Non Passenger Train Derails Both Smithsonian and Federal Triangle Stations Closed – “no estimate on when normal service will be restored”

by Prince Of Petworth August 6, 2015 at 7:20 am 60 Comments

metro mess
Photo by PoPville flickr user Barbara Krawcowicz


“Metro is advising Orange, Blue and Silver riders of a service disruption that will impact service during the morning rush hour of Thursday, August 6 due to derailment of a non-revenue train at a switch point outside of Smithsonian Station. There were no passengers aboard the train and no injuries to the operator.

Service Information:

Rail service on the Blue and Orange lines has been suspended between Federal Center SW and McPherson Square stations.
Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations are closed.
Lower level platforms at Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza stations are closed.

Silver Line trains will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and East Falls Church only to reduce congestion downtown. Silver Line riders should transfer to Orange Line trains to continue their trip.
Riders will experience significant delays on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines and should consider alternate travel options this morning.
Yellow Line may provide an alternate for riders traveling from Virginia to Downtown DC

Boarding locations for shuttle buses

Federal Center – 3rd St & D St SW
L’Enfant Plaza 7th St & D St SW
Smithsonian – 12th & Independence Ave SW
Federal Triangle – 12th & Pennsylvania Ave NW
Metro Center 11th & G St NW
McPherson Square – 14th & I St NW

All regular-route Metrobus service in Downtown DC will allow affected rail passengers to ride free to their detinations.

Metro personnel are working to restore normal service as quickly and safely as possible. However, at this time there is no estimate on when normal service will be restored.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

  • Q

    I’m a big fan of WAMU usually, but how is it that in the 25 minutes I listened to the radio this morning–which included at least two traffic reports–this never got even a passing mention? I take the bus so (thank goodness) it didn’t affect me, but this is pretty big news for morning drive time.

    • sproc

      What time were you listening? I had WAMU on continuously from about 5:45 until I walked out at 6:40. I’m certain Metro lead the traffic report, and it helped me get to work on time by taking my secondary route.
      Agree that normally WAMU traffic leads with car fires in parts of VA I’ve never even heard of and could do a better job with transit issues, but today I think they were on point.

      • me too

        I was also listening this morning and heard nothing! Would definitely have biked to work instead of getting immediately stuck in the l’enfant plaza hellscape. boo.

      • Q

        Around 7:40-8:05ish. Now that I’m thinking about it, this is an ongoing problem with them. They rarely include serious problems on the Metro in the traffic reports, and I don’t get how a situation like this is considered less important than a fender bender on the GW Parkway. Sure, they define “traffic” as car-related, but since public transit is used by so many people, I’d think they could expand their definition of “traffic” to “commute,” especially when it’s not a huge enough story to be on the actual news. Hey, that’s a good idea! [Pats self on back.] (I know WAMU’s broadcast decisions are really tangential to this morning’s issue, but there’s just not a lot new to say about WMATA’s dysfunction.)

      • Caroline

        I used to commute on 395, and spent most mornings sitting in gridlocked traffic listening to traffic reports that made no mention of 395. I concluded that since 395 is normally a mess they weren’t going to waste time stating the obvious. Maybe they’re started doing the same with metro delays.

    • Not Me

      I listened from 7:30-8:45am and heard the report several times. I’ve always found traffic reports interesting, and I pay special attention now so I can be even more grateful for my 10-min walking commute. Sorry you got caught, that blows, but the reports were definitely out there.

    • Welshie

      I was thinking the same thing this morning! I listen to WAMU every morning, especially paying attention to the traffic & weather portions, and when I came into work I was shocked everyone was talking about it.

    • JPK

      Turned it on around 6:40 and heard almost immediate mention of the problems

    • SF

      Martin DiCaro (WAMU reporter on these things) said he was working on something until 330 last night and didn’t get up until 8 am this morning, so that probably has something to do with it. Still, seems like they should have somebody covering the morning commute if he can’t.

