Factual Timeline of Friendship Heights Smoke Incident (16-0125)

Train 107 was an 8-car Red Line train running in service from Glenmont station to Shady Grove station the evening of Saturday April 23rd, 2016. In approach to Friendship Heights at 7:17pm EDT, the train encountered smoke which started to enter the train. The train was reversed back to Tenleytown and passengers were offloaded by 7:36pm. The incident remains under WMATA investigation. DC Fire and EMS reported that there were no injuries and no passengers requested a hospital transport.

This report is intended to be a factual timeline of the events of the Friendship Heights incident. A follow-up report will analyze the incident management process and offer recommendations to improve the process, if any are found.


7:17p (T+0min): Train Operator of Train 107 reports the lead car of the train is “on fire.” (This is most likely due to a third rail collector shoe that briefly caught fire and fused to the third rail.) The train is stopped approximately 200 feet short of the Friendship Heights platform in the direction of Shady Grove.

7:18p (T+1min): The Train Operator is instructed by the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) OPS1 controller to move all passengers from the lead car, where the fire/smoke is visible outside, to cars further back in the train consist.*

7:21p (T+4min): The Train Operator reports the train has lost all doors closed; the train is now unable to move under normal circumstances. Based on passenger interviews, the Emergency Door Release on the lead car in the consist was engaged, causing this. The OPS1 controller requests a ground walkaround from the cushioning Operator, but this is never done.

7:23p (T+6min): A cushioning (off-duty) Train Operator riding aboard T-107 attempts to move the train back to Tenleytown, but is still unable to move the train due to the no all doors closed indication.

7:25p (T+8min): The Friendship Heights Station Manager has by now reported that there is smoke visible in the tunnel outside the station, and that the smoke is headed in the direction of the station.

7:26p (T+9min): Track units working on Track 2 outside Bethesda station due to the earlier insulator and subsequent damage start moving down towards Friendship Heights to help the OPS1 controller deal with the ongoing situation.

7:30p (T+13min): The Train Operator was instructed to cut out Automatic Train Protection, allowing the train to move. The train is given an absolute block to proceed towards Tenleytown at a low speed. The train is not allowed to move faster than approximately 5 mph due to possible self-evacuated passengers in the tunnel or on the roadway.

7:36p (T+19min): T-107 reaches Tenleytown platform 2, berths, and disembarks passengers.

7:41p (T+24min): Friendship Heights station is evacuated for heavy smoke in the station. DC Fire and EMS have been dispatched.

9:00p (T+1h42min): DC Fire and EMS have by now cleared both Tenleytown and Friendship Heights stations.

Service on both Track 1 and Track 2 from Van Ness (A06) to Medical Center (A10) was suspended from the time of the incident to system closing.

9:15p (T+1h57min): T-107 is moved from Tenleytown where it was offloaded to Brentwood Yard.


7:17p (T+0min): T-107 encounters smoke and fire near chain marker A2 296+00, 200 feet outside of the Friendship Heights station. Conflicting reports say there is either an arcing insulator on the tracks, or the front trucks of the train are on fire.

7:40p (T+23min): A possible arcing insulator is identified at A2 297+00, although the fire is mostly out at that point.

8:13p (T+56min): Power to the third rail is brought down again after additional smoke is seen. Power is confirmed down at 8:15p.

8:19p (T+1h2min): Smoke is reported to be coming out of a mechanical room at Friendship Heights. DC Fire and EMS investigate. It is unknown if this is related to the trackside insulator issues.

8:21p (T+1h4min): Additional track units and a supervisor inspect the A2 third rail and cables from Bethesda to Friendship Heights into the tunnel to Tenleytown.

9:00p (T+1h43min): Melted metal from one of T-107’s collector shoe is found on the third rail; power is brought down in preparation for removal of the excess metal and to clean the third rail.

9:43p (T+2h26min): Track units report that more insulators on the A2 track between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights require replacement, in addition to repairing the collector shoe damage.

