Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Red Line Accident Resonated, Even Outside of DC

As a Washingtonian, daily Metro rider and proponent of public transit, I was shocked and very distressed watching the reports of Metro's Red Line collision last week. At the time I was in New York about to leave the hotel for dinner. The local NYC news station broke from programming to report the incident, even before it aired on CNN and other cable news channels.

The night unfolded, and I found myself checking the news reports at the dinner table, trying to keep up with the tragic events miles away in DC. The local NY media, including print and television did a surprisingly thorough job of reporting on the incident, even featuring Fenty, some crash victims, and allowing the story to be told enough that I had a good idea of what was happening even though I was several metropolitan areas away. It probably wasn't the topic of first concern for New Yorkers, but it was right up there near the top of the 11:00 hour news.

Now over a week out, I can see that some nerves are still frayed, within Metro and those of customers as well. Until there is a definitive answer about the equipment problems, especially those within the trackbed itself, some may never feel completely comfortable riding the train. We can get over operator error, which does not appear to be a major cause for this incident. The driver of this train was likely failed by equipment, mechanics and design. But if the design is faulty, how do you reconcile that? That's a system wide problem. I'm not speculating that there is a system-wide failure, there is no evidence of that. But if there is a system-wide potential for failure, that's a problem for me.

Riding Metro is safe. I will continue to ride. The statistics show that travelling in a car is more dangerous than riding Metro or other subways. But the perception that a hidden fault could have caused this accident is troubling. Do I think this should be made into a political issue? No. Should Virginia, Maryland, the District governments agree to create a permanent funding stream for Metro? Yes. That has been true for years, well before this terrible collision took place. Peace to all the families and friends involved. Keep riding the trains and buses to work and play. And to Metro: Please, as best you can, find out what contributed to this collision and work as hard as you have ever worked to correct it.

Officials Seek Clues in Train Crash : New York Times
D.C. Metro Red Line Crash : Washington Post