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Metro Apologizes For Orange Line Gridlock Wednesday

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A disabled train outside the Clarendon Metro station caused havoc for evening commuters.
Flickr/Brian Aydemir
A disabled train outside the Clarendon Metro station caused havoc for evening commuters.

An Orange Line train with a brake problem caused massive problems on the Blue and Orange Lines last night, prompting an apology from Metro.

Some riders took to Twitter to complain that it took more than three hours to get home. Passengers were stuck on the disabled train outside the Clarendon station for an hour and a half. Platforms were packed, single-tracking trains were jammed.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says he's sorry, but the rescue went as planned.

"First we tried to move the train out without having to send a rescue train. We had a car repair technician on board the train to try to do that. He was unsuccessful," Sarles says. "Then the next step is to bring in a rescue train, which we have to do that very carefully. In this particular case we walked the passengers off the train that had been disabled to the rescue train."

Disabled trains are just one frustration for riders, some of whom seem to be losing patience with Metro. Twice recently, trains went down the wrong tracks,  taking passengers to out-of-the-way stations. There have also been a spate of red signal violations by train operators. And it took four years for Metro to identify the cause of emergency intercom failures, which are currently being fixed. Officials also learned some train operators were disabling intercoms themselves because of noise and feedback.

"But we've been on a steady program of improving this system over the last few years," Sarles says. "Back in 2009 and 2010, the system was in really, really bad shape. We've been going from spending $400 million in capital money per year to nearly $900 million to get this system back in shape."

Although average weekday rail ridership is up 48 percent since 1997, it has dropped recently. Metro riders took 5.5 million fewer trips last year than in 2011.

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