HYATTSVILLE — U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who criticized Metro on the need for safety improvements after a 2009 Red Line crash killed nine, told Metro officials that passengers are “terrified” of riding the system because of recent mishaps.
Mikulski and other members of the Maryland congressional delegation, as well as federal transportation officials, held a news conference Monday at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority training center in Hyattsville to tout the passage of a law to establish first-ever national standards for transit systems.
The timing of the event was shortly after a weekend software glitch that caused Metro personnel to lose track of two trains and forced dozens of trains to idle at stations. Metro had other recent problems — on July 6 a train derailed due to a heat-related kink in the track, and on May 15 a subway car malfunction caused the doors to open while a train was traveling.
“Many of my constituents are really disturbed,” Mikulski said, referring to the most recent mishaps. She described some of the emails coming into her office as “volcanic.”
“They’re terrified,” she said. “We have to make sure people do not lose confidence and faith in Metro.”
Mikulski cited the efforts of the state’s congressional delegation in securing $150 million annually for safety improvements and upgrades to the Metro system.
The new standards are being drafted by the U.S. Department of Transportation in consultation with the National Transportation Safety Board, which issued a highly critical report of Metro’s safety problems after the 2009 deadly crash. The standards will incorporate a wide range of safety measures — from crashworthiness of subway cars to improved evacuation and rescue features on subway cars, Mikulski said.
Metro officials said Tuesday the cause of the glitch in the weekend’s train monitoring system remained unknown.
“Safety does come first at WMATA,” said Alvin Nichols, a Metro board member. “Every day our vigilance is unyielding.”
U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington said the federal government’s establishment of national standards will help Metro and other systems become safer.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, who had sponsored the bill in the House to establish the national transit standards, said she was surprised to learn after the 2009 crash that national safety standards for transit systems were not already in place.
The latest incidents show the importance of establishing new safety standards, she said.
U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Baltimore called Metro “a critical part of our regional economy and government.”