10:04p (T+2h47min): Track units report a frayed cable on the A1 track between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown which requires replacement. Track 1 is kept out of service until system closing as Power personnel perform repairs.

Track and Power personnel stay on scene until system closing to perform the necessary repairs. Employees from the Safety department are also on scene. A work unit from Brentwood Yard is requested to Friendship Heights track 2 to return the track to be revenue-ready. The tracks were handed back over from maintenance personnel to ROCC for revenue service at 6:48am EDT on Sunday the 24th.

* The timeline was updated Sunday evening on the 24th to include this event.


Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent joint venture focused on monitoring and analyzing operations, performance, and safety of passenger rail transit systems across the country.


Incident Review of Loss of Propulsion on WMATA Blue Line Train 401 Outside Rosslyn Station (Rail Transit OPS Incident 16-0116)

Incident Summary

At about 2:01 PM EDT on Thursday, April 14, 2016, WMATA Blue line Train 401 to Franconia-Springfield, which consisted of eight 7000-series railcars (in order of direction of travel: 7042/7043/7041/7040/7036/7037/7079/7078) had departed Foggy Bottom and, while in approach to Rosslyn, reported a propulsion issue; the train was rolling back, and would be unable to make it to the platform at Rosslyn. T-401 was estimated to be approximately three hundred and seventy five feet from the Rosslyn station platform. The Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) instructed the train operator (T/O) to perform several basic troubleshooting steps, but was unable to rectify the issue. A rail car mechanic stationed at Rosslyn was soon thereafter instructed to walk to the train and attempt onboard diagnostics.

Train 612, a Silver line to Wiehle-Reston East following T-401 towards Rosslyn, was instructed to hold at Foggy Bottom at 2:02 PM. At approximately 2:14 PM, ROCC instructed T-612 to offload in preparation to recover and push T-401 to Rosslyn.

While attempting to diagnose T-401, the car equipment mechanic aboard reported the entire train was without third rail power, with only internal emergency battery power operational. Partial power to the train was restored at 2:20 PM, however it was still unable to move.

T-612 arrived at the location of T-401 at 2:32 PM and the ROCC were notified that recovery was not possible, as the two trains were on the upward curve outside the station. T-612 was instructed to reverse back to Foggy Bottom at 2:33 PM and enter service towards Largo Town Center. At 2:35 PM, Train 410 at Arlington Cemetery traveling towards Largo Town Center was offloaded for a second attempt to recover T-401. The two trains were successfully coupled at 2:54 PM. The 154 passengers on disabled T-401 were walked through T-410 to the Rosslyn platform shortly after 3:00 PM with the assistance of Metro Transit Police.

Concerns Noted During Incident 

Why was T-401 not attempted to reverse back to Foggy Bottom?

Why was no recorded attempt made to key up (operate) the train via the fourth car back to Foggy Bottom?

Why were passengers not evacuated onto T-612 and returned to Foggy Bottom at 2:32 PM vs. waiting until after 3:00 PM to exit T-401?

Why did ROCC not utilize engineering maps to realize that T-401 was in a location that could make coupling & recovering a train difficult?


T-410/T-401 commenced moving toward Alexandria Yard at 3:15 PM. The train moved down the line and entered the yard at 3:51 PM. Single-tracking operations on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines ended at approximately 3:30 PM. Normal service resumed two hours later at approximately 5:45 PM.

At the same time that the recovery of T-401 was occurring, a switch issue affecting switch 9 at National Airport caused delays in the opposite direction. Trains were required to pass through the north end of the station traveling toward Largo Town Center/Mt. Vernon Sq./Fort Totten at speeds no greater than 5mph.


The impact of these two delays caused 10 Orange and Blue trains to be offloaded, and three trains were instructed to express Eisenhower Ave. Normal service on the Blue and Yellow lines did not resume until after 6:00 PM; Blue and Yellow trains towards Huntington/Franconia-Springfield experienced delays up to around 20 minutes from Arlington Cemetery to Braddock Road as incident train T-401 cleared the line, and then as ROCC attempted to return service to normal thereafter.

