City Desk

Public Transit Woes: How Safe Are We?

When it comes to public transportation, residents of the greater Washington area are relatively fortunate.  Metro trains and buses come with relative frequency, they are clean (for the most part), and they can accommodate the masses of commuters and tourists that congregate in this city.  But since Saturday, four people have died at local transit stations.  Shouldn't this be cause for some concern about the system?

Around noon on Saturday, an unidentified man moved into the path of a train at the Potomac Avenue station in Southeast and was struck by an Orange Line train.  EMS technicians worked to free the man and eventually transported him to a local hospital but he later died from his injuries.  Approximately 24 hours later, Gweno Ladisch, a French woman living in Chevy Chase, also purposely placed herself in front of a train at Bethesda station and died as a result.  Metro suicides like these are tragic, isolated incidents but are becoming more frequent, according to a poll in today's Examiner.  It's the other incidents of violence that have greater shock value.

Yesterday, two employees of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transit Commission were shot and killed at a bus terminal in Prince William County.  A suspect, Glenn Wade, who also happened to be a roommate of one of the victims, turned himself in and was charged with murder last night.  According to police, an altercation between the two men may have resulted in the shooting, but a reason behind the action doesn't make it better.

What is it about this area?  It was only last November that a 15 year old boy was shot and killed on a Ride-On bus in Silver Spring.  Two years ago, people nation-wide were praising Wesley Autry, the New Yorker who saved a stranger's life by throwing himself onto the tracks as the train passed over them.  In DC, four people have died in three days with little fanfare.  Our public transit system needs a safety overhaul, that's for sure.  But maybe Washingtonians aren't fazed.  According to Metro's ridership statistics, the number of people using Metro is constantly rising.

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  • Dave

    There isn't fanfare because these examples, while coincidentally happening at the same time, are difficult to prevent. I would say "omgz you're right" if people were getting shot on the Metro. There's little that can be done if someone really wants to kill themselves by jumping in front of a train.

  • Brandon

    Any discussion on safety should compare public transit accidents to car accidents.

  • Jason

    This column is stupid even by City Paper standards. In the first place, Woodbridge (Prince William County) is a far suburb about 20 miles from DC proper. Secondly, the fact that two people committed suicide doesn't really buttress your point. Yes, it's tragic that two people took their lives, but to be frank their decision to jump in front of a train doesn't make anyone else's life any less safe.

    As to your contention that people in DC aren't fazed, well, why would they be? The DC area is one of the most violent, dangerous metropolitan areas in the entire country. The thought that somehow the transit system would be immune is frankly rather odd.

  • Key

    "What is it about this area?"

    Well, I for one would take any poll that the Examiner does with a HUGE grain of salt. Secondly, we ride transit! So, then it follows that more good and bad things happen to us...on transit. Third, we need to hire less homicidal people to work in transit.

    What truly gets little fanfare is the HUGE amount of pedestrian deaths we have.

  • KCinDC

    An employee at a bus terminal has a crazed or criminal roommate, and that's somehow the fault of the transit system? Get back to me when you have comparative statistics showing that random shootings like that are more common in transit systems than other areas that are open to the public. What exactly is your proposed solution for such shootings and for Metro suicides?

  • KCinDC

    Also, why on earth would a poll in the Examiner be a reliable source for data on how common Metro suicides are? (Not that I actually see any poll on the linked page.)

  • Transitguy

    Not only is the point of this column ridiculous, but the facts are wrong. Only one of the victims was a PRTC employee and the other victim was the roommate (not an employee) of the person in custody for murder. The person in custody is a PRTC employee.

    With all the people out of work, how does this reporter still have a job?