  • Thomas

    Just another day for the worst transit system in America.

    • Anonymous

      Have you been to…any city in the Midwest? e.g., Detroit, where a “fully functioning” system is worse than metro in its worst day?

      • Hoodley Park

        Detroit happens to have a fine metro system called the people mover. It doesn’t go very far, but usually takes you to your destination on time.

      • anonymous

        Where is your evidence, Anonymous? Chicago’s L is performing better than WMATA. There aren’t a lot of major subway systems in the Midwest, so I don’t know where you’re basing that seemingly outlandish statement on. WMATA really is trying for the worst system in this country, and maybe the world. No need to whitewash their criminal/incompetent performance.

  • Tired of WMATA

    If WMATA ever decides to provide details about this (which they won’t since they care very little about transparency or their customers) and we find out another avoidable incident caused by another metro employee with zero qualifications that cost thousands of people hours of frustration and no one will be held accountable. Metro is not a jobs program.

  • The OP Anon

    Put a fork in it – WMATA is done. The whole institution needs to be reorganized, top to bottom.

    • Jobe

      We say this every time there is an incident and nothing happens. Unfortunately people have died due to Metro’s incompetence and nothing appears to have changed. Sad.

  • cj

    WMATA: continuing to instill confidence

  • me

    Please note the reference WMATA makes to “the non-revenue train.” Should read “Empty of paying passengers. Human passengers.” Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but this verbiage really gets to me.

    • TJ

      Or maybe it should say maintenance train, or whatever it is, instead of saying what it is not.

      • zartan

        it was a train being moved into position to accept passengers. So, until it was accepting passengers, it was non-rev. Common terminology.

    • anon

      That’s a common phrase in the airline industry- any non paying passenger is a non rev. I’d imagine it’s the same in transit?

    • zartan

      that’s common terminology in transportation industries. airline employees flying on standby are called “non revs” to differentiate them from paying customers.

  • MAR

    I know you are far more likely to die in a car crash, etc, etc. but I am wrong in feeling like I would really not like to ride metro ever again?

    • Cyclist

      Join us.

      • Eponymous


    • You’ll be OK.

      • Leeran

        You realize metro is so incompetent that a woman suffocated this year, right? Read the NTSB report or look at pictures from the incident if you haven’t — it’s shocking.

        It’s not unreasonable to hesitate over WMATA’s safety record at this point.

        • Eponymous

          You realize that drivers are so incompetent that tens of thousands of Americans die on the road every year – right?

          • Leeran

            That’s NOT a reason to wave off metro killing six passengers (so far) this decade. In addition, if you’re comparing rail to driving in the city, accidents are much less likey to be fatal at lower urban speeds.

          • Eponymous

            Ten. They’ve killed ten. MPD reports 20-50 traffic fatalities in a typical year.
            I despise Metro. I bike in order to avoid taking it, because it’s an unreliable embarassment of a transit system. But realistically assessing risk =/= “waving off” the system’s serious faults.

          • +1 Eponymous, exactly. Sure, it could happen, but your chances are minuscule compared to other forms of transportation. Segway fatalities might be the only thing lower.

    • no – I regularly say a little thanks when I arrive safely at my destination.

  • TDigs

    Non-Passenger train derailed. So for a non-passenger train to derail my guess is the operator may have been going too fast. I hope they investigate and if that is the issue then hold the operator accountable.

    • LoganMatt

      Probably went through an incorrectly set switch

  • Leeran

    If you took metro this morning, call to file a complaint and get a refund. (202) 637-1328. Hit 0 to reach a human.

  • districtwanderer

    A few months ago, I made the decision to never ride metro again (well, as little as feasible). This means that I do a 45 minute bike ride rather than a 20 minute metro ride each way to work. I know that not everyone has this flexibility, but it has greatly improved my daily routine. It’s great exercise, it’s free and I’m not relying on a dilapidated, under-performing, over-priced transit system with a completely useless work force.

