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Frozen Metro Door Strands Passengers On Outdoor Platforms

The doors were a sticking point on the Metro this morning.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tbone/1565964
The doors were a sticking point on the Metro this morning.

Built-up snow and ice that jammed a door on a single rail car on a single train caused thousands of in-bound commuters to be delayed on the Red Line from Shady Grove station to White Flint station on Tuesday morning. Commuters were left waiting for more than 25 minutes on outdoor platforms in the frigid morning air while Metro operators moved the malfunctioning train out of the way.

The door problems happened on arrival at Rockville station, forcing the rush hour train to be offloaded, according to a Metro spokesman. The train had another problem at White Flint where the brakes fully applied and the train was unable to move. A train behind it had to be used to push it forward through Grosvenor where it could be turned around and hauled to the Shady Grove rail yard for repairs.

The problems were likely caused by the extreme cold, and because Metro lacks a third track to deal with broken down trains, this morning's minor issue created delays of 25 to 35 minutes while the train could be turned around to the Shady Grove yard.

"We just ended up waiting for about 27 minutes for a train to finally show up at Twinbrook. We were outside. We were all freezing cold out there," said Matthew Rydzik, whose commute from Twinbrook to Bethesda usually takes 15 minutes. Today it took an hour and eight minutes. He was 45 minutes late to work.

"We slowly proceeded down to White Flint station and we ended up stopping in the tunnel at that point and sat there for about 10 minutes," Rydzik said. "Eventually we were able to move forward into White Flint station and they announced our train was offloading due to brake problems."

The extreme cold is not only bad for Metro's aging fleet of rail cars. Monday's snow emergency in D.C. and the closure of the federal government meant significantly fewer riders and lower fare revenues.

Metro canceled all bus service Monday and it was not fully restored until 1 p.m. Tuesday. Typical weekday bus revenue is $400,000. Monday's total was zero. On the rails, only 132,000 trips were recorded on Monday, compared to 673,000 the previous Monday. Metro estimates it lost about $1.6 million in rail revenue, bringing the entire day's losses close to $2 million.

Metro still incurs operating expenses even when no buses are running (rail service operated on a normal schedule Monday). The transit authority was forced to mobilize staff for snow removal and de-icing, and its street supervisors monitor road and weather conditions through the overnight hours. Metro's savings on operating expenses in bad weather are minimal because most of its labor costs are fixed. For instance, savings on fuel are canceled out by additional overtime and other costs incurred dealing with the snow.

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