Category Archives: Metro News

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Metro work affects all lines this weekend

The transit authority has been installing new signs in stations. They're easier to read, and reflect the upcoming addition of the Silver Line, which will have a transfer point at Metro Center. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

All Metro stations will be open this weekend, but trains will share tracks through work zones on all lines and that will affect the schedules.

Here are the details on Metrorail service between 10 p.m. Friday and the rail system’s midnight closing on Sunday.

Red Line. Crews will work on the tracks between Judiciary Square and NoMa-Gallaudet stations. Trains are scheduled to leave the ends of the line at Shady Grove and Glenmont every 16 minutes. But extra trains will be in service from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday between Shady Grove and Judiciary Square. In that zone, trains should reach platforms every 10 minutes.

Orange Line. Crews will work on the tracks between Stadium-Armory and Eastern Market. Trains are scheduled to operate every 20 minutes all along the line.

Blue Line. It shares the tunnel with the Orange Line through the work zone, and will be on the same 20-minute schedule.

Green Line. Crews will work track switch parts between the Georgia Avenue and Fort Totten stations and also on the tracks between the Navy Yard and Anacostia stations. Trains all along the line will operate every 20 minutes.

Yellow Line. On a normal weekend, Yellow Line trains share the tunnel with the Green Line that goes north to the Fort Totten station. Because of the weekend work, the Yellow Line trains will go no farther north than Mount Vernon Square. To go beyond that, get off the Yellow Line train at Mount Vernon Square and wait on the platform for the next Green Line train toward Greenbelt. The Yellow Line trains will operate on their normal weekend frequencies.

Travel tips

Metro’s strategy on weekends like this is to space the trains far enough apart so that they don’t get bunched up waiting their turns through the single-tracking work zones. To minimize your wait on the platform, check Metro’s online Trip Planner after midday Friday, when the weekend schedule will be incorporated into the Trip Planner calculations. This helps, but it’s no guarantee of avoiding a wait. The weekend trains can get thrown off schedule, just like the weekday trains. Also, some riders have told me they still experience delays aboard trains at the points where those trains are to enter the single-tracking areas.

Also, the next train signs on the platforms are less reliable on weekends, when the trains are sharing tracks through work zones.

Silver Line construction not finished; opening delayed again

WASHINGTON – Work on the Silver Line is not yet complete and the public opening of the massive public transit expansion will be delayed again, officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said Monday.

Dulles Transit Partners, the contractor building the $2.9 billion rail extension, said earlier this month that it had substantially completed work on the first phase of the Silver Line. But MWAA officials now say the contractor has yet to finish seven of 12 key areas including a lack of occupancy certificates for stations and the Tysons tunnel.

Other issues still to be addressed include water leaks in buildings, problems with the train control system and elevator and escalator problems, according to the airports authority, which is overseeing construction.

Monday’s announcement now means that DTP, led by construction giant Bechtel, will have to do additional work until MWAA officials are satisfied. Once the airports authority determines work is complete, it will take over the project and prepare to turn it over to Metro, which will have three months for additional testing and reviews before the public would be able to use the service.

The first leg of the Silver Line includes four stops in Tysons Corner and one in Reston at Wiehle Avenue. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects currently being built in the U.S.

Officials had originally hoped to begin service in December 2013.

Spike seen in cellphone thefts on Metro lines


WASHINGTON — Metro passengers may want to limit their cellphone use after new data shows an increasing number of crooks lurking the trains waiting to steal phones.

According to recently released statistics, there was a spike in 2013, and the trend was evident across the system.

“[Thieves] time it perfectly and wait for the doors to open or close,” says Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.

In 2012 there were approximately 350 incidents of cellphones being stolen across the Metro system. Last year, that number was around 550, a spike of nearly 60 percent.

“It’s challenging,” Pavlik says. “But it’s something we’re going to tackle.”

As smartphone technology has gotten more advanced, the devices have become more appealing targets.

“The average person who steals it has no intention of activating it as a cellphone again. It still is a very valuable piece of equipment,” explains Pavlik.

Police are redirecting resources and working to address the growing problem. Meanwhile, passengers are being urged to take some small steps, including keeping phones out of sight while on trains or at least limiting use.

Nearly all victims have been younger than 25 years old and most are female, but the crime can happen to anyone as long as thieves feels they have an opportunity.

“Be aware of what’s going on around you,” Pavlik says.

Below is a breakdown of the thefts that occurred in calendar year 2012 and calendar year 2013.


