Recommendation 16.2 – Adjustment to WMATA Station Dwell Procedures 

May 4, 2016

Agency: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

Area of Concern: Current WMATA station servicing, or “dwell times,” are inadequate to properly service a station, resulting in a variety of issues occurring including:

> Train Operators not verifying that doors are clear when initiating the door closing cycle (URGENT)

> Passenger boarding & alighting cycle incompletion

> Multiple attempts to cycle train doors closed that can, in select cases, lead to a train being offloaded and removed from service

> On newer 7000-series railcars, automatic announcements being terminated prior to completion

Current Procedure: Once the train is properly stopped or berthed at the head end of a station platform, the train operator is to open the cab window on the platform side, wait five seconds, then initiate the door opening process. (This five second wait period was implemented by WMATA management several years ago after a string of wrong side door openings.) Once boarding and alighting are complete, the operator initiates the door closing process and is supposed to verify all the doors have closed.

WMATA train doors can be operated in three modes:

> Fully Automatic: The automatic train control (ATC) system opens the doors once a train is properly berthed, and they are commanded to close after a pre-selected dwell time. This mode has not been used in revenue passenger service in Metro’s history.

> Auto/Manual: This was the primary method of door operation until approximately 2008/2009. In this mode, the doors open once the train is properly berthed, and the train operator initiates the door closing process. This mode was suspended due to reported radio frequency interference (radio is how the doors are commanded open) and has yet to be addressed. This mode was to have been reinstated in the summer of 2015.

> Fully Manual: This is the current mode of door operations, where the train operator initiates both the door opening and closing cycles.


1. Discontinue the five second wait to initiate the door open cycle. To verify that the correct side is being initiated, the train operator can physically tap the end gate.

2. Once the doors have cycled open, require a minimum of 25 seconds before the door closing cycle can be initiated in order to allow the passenger boarding and alighting cycle to complete in the majority of instances. This also allows the automatic announcements on 7000-series trains to fully cycle, and reduces the number of times doors are reopened or recycled, which will reduce the number of door malfunctions.

3. Once the door closing cycle has been initiated and completed, the train operator must visually remain looking out the cab window for five seconds following extinguishing of all exterior door indicator lights before closing the cab window. In automatic or ATO operation, the train will begin to move once all the doors are confirmed closed. While under ATO, the train operator can secure the side cab window as long as the train has begun moving and there are no concerns on the platform.


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