Rail Transit OPS’ Statement for 10/20/16 Public Hearing on Proposed Changes to WMATA’s Operating Hours

Hello, I’m James Pizzurro, Charter Member of Rail Transit OPS, an independent, publicly-funded group that analyzes the operations, performance and safety of passenger rail transit systems in the DC Metro area. As part of our work, we proactively identify potential concerns and issue recommendations to the organizations responsible for these rail transit systems, as well as monitor day-to-day operational activity from a factual perspective.

Today, we’re weighing in on this proposal to increase maintenance time opportunity to fourty-one hours from the original thirty-three hours budgeted prior to WMATA’s SafeTrack work plan. Rail Transit OPS suggests WMATA reject all four scenarios outlined in the proposal. Instead, we suggest that the system be returned to pre-SafeTrack revenue service levels upon SafeTrack’s completion, and make increased use of early-outs and scheduled line segment shutdowns to accomplish any and all work that needs to be performed.

Rail Transit OPS’ primary concern with an increase in maintenance hours as a solution to WMATA’s infrastructure problems is that the Agency has not been consistent in effectively working within the maintenance hours it already has to complete track work. Just last night, an early-out scheduled for 8pm on Track 2 of the Red line between Medical Center and Friendship Heights stations suffered a three and a half hour delay, with impeded work commencing at approximately 11:30pm, all while inconveniencing passengers with single-tracking during those three and a half hours. Given the regularity of these occurrences, we can’t see how WMATA can guarantee proportionally more work will be completed given more maintenance hours, so we instead suggest the following two actions be taken:

  • Increase use of early-outs, starting as early as 6pm for track locations opposite of peak traffic flow
  • Increase use of line segment shutdowns, where necessary

With these suggestions, multiple simultaneous work zones could be in place wherever they are required, and revenue service would often only be impacted where active work is being performed. The increased length of single-tracking can allow for much more productive work periods than those currently possible today during weeknights. While this would require more effective communication between WMATA’s departments, it would also make shortening of operating hours unnecessary while still allowing time to work down the WMATA Track and Structures Group’s state-of-good-repair backlog.

In general, Rail Transit OPS believes that, given the proper resources, and with adequate preventive and running track maintenance, coupled with proper and effective utilization of track access time, WMATA’s track system would be capable of operating late night or even twenty-four hours. Increasing use of earlier early-outs and line segment shutdowns would be two concrete and effective steps towards this modern vision for the long-term maintenance of the rail system.

Thank you for your time.

Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent group that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. We can be found on Facebook and Twitter.