Since the 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine people near Fort Totten, Metro has been operating its trains manually. But now the transit agency is preparing to start testing the system to return operation of the trains to a computer.
When your Metro train comes a herky-jerky stop, that's a result of the manual operation of the train — the conductor has his or her hand on the controls. Starting next month, though, the automatic train operation system will be tested — for the first time since it was taken off line after the 2009 Red Line crash. The tests will take place from midnight to 5 a.m.
"When we went to manual operation before I got here, people were complaining about the stop being too short, the acceleration a little too quick. That is done away with when we go to automatic train operation," says Richard Sarles, Metro's general manager.
Automatic train operation is run by a computer, and moves trains more efficiently and smoothly. The National Transportation Safety Board had Metro go to manual controls after the Red Line crash until Metro could demonstrate it's signaling system was completely rehabilitated.
The testing is expected to take a while and Metro has no timetable for its completion.