Total theft snatches 640 cases 490 cases
Theft snatch cases involve personal electronic devices 94 percent (603 cases) 87 percent (424 cases)
iPhones 71 percent 60 percent
Cellphones 20 percent 23 percent
Tablets 8 percent 12 percent
iPods less than 1 percent 2 percent
Thefts of handbags, walletts, money, clothing 37 cases 66 cases
Male suspects 93 percent 94 percent
Suspects younger than 25 years old 98 percent 96 percent
Suspects who acted alone 76 percent 84 percent
Victims 69 percent women 50/50 for men and women

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Dunbar Teacher Handcuffed, Questioned by Metro Transit Police in Front of Her Students

In a case of mistaken identity, Metro Transit Police handcuffed and questioned a D.C. teacher in front of her students for a crime the students did not commit.

Brandi Byrd took 15 history students from Dunbar High School to the Holocaust Museum. After getting off a train at Mount Vernon Square on their way back to school, the students were shocked to see their teacher pushed against a wall.

“I’m like, ‘That’s a woman. Why are you being so aggressive with her?'” Carlton Green said.

Byrd couldn’t believe it either. “I’ve never been held against my will anywhere,” she said.

Metro police said they were responding to a report of an assault, and the students matched the description.

“I told him. I identified who I was,” Byrd said. “‘I’m a teacher. These are my students. We’re returning from a field trip.'”

But police held her for 20 minutes, and students recorded the incident on their cellphones.

“At no point did the gentleman who put me in handcuffs tell me why I was in handcuffs,” she said.

He only said she was being detained because of an active investigation, Byrd said.

Byrd became agitated and disorderly while police tried to figure out who the kids were, Metro officials said, but Byrd denied being any kind of threat and said police went too far by putting her in cuffs.

Police let the group go when they figured out it was not the group they wanted.

Byrd feels violated and said it still hurts where the metal handcuffs were clamped around her wrists.

Watchdog report: Metro employees cheat the parking system

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – A viewer complaint to ABC7’s Watchdog unit asked us to investigate illegal parking by WMATA employes at the Anacostia Metro Station’s parking garage.

The viewer claimed while she was ticketed for her meter running out, Metro employees were being allowed to cheat the system.

The small parking lot adjacent to the Anacostia Metro parking lot garage is popular with Metro employees. It allows for up to 12 hours of metered parking, but many Metro employees aren’t paying – the meters all read “expired.”

ABC7 made multiple visits, seeing many of the same cars parked for free.

According to the “Metro Employee Parking Policy – Reminder” memo sent to all employees last January and obtained by ABC7 News, “Metro employes must pay the Board-approved parking fees to park personal vehicles at Metrorail stations and Metro parking facilities.”

But what about the parking passes, vests and even a police patch seen on the dash boards of more than a dozen vehicles parked at expired meters?

Employees were told, in writing, those items “do not relieve an employee of the responsibility to pay parking fees and parking meter charges.”

“I work for Metro and I don’t think I should have to pay, period,” says one Metro employee.

Some Metro customers disagree.

“They shouldn’t be cheating the system,” says John Joyce. “I have to pay just like anybody else. I’m a paying customer.”

“I’m definitely paying to park,” says Moses Muldrow. “They should pay to park.”

In a statement to ABC7 News, WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel says:

“This is an issue that comes up from time to time, and one that requires occasional reinforcement with employees… employees parking their personal vehicles must comply with all applicable parking fees and regulations. I have forwarded the complaint to MTPD who will step up patrols at Anacostia to resolve the issue.”

The transit agency says it also received a complaint from a rider about the situation at the Anacostia parking garage and promised the Transit Police would step up patrols.

On ABC7’s next visit, nearly every Metro employee’s vehicle parked at an expired meter had a $25 citation on the windshield.

Judge orders Metro’s ‘banana peel man’ to undergo psychological screening

The District Heights man dubbed Metro’s “banana peel man” was ordered to undergo a psychological screening Tuesday by a D.C. Superior Court judge.

Judge Anita Josey-Herring ordered Maurice Owens, 42, for the screening based on a request from his attorney, Henry Escoto.

Owens slipped into notoriety last summer when he sued Metro after claiming he fell on a banana peel. Owens told Metro police he was riding an elevator at the Potomac Avenue Metro station Aug. 8, 2013, when he slipped on a banana peel as he was getting off, injuring his hip and leg. The District Heights man sued the transit agency for $15,000 — in part to cover $4,500 in chiropractor bills.

But the whole incident was caught on videotape — and it showed something different.

On the video, Owens could be seen going into an empty elevator at the station.

