this closing.”

    WTF? If we have Metro buses in Metro tunnels we have a much bigger problem!

  • From ABC: “Metrobus and MetroAccess service will continue to operate on a regular schedule. Alternate service options throughout the region will be extremely limited, and severe crowding is expected on buses. ”
    Whoa. You’d think they could roll out some extra buses like they do when they temporarily close a small segment of the system. I realize they can’t provide the same level of service and duplicate all metro routes, but they must have enough data about ridership to be able to target needs and provide some express buses between some stations or additional buses on other routes.
    Under emergency management best practices this plan should be in place so it just needs to be activated, not figured out. (I know, I know, just typing “best practices” about WMATA made me laugh, too.)

    • Not to mention buses will get stuck in the cluster f*** of traffic that will happen once everyone who normally takes metro decides to drive or uber. I normally drive, but I’m seriously considering working from home tomorrow!

  • The bad news is Metro will be closed. The good news is no one will get attacked by mobs of teens.

  • Couldn’t wait 1 more day to do this? Could’ve watched some March Madness from home. How inconsiderate.

  • Can’t believe DC Govt will still be open. I know a lot of people have the option to telework but a lot of people don’t. And many many people come from outside the city from places like Fairfax and Rockville. They’ll be in traffic all day if all of those people drive. Definitely feel for them tomorrow and am thankful I can walk 1.5 miles to work!

  • Dear OPM: If “optional telework” is your new standard alternative to “government closed,” please stop allowing individual supervisors to refuse telework-ready approvals on the basis of “I don’t like the idea of telework.”

    • YES! This! I used to be able to telework then poof… new supervisor and suddenly no telework. Lame.

  • Prepare for a rough commute home in the afternoon if it starts raining, folks.

  • No street sweeping! Thank you baby Jesus for small favors

    DPW Suspends Residential Street Sweeping, Wednesday, March 16, Due to Metrorail Shutdown

  • SilverSpringGal

    *cackles* I mean…umm, so sorry for all the commuters coming in from VA and MD.

  • I might be the only one completely pleased with this decision. I think that this shows that the new Metro management is prepared to make hard decisions, that are best for the system and people it serves. After years (decades) of mismanagement, especially in safety related issues. I think this is a breath of fresh air. My only wish is that they could call in everyone who can do work and do a metro work blitz during the shutdown. Let’s get other stuff done too!

    • I’m glad they made the decision to shut down for the day, I just wish other agencies would follow suit and make it an administrative/”optional” day off. I’ll be able to get to work with no issue, but half my coworkers won’t be able to so that means I’m going to have a lot of extra work to make up for them not being there (I work in a library). Allow people to take the day off if they need to, but then give the people who could come in a “free” day off somewhere down the line.

  • Well as long as the Streetcar will be running there will be no worries tomorrow

  • Close one lane on all highways into the district to all traffic except buses. Bikeshare is free tomorrow!

  • justinbc

    To everyone who was anticipating some sort of Mad Max style chaos on the roads this morning, it was probably the smoothest ride I’ve seen outside of a Thanksgiving or Christmas work week. DC has an outstanding bus system, I suggest everyone at least familiarize yourselves with the routes available to you so that you don’t freak out quite so much when you can’t take Metro. They’re trying to prevent the loss or endangerment of lives, try to complain a little less about how this screws things up for YOU.

  • So that’s why the morning commute was busier than usual. For Uber drivers, it’d probably make financial sense to take PTO from the day job and work today. Black Friday for car-share drivers.

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