Power outages cause Red Line meltdown

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Power outages in two spots along Metro's Red Line caused a major meltdown Wednesday morning, trapping two trains with some 1,000 people aboard while delaying thousands of other commuters.

Three trapped riders were taken to local hospitals, according to Metro, including one for "anxiety" after she was stuck underground for more than a hour in a packed train.

The first outage occurred just before 8 a.m., according to Metro. Power wasn't fully restored until 10:20 a.m., and delays continued until 12:30 p.m. while Metro restricted train speeds to 35 mph.

Misery multiplied on MARC
Metro riders who also take MARC had to weather two meltdown commutes back to back on MARC's Penn Line due to problems from Tuesday's storms. The weather knocked out power to signals on the tracks, according to the commuter train service.
Rider Michael Sheedy called it "utter public transportation misery" and said it took four hours to get to Baltimore on Tuesday night, including two and a half hours to go the first three stops, then four hours to go door to door on Wednesday morning, including on Metro.

"There's no question this was a very, very difficult morning for Red Line customers," spokesman Dan Stessel said. "But people could still get where they needed to go."

He said riders switched to the Green Line and buses, and Red Line trains were able to get around the stuck trains, albeit with delays.

However, many riders said those delays extended well beyond the 30 minutes Metro claimed. They filled Twitter with so many grumblings that Red Line "trended" on the social media service.

As of Wednesday evening, Metro still had not pinpointed why power failed. The outages were in the same areas where Metro did track work last weekend, but the agency doesn't know if that was a factor.

The first train was trapped between NoMa and Rhode Island Avenue, carrying 60 riders, Stessel said. After about 45 minutes, emergency officials evacuated riders along the track bed to a nearby rail yard, where they boarded shuttle buses.

Then, power failed between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown, trapping an in-bound eight-car train, Stessel said. Some 1,000 riders were stuck in the standing-room only train for about an hour and 15 minutes until power was restored.

Commuter Chris Burger said people started to become claustrophobic and look nervous during the long wait. "And I was in one of the better cars," he said.

"There was no threat to life safety aboard either train, and our response in those situations is very measured because the safest place for people to be is on the train," Stessel said.

More than two hours after Burger boarded the system, he exited but had to pay full fare. In an unusual turn, Stessel said those using SmarTrip cards could get refunds if they contact Metro at 202-637-7000.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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