Posted: Nov 14, 2013 Expiration: Nov 18, 2013

A Message to Red Line Riders from Metro General Manager & CEO Richard Sarles

I know that the rail service provided in the last week has been bad for Red Line riders.  Delays for customers have been unacceptably long, inconvenient and frustrating. Today I spent several hours with senior leaders of the rail operating and maintenance team to get a full understanding of what went wrong and what we must do better.

Since last Thursday, there have been three rush hours with delays exceeding 30 minutes.  Each had a different cause.  On November 7, a piece of track equipment that was moving off the line leaked oil onto the tracks between Rhode Island Avenue and Judiciary Square.  The oil created a slippery condition on the rails that needed to be cleaned before trains could operate on the affected track.  Yesterday, a communications cable became detached due to corrosion from the tunnel ceiling outside Woodley Park and needed to be secured to allow trains safe passage.  And this morning, locking brakes caused a train to become disabled and delays were exacerbated by a switch problem, as we moved trains around the affected area.

The oil leak is a quality problem with a piece of track equipment that the manufacturer is now addressing.  And we are engineering a solution to prevent locked brakes.  The VHF radio cable is part of an old system that will soon be replaced by a digital radio system.

After decades of neglect, we have spent the past three years rebuilding the system from the bottom up.  Today, we’re at the halfway mark. It’s getting better, and these disruptions to service are happening less frequently overall.  While the quality of Red Line service has been unacceptable to me and to many riders over the past several days, the overall reliability of the system is improving, as we keep safety as our top priority and achieve higher on-time performance, improved rail car reliability, and increased customer satisfaction levels on a year over year basis. 

While our Metro Forward campaign continues to rebuild tracks, switches and signals, and replace antiquated systems it’s important that we do a better job responding to incidents when they arise.  While communications have improved, we are taking further steps to enhance onboard announcements that will culminate with new technology on the new rail cars arriving next year.  And we are retooling our emergency response teams and improving their reaction times, which was not as good yesterday as it has been in other incidents.

I apologize for the significant delays and inconvenience you experienced over the last several days.  We are working both to reduce future incidents and to respond better when incidents do occur.


Richard R. Sarles
General Manager and
Chief Executive Officer

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