(Washington, DC — March 15, 2016) – Washington’s Metro’s aging infrastructure has meant delays over the years. It has meant single-tracking over the years. It has meant non-air-conditioned underground stations over the years. It has meant increasing fares for less service over the years. It has meant the killing and maiming of Metro employees over the years. It has meant the maiming and killing of passengers over the years. But it has never meant shutting down the entire system.
On March 16, Metro will close for the first time in its 40-year history when weather was not a factor. The reason: A tunnel fire outside the McPherson Square Metro station on March 14 proved to be eerily similar to a tunnel fire on January 12, 2015, outside the L’Enfant Plaza station. The “electrical arcing event” that January day stranded hundreds on a train unlucky enough to get stuck in the tunnels. Over 80 people were injured, and one passenger, 61-year-old Carol Glover, died.
Metro’s General Manager Paul Wiedefeld made the call to close on Wednesday so over 600 jumper cables can be inspected. Depending on the findings, it may be necessary to extend the March 16 closure, Wiedefeld warned.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has granted unscheduled leave to those non-essential Federal government employees who wish to use it.
In spite of OPM’s generosity, many have questioned choosing a Wednesday for the shutdown, noting that Wednesdays are usually the day that all workers with flexible schedules are to report on-site.
“These ‘jumper cables’ have likely been bad for decades,” said a Metro customer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If not decades, then at least since that incident in January . So why not just inconvenience people on the weekends like they usually do?”
For others, it’s just one more sign of Metro’s disintegration from years of mismanagement and delayed maintenance.
“Metro is just now getting rid of the 1000-series deathtrap trains,” said a transportation blogger, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Those trains have been running for decades, and it was the 1000-series train that led to the slaughter of nine people on June 22, 2009. That’s seven years ago. The trains shouldn’t have been in service then, and they shouldn’t be in service today. So all of a sudden we’re supposed to trust Metro? It’s too little, too late.”
Conspiracy theorists are already calling this a form of payback by Metro for the constant maligning it has to endure.
“This is Metro giving its customers the ultimate finger,” said a conspiracy theorist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’ve said we’d be better without Metro, and now Metro is calling us on it. They want to see how well we can do with a day without trains. But the plan is going to backfire on them, because they’re going to see DC do very well without their delays and poor service. They’re going to regret this closure more than a protester at a Trump rally.”
Yet others aren’t buying into the doomsday hype.
“Metro is run so poorly 24/7, will anyone even notice that they’re closed?” asked a Metro commuter, speaking on condition of anonymity.