What’s Up with the Slow Metro Trains?

by Prince Of Petworth August 27, 2015 at 2:25 pm 23 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user nevermindtheend

“Dear PoPville,

Wondering if you or anyone can shed some light on this: for the past week or two at least, the yellow line trains have been going quite slow over the bridge to and from Virginia. One morning, the conductor announced that the train was “required to go at a restricted speed between L’Enfant Plaza and Pentagon,” but other than that I haven’t seen any announcement or explanation. Does anyone know what’s going on?”

another reader writes:

“Metro has imposed speed restrictions on various portions of its track in response to the recent derailment. The red line train has gotten SUPER SLOW on certain stretches of track during my commute lately, resulting in noticeable delays. It seems reasonable to infer that the same defect that caused the derailment may be rampant throughout the system. Given that metro is subject to zero accountability, I worry that it may just be a matter of time before more people die.”

The Washington Post reported:

“Metro has implemented speed restrictions on curves throughout the system. That means trains are slowing to 35 mph to 40 mph as they approach a curve. The restrictions are in place as part of what Metro calls an “aggressive campaign” to inspect curved sections of track following the Aug. 6 derailment between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian Metro stations.”

  • Zora

    If the faulty piece of track that caused the derailment is just one example of a much larger issue, it could explain why it wasn’t fixed after it was detected. Why rush to fix the problem in that particular location if it exists all over the place?

  • NoNo

    The WaPo article explains why… however it does it using Metro PR’s word that are very misleading:
    ” The restrictions are […] part of […] an “aggressive campaign” to inspect curved sections”.
    This is a blatant lie.
    The speed restrictions are not a results of the inspection (as explained by GGW yesterday), but a result of a lack of inspection. Inspections can be done only on closed section of track.

    If your ride is particularly slow, there is 2 reasons:
    – That portion of track is considered at risk (in a curve, or outside) and has not been inspected yet.
    – That portion of track has been diagnosed as defective and is waiting/scheduled for repair.

    • Anonynony

      But if the trains ahead of you are going slowly to get through the trouble spots, you have to go slowly as well. Slowdowns to parts of the system result is slowdown throughout the entire system.

    • Zora

      It seems quite possible that not only is there defective track all throughout the system but that metro has long known about it. Up until the unanticipated derailment happened, they figured they’d just let it ride(pun intended) for the indefinite future.

  • What?

    Slowed to 35 mph? Wrong. I was on a blue line train yesterday that went about 2 miles an hour, causing my trip to take much longer than usual.

    Trains (on all lines) also stop randomly, sit for awhile, move a couple feet, then stop again….repeat. Is this for safety or is it yet more incompetence from the world’s worst transit system?

    • JohnH

      That most likely is a train ahead of you. Metro’s trains maintain a certain distance apart and are not driven manually by the conductors.

      • sbc

        the only metro trains that currently use automatic train control are 8-car red line trains during rush hour; see http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/news/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=5909

        ATO stopped after the June 2009 collision and the other lines aren’t expected to get it back until 2017 (which in wmata time is around 2032).

      • west_egg

        Metro’s trains are, in fact, driven manually by the conductors. They’re not designed to be, but they have been since the 2009 crash because WMATA can’t get its $h|t together.

        • FridayGirl

          Actually, this isn’t true. Only certain trains are driven manually. They started the automatic driving on the red line again this past spring.

  • etmags

    The stretch between Union Station and NoMa has become unbearably slow the past couple weeks. I doubt they go any faster than 10 mph once the train emerges from the tunnel. It takes 5 minutes to go what has taken 1.5 minutes (max) in the past. Infuriating! We pay too much for such a regularly disappointing and broken system.

    • anon

      +1 and it has been going on for several weeks. Every day I get a metro alert that there “may be delays due to track work between NoMa and Rhode Island Ave.” I’ve given up on Metro entirely and am now driving to work.

    • Anon

      I’d say it goes as far as almost RI Ave station but only outbound. It’s infuriatingly slow and the view of the rail yard aint so great.

  • sproc

    I’d say the only upside has been a chance to enjoy the view from the Yellow line bridge for a lot longer, but it quickly loses its thrill when you’re trying to get somewhere. It’s usually just over 3min from Pentagon to L’Enfant and vice versa, but now takes 2-3 times longer.

    • Caroline

      I’m probably the only person that enjoys the slower speed over the river. I’ve always savored that break from being underground, and I’m never in such a hurry that the extra few minutes makes much of a difference.

  • pjl35


    Look at each line, which notes that there are speed restrictions in place.

    • [rrrrr]

      Nothing there about the yellow line bridge, but I suppose it is the same reasoning of inspections?

      • pjl35

        yeah i’d think so

  • llinds

    I have been wondering about this for about two weeks now, too. Thanks for the heads up, PoP.

  • Tim

    Definitely been feeling this between Dupont Circle and Woodley Park

  • AdmsMgn

    The slowdown between Dupont Circle and Woodley Park heading towards Shady Grove has been very noticeable.

  • Aaron

    The slowing down over the bridge between Lenfant and Pentagon is particularly worrisome. We aren’t talking about 35-40, but 5-10. And its a curve that make you lean over towards the water at certain points. VERY sketchy.

  • Anonynony

    The worst part of this is trying to transfer at the Pentagon station to get from L’Enfant to Rosslyn without going through downtown (avoiding eight of the busiest Metro stops). The Blue Line has been reduced to arriving every 12 minutes or so during late rush hour, and if you miss the connection, it’s a long wait. This was already screwing up my shortcut, but now it’s ridiculous. Metro: you can’t win.

  • Ashley

    I asked Metro the same question over Twitter. They just tweeted back, “A track condition.” The yellow line is stop and go between Pentagon and L’Enfant.


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