The incident train, T-401, was a 7000-series train with 8 rail cars that entered service on or after November 2015. Recovery train T-410 consisted of 6 legacy (non-7000-series) rail cars. The investigation into the exact nature of the train failure is ongoing.

Review of WMATA Red Line Train 130 Offload at Dupont Circle (Incident 16-0111)

On Friday April 8, 2016 at about 4:45 PM EDT, WMATA Red Line Train 130 (T-130), an eight-car train traveling toward Glenmont, serviced the Dupont Circle station. Upon completion, the train operator was unable to receive confirmation that all train doors were closed. The operator attempted to perform door operations twice more before contacting the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC), who instructed him to attempt to close the doors one more time while simultaneously requesting Rail Car Maintenance to meet the train at Gallery Place. In addition, the ROCC instructed the five trains following behind T-130 to hold at stations.

T-130 contacted the ROCC with the no all doors closed indication condition continuing, at which time the ROCC instructed T-130 to offload at Dupont Circle at around 4:46 PM. During the offload process there was a unidentifiable individual, possibly another passenger, who told a group of passengers on the 6th car of the train to stay aboard. Approximately 20-30 passengers aboard this car were unable to exit at Dupont Circle.

Typical WMATA policy requires that after a train offloads on the mainline that the train operator request permission from the ROCC to physically walk the entire length of the train to ensure that it is clear of passengers, per Metrorail Safety Rules and Procedures Handbook (MSRPH) Rule, although this can be denied under MSRPH Rule MSRPH appears to have been implemented along with MSRPH, which allows the ROCC to bypass a train inspection and have another authorized individual (supervisor, maintenance, transit officer) key any remaining passengers off at a station further down. Preliminary reports indicate that as T-130 approached and passed through the next station, Farragut North, the train operator announced that passengers still aboard would be let out at Gallery Place, where initially Rail Car Maintenance then a utility supervisor would board the train to inspect the doors.

As the train entered the Metro Center station, a passenger contacted the train operator via the emergency intercom as shown in video posted online. The train operator initially reset the intercom, then replied back to the passenger in an inappropriate tone that clearly violated MSRPH Rule 2.2. Upon arriving at Gallery Place, a majority of passengers in car 6 of the consist can be seen preparing to exit. T-130 stopped on the platform for approximately 15 seconds and then proceeded on with no announcement from the operator, which caused confusion among the passengers. Prior to this action there was very little if any concern among the passengers. As T-130 approached the following station, Judicary Sq., a utility supervisor entered the sixth car via the end bulkhead doors and let or “keyed off” the passengers via the number nine door.

After being taken out of service, T-130 was boarded by Rail Car Maintenance at Union Station; it re-entered revenue service at Takoma station at about 5:08 PM with the last (eighth) car being isolated with a slow closing door.

Our findings indicate the offload at Dupont Circle was conducted in accordance with Metro operating procedures. However, the train operator violated MSRPH Rule 2.2, which requires all employees to be courteous and orderly when dealing with the public, both when responding to the first passenger via the intercom and again by failing to update passengers at Gallery Place that they would be let off at Judicary Sq.

A secondary finding was also uncovered during this review. An abnormally high number of train operators routinely violate MSRPH Rule which requires train operators to announce the reason why a train is being offloaded as well as instructions for how to board trains to complete their trip.


Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent joint venture focused on monitoring and analyzing operations, performance, and safety of passenger rail transit systems across the country.

Terminus Station Train Predictions

First of all, welcome to the new website of Rail Transit OPS–formerly DPS Rail Operations. If you aren’t already, please follow us on Twitter at @RailTransitOPS for daily operational tweets and analysis about WMATA performance and safety.

Whew, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about train predictions at terminus stations, shall we? They’re not very good, but a savvy rider can potentially make them better.

