Metro adds screens to kiosks to show train delays

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Photo - Waterfront Metro station (Examiner file photo)
Waterfront Metro station (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro riders have a new way of telling time -- and soon will be able to get information about delays, elevator shutdowns and the like before entering Metrorail stations.

The transit agency has been installing new liquid crystal flat screen displays at station entrances. Already 88 kiosks have them and in coming weeks all 112 will be outfitted with them, according to Metro.

Metro turned the first ones on this week.

Metro chief says human error caused daylight saving mistake
Metro's failure to keep running trains an extra hour as promised during the seasonal time change was due to a human error in the control center that day, according to Metro.
The agency had told riders it would stay open an hour later, as it typically does, when clocks changed on Nov. 4 from daylight saving time to standard time. But then it actually closed the system at 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, meaning 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, stranding riders counting on the extra hour.
The agency apologized for the mistake but had not explained what went wrong.
General Manager Richard Sarles told The Washington Examiner on Thursday that the agency had intended to run trains an extra hour but a communication problem happened that day in the control center.
When asked if anyone faced any discipline, Sarles said everyone makes mistakes.
"The person will never ever make that mistake again," he said.

They currently only show a clock with the agency's official time. By the end of the year, though, every kiosk will have them and they will show real-time advisories about delays, similar to the ones shown in e-alerts, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. They also will show the status of all five lines, plus elevator outages so riders can make decisions about whether they want to enter the system before they have swiped their farecards. Currently, riders who enter a station, then leave before taking a train get charged upon exiting.

"The objective here was to respond to customer feedback," Stessel said.

Riders have said they especially want more information about service during massive service meltdowns. Not all of the stations have cellphone service yet -- and likely won't until late 2015 -- leaving some riders without the emails, texts and tweets that could warn them of delays. Some riders don't have cellphones and station announcements are notoriously difficult to hear, especially as noisy trains enter and exit the stations.

The screens do not replace the existing screens that show when the next train is slated to arrive, though. Those signs will remain on the station platforms and at some station entrances, Stessel said.

The new supplemental screens started going up this summer. Much to some riders' annoyance, however, they covered up the existing clocks on the kiosks but stayed blank for weeks on end. For riders trying to time their trips outside the higher-costing peak fare periods, that meant uncertainty as to whether Metro's fare gates showed 9:31 a.m. or 7:01 p.m. like their own clocks for what could mean a few dollars of savings.

Stessel explained that the agency only just received the final equipment to make the screens work and has been turning on the clocks as a way to test them. It takes time to install the screens, he said, as crews can do one or two at a time. Metro got the control boxes that connect to the computer system in the past month, he said, so crews have returned to stations to connect them.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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