Euphemism

WMATA currently:

Red Line
Disruption at Fort Totten in both directions. Trains are turning back at Rhode Island Avenue & Silver Spring due to a situation outside of Fort Totten station. Shuttle bus service has been established. Expect delays in both directions.

WMATA between 9-10 PM yesterday (unofficial twitter re-broadcast):

Red Line
Disruption at Fort Totten. Trains are turning back at Brookland-CUA & Silver Spring due to a police situation outside of Fort Totten station…

WMATA between 6-7 PM yesterday (unofficial twitter re-broadcast):

Red Line
Disruption at Fort Totten in both directions. Trains are turning back at Rhode Island Avenue & Silver Spring due to a train experiencing mechanical difficulties…

Washington Post:

At Least 6 Killed in Red Line Crash
One Metro train slammed into the back of another on the Red Line at the height of the evening rush yesterday, killing at least six and injuring 70 others in the deadliest accident in Metrorail’s 33-year-history.
The impact of the crash was so powerful that the trailing train was left atop the first train.
Metro officials expected the death toll to rise to at least nine.

WMATA could do better by having slightly stronger wording available for service bulletins in the event that something occurs that shuts down service on their busiest line during rush hour while they try to rescue their passengers.  They could also wait less than an hour an twenty minutes (I received an e-mail alert from them at 6:20 PM) to send out an alert about something that will clearly have a severe impact on service.

What happened yesterday was a tragedy, and improving the safety of Metro service must be the top priority.  After they tackle that, though, I recommend improving their communication with passengers.  It’s really low-hanging fruit; the marginal cost of communication is near-zero. Don’t make riders wait until they’re already in the system to find out that they should have made other plans.  There’s simply no excuse when it’s immediately clear that an emergency like yesterday’s has occurred.  I’m assuming, of course, that the central command learned quickly about what happened (if they didn’t, then it’s a safety issue).

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Economics, Energy, and the Environment.