Metro is again allowing riders to drink water on its system because of the extreme heat, for the third time this summer.
The transit agency said Thursday it is lifting its ban on drinking water on buses, trains and MetroAccess vehicles, and in stations, through Sunday.
That will mean Metro has relaxed its rules for 11 days so far this year, a dramatic change for an agency that normally bans eating and drinking of any kind.
|Water no trouble on commuter lines|
|Riders are allowed to drink water on MARC and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains at any time of year.|
|Additionally, the commuter trains stock water for emergencies.|
|After a train breakdown left up to 1,200 Penn Line riders stranded on a hot June day in 2010, MARC promised to provide emergency stores of water on its trains.|
|VRE also has water bottles stored on its trains in case of emergency, said VRE spokesman Mark Roeber, but hasn't had to use them since adding them to trains a couple years ago.|
Last year, the agency lifted its water ban for what agency officials said was the first time in recent memory, allowing water consumption from July 22 to 24. At the time, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told The Washington Examiner the agency would not lift it again unless it had an "extraordinary streak of 100-plus days." He noted that drinking on the system was barred by D.C. law.
But lifting the ban was controversial enough that the agency erased its advisory from its news release archives, an unheard-of move for Metro.
This year, though, the agency has added it to its toolbox when temperatures soar. However, the agency downplayed the significance of the change Thursday. "This is simply a short-term, common sense response to extreme conditions meant to balance customer comfort with a longstanding policy that helps keep Metro among the cleanest transit systems in the U.S.," Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas wrote in an email.
The Washington region has had many similar hot spells. In July 2010, in the middle of what the National Weather Service now calls the region's hottest summer on record, the heat was so intense, it caused the tracks on the Red Line near the NoMa and Rhode Island Avenue stops to form a kink, leading to delays.
Then, riders were not offered any respite for their thirst.
In this current spell, Metro said it doesn't have any speed restrictions or other service adjustments due to the heat. But it was willing to relax the rules -- for water only.
Some subway systems, such as New York City's, famously allow food and drink on trains at any time.
But San Francisco's BART, a system similar to Metro, bans eating and drinking without exception for heat waves, said spokesman James Allison.
"It stands to reason that our police officers, who are part of the BART system, obviously use discretion when enforcing the rules," he said.
Someone drinking water on a 100-degree day isn't going to get a citation, he said. "It's the people who are eating burritos and leaving pizza boxes that we're trying to avoid," he said.
Metro is not so candid about its policing strategy. But an agency crime blotter from June shows no citations for drinking water. It does list two warnings issued for eating food, though, and 61 alcohol violations.