He paces around a bit, then glances up into the elevator’s camera. More pacing. Another glance at the camera. In fact, in the video, which is about 90 seconds long, Owens is seen looking into the camera at least three times.

Toward the end of the video, as the elevator doors open, Owens can be seen flipping something onto the floor behind him. According to a Metro Transit Police report, “this object was later identified as a banana peel.”

In a dramatic gesture, Owens falls to the ground — half his body inside the elevator.

His claim against Metro was thrown out, and Owens, 42, was charged with second-degree fraud, a felony. Owens is considering a plea deal from prosecutors that would reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

Owens is scheduled to return to court Friday.


Instead of talking about improved performance, we’re left with “improved” notifications about worse performance.

Metro crowding
With big crowds and trains tightly spaced, even a small delay can have a big impact on rush hour. (Susan Biddle for The Washington Post)

The transit staff plans to update Metro board members on how it manages severe delays on Metrorail and communicates with riders caught up in them. But most items in this progress report involve behind-the-scenes actions that passengers would have a tough time noticing.

Here are a few of the more visible developments cited in the staff report:

  • Electronic display screens have been installed above the kiosks at station entrances to warn riders of delays before they go through the fare gates.
  • More than 75,000 riders are signed up to receive Metro’s electronic alerts about delays and serious incidents.
  • The latest version of Metro’s mobile Web site has a breaking news bar on every page to highlight incidents that may cause severe delays.

Given the great frustration riders voice during severe delays, that list isn’t going to wow them. If Metro had a way to routinely allow riders to exit the fare gates without paying during a serious incident, that would get their attention. The red and blue kiosk signs are a partial solution to this problem, as long as riders remember to look at them before going through the gates.

Metro Transit Police arrest alleged “cell phone flasher”










An accused “cell phone flasher” has been arrested by Metro Transit Police in connection with several recent incidents on the Metrorail system.

Metro Transit Police today announced new charges against Steven Andrew Slaughter, 22, of Washington, DC, for alleged lewd acts and an assault that occurred in January.

Starting in mid-January, Metro Transit Police detectives became aware of a series of incidents in which a male subject would approach female passengers on the Metrorail system and show them a lewd photograph of himself on his cell phone screen.  In some cases, the suspect would approach victims claiming that he was raising money for a youth organization.

Slaughter was identified using Metro’s high-definition video surveillance footage, as well as witness statements and reports.

At the time of the incidents, between January 14 and 23, Slaughter was on pre-trial release for a several cases in DC Superior Court, including a charge of lewd, indecent or obscene act for masturbating aboard a Red Line train, and a second charge of simple assault from an alleged incident at Woodley Park Station in which he lifted a woman’s skirt.

The judge in the prior cases ordered Slaughter to stay off Metro, except for travel to court or case-related activity.

On January 24, Slaughter pled guilty to the earlier charges.  On February 7, he was sentenced to one year of supervised probation.

In the recent cases, Slaughter is charged with two counts of contempt because the alleged incidents took place while the “stay away” order was in effect.  In addition, he is charged with one new count of simple assault for allegedly spitting on a Good Samaritan who attempted to intervene when a victim was being harassed aboard a Red Line train.

“This case shows a clear pattern of disturbing and unacceptable behavior,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.  “Sexual harassment, inappropriate touching and lewd behavior have absolutely no place on Metro, and we will use all tools at our disposal to arrest those who commit such acts.”

Metro Transit Police offers several ways for riders to report harassment or sexually inappropriate activity.  An online web form – – sends important information to Metro Transit Police detectives.  In addition, riders can contact Metro Transit Police 24 hours a day via text message to MyMTPD (696873) or by calling (202) 962-2121.  Victims can remain anonymous if they wish.

In addition, Transit Police remind all passengers that solicitation of donations is illegal on Metro.  Most reputable organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club, do not use so-called “on-foot” peddlers.

Slaughter is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday, February 14 at 9 a.m.


Customers To Metro: We Can’t Afford Another Fare Hike


At the final public hearing on Metro’s fiscal year 2015 budget, customers who use the system’s paratransit service expressed grave concern over another proposed fare increase.

Several MetroAccess customers who testified at Metro headquarters Thursday evening, some from the Accessibility Advisory Committee, said the hike would force them to skip dialysis and other doctor appointments.

“I’m very grateful for the service because it has allowed me a sense of independence,” an 11-year MetroAccess customer said. “That independence is going to be compromised because [the hike] won’t allow me to take MetroAccess to my doctors’ appointments, it’s not going to allow me to take MetroAccess to church.”