    • anonymous

      Look, I won’t defend WMATA in light of the major events that have happened over the years, but the system is far from “dilapidated.” It is one of the nicer transit systems in the country, albeit run poorly. I am not sure why there are the major track issues in a system that is relatively new, but the trains and stations are much nicer than those in most places. Most of the delays (especially weekend track work or disabled train delays) could have been prevented if the area was willing to spend the money when it was built to have bypass tracks installed. Instead, we are stuck with a two track system, so if anything goes wrong on any track, the entire line suffers. That was poor foresight. Admittedly, I don’t take Metro anymore and my life is much less stressful because of it, but as I said, the system is not dilapidated and many of the delays cannot be prevented.

      • ***

        There are major track issues because WMATA fails to do routine maintenance. If you don’t change the oil, you’re going to blow the transmission – and that is exactly what is happening. Weekend Track Work has been going on for 4+ years and there has been no visible improvement to the system – in fact, it seems lately things are falling apart faster. Meanwhile the people in charge at WMATA are going home to 6 figure paycheck and bonuses. The system might be pretty, but it is dilapidated.

      • Q

        The system isn’t that new–it turns 40 next year. And it wasn’t maintained well for the first 35, and now we’re suffering for it. (Well, it’s new compared to, say, the El, but 40 in general infrastructure years is objectively up there.)

        • anonymous

          Compared to NYC, Boston, and Chicago, i.e., the other major subway systems, it is significantly newer and nicer. Maybe it wasn’t maintained for the first 35 years, but that has nothing to do with present day WMATA leadership. Again, I am not even trying to defend them, but people overreact to a disabled train causing rush hour delays when there is not much they can do that they haven’t been doing in the last 4-5 years. They could probably make up for the years of neglect by doing track work all day, every day, but that would cause outrage as well. The fact of the matter is, people b!tch when there are delays because they are doing track work, but then want to b!tch when there is an issue because the track isn’t maintained (you can’t have it both ways). As far as today is concerned, it is a serious issue if the train derailed because of a bad piece of track that went unnoticed, but more often than not, trains derail because someone was driving too fast.

          • anonymous

            anonymous, this is another anonymous. You clearly haven’t been following this issue very closely. NTSB and other places have released a lot of damning material on this organization about things they have done in the past five years (please read up on the NTSB’s stuff in particular- wow!). Actually, in response to the poor woman’s death in January 2015, they continued to use the same shoddy/incompetent tactics on the rails AFTER she was killed. This is not just WMATA failing to take care of the system for the first 35 years!! Their pay/pension system is bloated and beyond what (I believe) any system is paying, and the legendary incompetence/poor work record/failure to plan is well-documented. You need to stop being an apologist for this inexcusable, darn near criminal organization.

          • msus

            Beyond what any system is paying? Ha, google “BART employee compensation”. At least WMATA workers can’t resort to strikes to jack up their pay even more.

      • Blithe

        An additional factor — as opposed to simply “poor foresight” — was the considerable disruption that Metro construction posed for residents and businesses at the time. While it’s easy now, especially for newer residents, to bemoan the lack of bypass tracks, larger stations etc., in the system, the construction process had a significant, negative, impact — a variable that is easy to overlook, particularly for people whose only experience of DC is as a city with a reasonably seamlessly integrated Metro system in place.

      • Eponymous

        Pretty stations and trains aren’t worth a darn in a transit system. Functionality is king. Give me ugly, grimy caves of stations and nondescript train cars any day of the week (as in NYC) if it goes along with reasonably reliable service. 12 minute waits for trains during rush hour and 24 min waits on the weekend don’t signal a world-class transit system.

        • anonymous

          NYC has like 6 tracks on each line, so yes, there are less delays because if there is an issue with a train or a piece of track, they can easily by pass it. I guarantee that MTA is constantly dealing with similar issues, but people don’t notice it because they can work around it easier.

          • ***

            And the irony is that it’s an older system – so they clearly thought ahead when they built it to allow for express trains, bypassing, etc.