Let’s say you’re a customer waiting on the Vienna station platform. (Vienna is the west terminus station of the Orange line, for those of you who are unfamiliar.) If you’re lucky, when you pull out your phone to check wmata.com’s mobile website for when the next train is going to depart there–or most any other app for that matter–you’ll see something like this:

Next Orange line train departing Vienna for New Carrollton leaving in 12 minutes
Somewhat informative, no? Sure. Unfortunately, this is again only if you’re lucky. Most of the time, you’ll probably see something like this instead:

Next Silver line train departing Wiehle for Largo leaving...at some point?
Or, if you’re particularly unlucky:

Next train leaving Huntington for somewhere may be coming at some point, but who knows because "no sign data is available"
These last two sets of predictions are particularly upsetting, and honestly the first one isn’t much better; what if you miss that train that’s leaving in 12 minutes? When will the next one after that depart Vienna? Fortunately, for whatever reason, if you were to look at the next station down the line from Vienna going eastbound (Dunn Loring) and its train ETAs, you’d probably see something like this instead:

Next Orange line trains to arrive at Dunn Loring for Vienna have ETAs of 11, 24, and 40 minutes
Now that’s more like it! Look at that: two trains to New Carrollton, and now we know the next train after that 12-minute one we observed from the Vienna predictions set will depart from Vienna sometime before 28 minutes. But given that this last predictions set is for Dunn Loring and not Vienna, exactly how much time will it take for that 28-minute train to depart Vienna from now? Well, if you know the average trip duration from Vienna to Dunn Loring, just subtract that duration from the 28-minute Dunn Loring prediction, and now you’ve got a derived prediction adjusted for Vienna. You can get a rough estimate of this trip duration from WMATA’s Trip Planner, just keep in mind that according to our WMATA sources, the trip durations that Metro uses for their trip planner do not necessarily correspond to what the PIDS (“Passenger Information Display System”) uses, which is the system that powers all of WMATA’s train predictions for both their station displays and website. That said, from the trip planner, it looks like the average trip duration is about 3 minutes, and 28-3 is 25, so there we have it: the next train to depart Vienna for New Carrollton (after that train scheduled to leave in 12 minutes) should do so in approximately 25 minutes.

So, what’s the catch? Well, that 28-minute prediction from Dunn Loring appears to use mostly scheduling data. For example, there’s no guarantee that train will have 6 cars; it could very well arrive at Dunn Loring with 8, simply because train schedules don’t account for number of cars. Also, these predictions are susceptible to disappearing at any time, for reasons unknown. This can be mitigated by keeping track of train ETAs separately from the PIDS even after they disappear from the data, but that’s heuristic and far from perfect. In any case, we at MetroHero do it with a fair amount of success:

From MetroHero: the next trains to depart Wiehle for Largo leave in 10 and 25 minutes
10 and 25 minutes is a little better than “SILVER LINE LARGO CENTER,” no? Of course, we’re not miracle workers; if there’s absolutely no data available at a given terminus station nor its next station down the line at a particular time, there’s nothing we can do until that data magically returns:

From MetroHero: the next train departing Huntington will do so at some point in the future maybe, we still don't know
Nonetheless, we consider this a small victory. Many customers start their Metrorail journey from terminus stations, so we think showing train departure times for these stations is particularly important, especially during weekday AM rush. After all, it’s frustrating to wait 15+ minutes for a train with no information about the delay you’re experiencing after just driving several miles and miraculously finding a parking space. Hopefully better predictions will be available for terminus stations soon by default, but in the meantime, this neat little trick–and MetroHero, of course!–might save you from the brunt of that frustration.

Interested in more PIDS talk? Feel free to reach out to @dcmetrohero on Twitter.

Welcome to our new site!

Welcome to our site, for the past 4 months you might have been following us on Twitter under @DPS_RailOps and we thank you for that!

Our handle has changed to @RailTransitOPS but rest assured you still have the same devoted team here.

Our change is to better focus on what we are doing – which is focusing on monitoring and reviewing Operational, Performance, & Safety issues concerning rail transit agencies. While the majority of our attention will be on WMATA, we will also pay attention to MARC & VRE commuter services, as well as DC Streetcar