City Desk

Record Deaths, Suicides and Fare Hikes: Metro’s Worst Year Ever

Metro_Center_station,_DCIn the year since the deadliest crash in Metro history, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has at least attained a certain level of distinction. "We do not see the frequency of accidents on other properties that we are seeing on Metro," notes National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman in Tuesday's WaPo article on the transit authority's worsening safety record in the aftermath of last year's tragedy. Adding the spike in suicides, plus record fare hikes, it's been a banner 12 months in many categories for the transit system. Worst year ever? Consider the timeline:

June 22, 2009-Two trains collide near the Fort Totten station, killing train operator Jeanice McMillian and eight passengers. Another 76 are injured. Deadliest accident in Metro history.

June 29, 2009-A man is struck and killed by an eight-car train at the Forest Glen station just after 4:15 p.m., causing delays on the red line. Preliminary reports indicate that the individual intentionally put himself on the track. (WMATA)

July 24, 2009-A man is struck by a six-car train at the Van Ness station, causing delays on the red line. Witnesses report that he intentionally placed himself on the tracks. (WMATA)

August 10, 2009-Metro repairman Michael Nash, 63, of Silver Spring is fatally struck by the ballast regulator while conducting track maintenance along the orange line. (WMATA)

August 12, 2009-A six-car train headed in the direction of New Carrollton strikes a person who was on the tracks as the train pulled into the station around 11:18 a.m., causing delays of up to 30 minutes on the orange line. (WMATA)

September 8, 2009-WaPo reports on Metro's major budget shortfall, signaling that the transit authority may have to raise fares.

September 10, 2009-12-year veteran Metro employee John Moore, 44, of Arlington "walked down a staircase in a vent shaft, opened a door to the track bed area known as the 'right of way' and was struck" by a six-car train, causing major delays on the blue and yellow lines. He dies four days later. Moore is the third Metro employee killed in 2009. (WMATA)

September 13, 2009-A man is struck and killed by a six-car train headed in the direction of Shady Grove at 7:58 a.m. According to WMATA: "The preliminary investigation indicates that the man, a customer, placed himself in the path of the train. Customers can expect major delays on the Red Line throughout the remainder of the morning while police conduct an investigation."

September 15, 2009-WTOP reports on the rash of suicides on Metro tracks: "So far in 2009, Metro says there have been eight incidents, six of them fatal."

September 17, 2009-Another reported suicide. A 15-year-old D.C. resident is fatally struck by a six-car train as it pulled into the Columbia Heights station. According to WMATA: "The 1:55 p.m. incident disrupted service for a little more than two hours. Service returned to normal at 4:15 p.m....The preliminary investigation indicates that the young man intentionally placed himself in the path of the train."

September 22, 2009- The NTSB issues nine safety recommendations—six deemed urgent— to address concerns about train control systems stemming from the investigation into the deadly Metro crash that killed nine in June. (WTTG-TV)

November 29, 2009-Three Metro employees are injured after two out-of-service trains collide at the Falls Church rail yard in Fairfax County. According to WMATA: "Service to customers was not affected...."

November 30, 2009-An individual is struck by a train at the Gallery Place-Chinatown station at about 3:35 p.m., causing "major delays of an hour or more on the Red Line throughout the remainder of the afternoon rush period," according to WMATA, which later updates the situation: "The preliminary investigation indicates that two young men were involved in an altercation and one individual pushed the other into the side of the last car of a six-car train.  The young man fell to the platform and was aided by local emergency medical first responders. The individual, a minor, was transported to a nearby hospital."

January 4, 2010- A 50-year-old woman from Kensington, MD, is struck by a six-car Red Line train at the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan station at 11:36 p.m. According to WMATA: "The Metro Transit Police continue to investigate, but preliminary information shows that the woman intentionally placed herself in the path of the train."

January 27, 2010- Two Metro employees working on the tracks are killed when struck by a Metro utility vehicle (WaPo). Jeffrey Garrard, 49 of Clarksburg and Sung Oh, 68, of Montgomery Village had been installing new train control equipment around 1:45 a.m. (WTOP).

February 3, 2010-The Examiner reports that a 22-year-old Germantown man had killed himself by jumping off the seventh floor of a parking garage at the Shady Grove station. Metro did not notify the media about the death, as it "had no effect on service." It was "the second major incident in three days that the agency did not share with the public," the paper reported. Two days earlier, a maintenance vehicle carrying 20 workers slid on an icy rail into a truck on the red line between the Medical Center and Grosvenor-Strathmore stations, causing a chain reaction that damaged four trucks.

February 12, 2010-A Metro train derails near the Farragut North station. According to WMATA, "the preliminary report is that the front wheels of lead car is the one that came off the tracks."