          • anonymous

            I agree. As I said above, it was poor foresight, but it was not WMATA (that was related to money and resident’s complaining, and we all have to deal with it now). Also, being an older system made it a little easier to do because things were less developed when it was built.

        • Anon

          +1 Reliability over looks any day!

          • ymous

            NYC did not “think ahead”. The current NYC subway is an amalgamation of 3 different subway systems that were all privately built and run. Hence, stations 3 blocks apart from one another and multiple lines serving the same destinations. The redundancies in the system are a plus when detours are called for, but they are not by design or evidence of brilliant urban planning.

        • orange line rider

          the stations aren’t pretty or functional. I can barely see worth a damn whoever thought the lightning style was a good idea needs to be shot. Even London’s tube is WAY better lit and runs better.

    • timmyp

      I did the same thing a few months ago. But where do you live that you can get to work on the metro in 20 and 45 to bike? I’ve never been able to get anywhere on metro in 20. I live in Petworth and it’s much faster to bike than metro. It’s just that the hills are a bitch on the way home.

  • Jobe

    Can someone explain to me what the rationale was behind closing the B/O/S platforms at Metro Center and L’Enfant? It seems to make no sense, considering the incident occurred between Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. Both those stations are major arteries for commuters looking to go elsewhere in the city, so Metro ended up shuttling people around in buses who otherwise would have stayed in the system to get elsewhere. Am I missing something here?

    • cj

      perhaps they don’t have a turnaround after mcpherson/beforesmithsonian?

    • Commentator

      It wasn’t Federal Triangle, it was Federal Center SW so those two stations are right in the middle of the closure.

      • Commentator

        Sorry, I misread and see that I didn’t respond to your question properly. I don’t have the answer as to how they determined which stations needed to be closed but it’s a good question.

  • BeverlyS

    Yeah, this was pretty bad. I get on normally at Federal Center for my morning commute and holy batman, people were everywhere. Hundreds of people at the corners of D and 3rd and there were just two shuttles. People were clamoring to get on, pushing all around, etc. I finally got on a bus and our shuttle driver didn’t know how to get to L’Enfant. So that was fun, nice 30 minute tour of SW DC, even got to drive by Waterfront metro. Normal 20 minute commute was about an hour and fifteen minutes.

    • Caroline

      It’s a shame the train couldn’t have gone one more stop to l’Enfant, since most people would be getting off there anyway.

      I walked from Federal Center to L’Enfant. Wish I’d known ahead of time that it was going to take 40 minutes just to metro to Federal Center from Eastern Market; I probably would have walked that leg of the journey too. My commute ended up taking something like an hour and a half.

  • quincy

    Metro is just getting worse and worse. The announcements when there are problems or delays are few and far between, and system delays and malfunctions seem to be more frequent than the appearance of 8 car trains at rush hour. The system is an embarrassment and a total mess. It’s really sad to see what was once a great transit system disintegrate. Time to buy a commuter bike and start biking to work.

  • Metro rider

    During my commute home yesterday:

    -Giant crush of people on redline due to delays; platforms at Gallery Place were absolutely packed it is amaIng no one fell into the tracks.

    -Random “ghost cars”: cars in the middle of a train that are malfunctioning and apparently unable to take passengers. This is not only unsettling but also makes the delays worse

    -Only one working turnstile at Columbia Heights. Giant line snaking to the back of the station. To Metro’s credit, one escalator was working. Usually none are working

    -Train operator threatened several times to unload the train if people didn’t stop trying to cram themselves into the working cars. Sorry, but how about you keep a somewhat reliable schedule and show up with operable train cars if you don’t want crowds?

    -Malfunctioning door system on redline train repeatedy issued the “step away from the closing doors” warning while the doors were closed and the train was at full speed between stations.

    How long until Metro inevitably kills someone else?

  • Caroline

    I should have known something was amiss when I entered the station and overheard people wondering why there were no CaBis available.


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