February 17, 2010-Fares on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess increase 10 cents. WMATA further warns that "[a]dditional fare changes and other actions related to Metro’s fiscal year 2011 budget are likely later this spring as Metro grapples with a projected $189 million budget deficit."

March 12, 2010-A train operator with nearly 11 years experience is fired for her involvement in the February derailment at Farragut North. According to WMTA: "She was dismissed for failing to follow standard operating procedures."

April 20, 2010-A piece of track equipment that "developed a mechanical problem" at 4:30 a.m. near the West Hyattsville station is blamed for causing major delays on the green line. According to WMATA: "Customers can anticipate delays of up to 30 minutes throughout the morning rush hour."

April 22, 2010-Metro's Board of Directors tensely debate proposed fare hikes and service cuts to help close the transit authority's $200 million budget gap. (WTOP) The proposed budget includes some $6 million to implement federal safety recommendations following the deadly June train crash and another $100,000 for a proposed suicide prevention program.

April 23, 2010-A six-car train derails just after pulling into the New Carrollton Metrorail Yard at about 7:45 p.m. No injuries (in fact, no customers were riding) and rail service is not affected. (WMATA)

May 10, 2010- The Examiner reports that Metro's program to combat the unusual spate of rail-track suicides is running months behind.

May 12, 2010-Fox 5 reports on the "ongoing problem" of rowdy Metro riders engaged in fisticuffs and other horseplay.

May 17, 2010-A Metrorail operator noticed 52-year-old rider Rickey Van Houter slumped over in a seat around 3 p.m. It was later determined the dead man may have been sitting there for nearly five hours before anyone noticed him. He died of natural causes. But the incident prompted Metro to implement a new policy, requiring train operators to walk through the rail cars before the train comes to rest in the rail yard to look for passengers in distress. (WTTG-TV)

May 27, 2010-Metro's Board of Directors approves a record 15-percent fare hike.

June 4, 2010-Metro temporarily halts service at Union Station while police investigate what WMATA inititally describes as "an altercation on the platform." Later reports indicate a group of youths severely beat-up a teenager while attempting to rob him of his Air Jordans; witnesses reported seeing guns (Examiner).

June 16, 2010-The Dunn Loring station is closed after a person is struck by an inbound six-car train at about 1:15 p.m. WMATA warns riders: "Orange Line customers should expect delays throughout the remainder of the afternoon as emergency personnel respond to the scene."

June 18, 2010-Three employees are disciplined for letting a 10-car train run on the green line. Station platforms can only accommodate eight-car trains. Longer locomotives may put passengers at risk of falling onto open tracks (WJLA-TV).

June 22, 2010-Metro officials memorialize the victims on the anniversary of its deadliest crash in history. NTSB notes that none of its resulting safety recommendations have been implemented. (WaPo)

Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid/Creative Commons Attribution License

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  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    And the worst is still to come!

  • Laura T.

    You forgot to mention the poor man who died onboard a train of natural causes and no-one noticed for half a day. That's not exactly a banner day for Metro, either.

  • David S.

    I don't really know that it's fair to include suicides in this list of WMATA failures. Suicides afflict transit systems worldwide; if the rate of them increases, I think you're hard-pressed to blame WMATA. Not so for the derailments, crashes and worker fatalities. And I think it's also necessary to take a look at other transit systems, nearly all of which are facing financial crises just as bad (and in many cases, worse) than what we see here. You can argue that WMATA wastes money, but it's not to blame for the bad economy nationwide. Besides - fast, efficient, safe mass transit is expensive. How do you want to pay? Higher taxes? Higher fares? Because you have to pick one, or both. You can't have it both ways.

  • WARD4NDC

    Ride metro at your own risk. We are all doomed!!!!!

  • IHeartDC

    It is still safer to ride Metro than it is to drive. Road accidents, and fatalities are so common that they are not considered news. I love to bash Metro as much as the next guy, but let's be realistic about transportation safety.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    'IHeartDC', Traffic is so gridlocked in this area that there is not a lot of damage or injury at 5 MPH or less! I'll take my chance on the not so open road!

  • Richie Sambora

    Did the 15 year old who died Sept. 17 jump onto the tracks despite the WTOP report about the rising suicide rate on Metro? Or did it give him the idea?

  • black jack

    I wonder why no media attention has been shed on the fact that AN ARMY GEN. (pentagon) who was set to testify in regards to 9/11 and 1 of 9 "players" in the on-going investigation of and whom ALL mysteriously died, was also killed on that train june 22!!!

  • black jack
  • Ambre

    Today was my first ever trip to DC, and my first EVER trip on a subway. I experienced a suicide today (not visually, but I was on a different train when they announced it.) I thought I experienced something crazy and out of the ordinary, when it seems to be rather commonplace.

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