“It’s not only doing that for me, but it’s doing it for the thousands of people who are riders.”

Metro has proposed increasing rail fares by four percent (a hike of 10 to 20 cents per trip) and bus fares from $1.60 to $1.80 with SmarTrip and $1.80 to $2 with cash. MetroAccess fares would increase in line with rail and bus hikes, but no changes would be made to the complicated formula that determines fares. (“Customers may take trips that begin and end less than 3/4 of a mile from the nearest bus stop or Metrorail station and will be charged two times the fastest fixed-route equivalent fare.”) The maximum fare would remain $7.

“I am still feeling the effect of the last fare increase for MetroAccess,” another rider said. Many said the fluctuation in fares makes it difficult to use MetroAccess on a fixed income.

People also testified against a fare hike for rail and bus riders, including a man who said he’s a retired bus driver and regular Metro rider. “The fare, particularly on the rail side, has become unaffordable for many people, low wage workers in this area,” he said. “The people that are making money off the transit system — the Verizon Center, the Nationals stadium, the stores, the developers who are reaping millions and millions of dollars in surplus profit because a good public transit system — these people have the money, and they have to pay for its operation.”

Rodney Green, an economist and professor at Howard University, said it seems Metro’s public hearings “are trying to figure out, ‘Should we get money out of people who park? Or should we get money out of people who ride the bus? Or how should we turn people against each other as we struggle over how to get a few more dollars out of everybody’s pocket?'”

“The reality is that the people who have the money in their pockets aren’t the people who are riding the buses and the trains,” he said.

Ben Ball, the D.C. Riders’ Advisory Council representative, asked Metro officials to be “honest” about where money from fare hikes go to: operational costs. “By themselves, these fare increases are not going to build the infrastructure that customers have been demanding for years,” he said. “If Metro wants to justify an increase in fares for operating expenses, it should focus on the actual operational improvements that increased fares will go toward.” Ball targeted customer service, saying if it was “more responsive and substantive,” that would justify the fare hike.

A smaller number of people, some of whom protested outside Metro headquarters before the hearing, testified against background checks that preclude people with felonies from obtaining many WMATA positions.

“Metro is spending money — literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars — doing criminal background checks on people,” the retired bus driver said. “Many people in this community, returning citizens, are being denied the opportunity to work for the public transit system. That’s harming people. If you’re going to hurt people, you better have a damn good reason for doing it, and Metro does not have that.”

In test, 79 percent of Metrorail announcements unclear or worse

A WUSA9 analysis found 79% of 115 Metrorail announcments tested were either unclear or very unclear.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – A WUSA9 analysis found 79% of 115 Metrorail announcements tested were either unclear or very unclear.

The numbers are in stark contrast to The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s first response to our inquiry.

“That is diametrically opposite our experience with PA (speakers),” said WMATA Spokesman Dan Stessel. “Three or four cars per month fail PA (speaker) tests.”

Metro and WUSA9 test differently.

WUSA9 rode through DC, into Virginia, and Maryland recording announcements from every line in the system.

Four WUSA9 investigative staffers listened to recordings of 115 announcements, giving each one a grade of clear, unclear, or very unclear.

“We do testing empirically here.” WMATA’s Stessel said. “A mystery rider program, which is done through a vendor.”

Metro also challenged WUSA9 tweets on the subject.

WMATA’s denials, tweets, and refusals to do an interview sparked a social media call for a Metro Intervention which WUSA9 held at Farragut North Metro Monday.

Metro acknowledges speaker trouble

Metro remained unresponsive to inquiries on the subject except for one statement that acknowledge speaker troubles significantly larger than the three or four per month Stessel initially claimed.

“In the most recent quarter, mystery riders found that announcements were understandable 85 percent of the time,” said Metro Spokeswoman Caroline Laurin. “Metro uses a third-party “mystery rider” contractor to monitor the quality of train announcements, as well as other aspects of service.”

Laurin nor Stessel would provide a copy of the report or explain the methods used to determine which announcements were understandable.

Metro GM says speakers replaced by end of decade

After the WUSA9 Metro Intervention, Metro’s general manager, Richard Sarles, addressed the speaker issue in an online chat with the Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock.

Sarles said, pending funding, the issue will be addressed by the new 7000 series cars with automated announcements.

He estimated half the fleet would be in place by the end of the decade.

How WUSA9 graded Metro’s announcements

In the WUSA9 analysis, each staff member graded the announcements independently.

WUSA9 tested 115 announcements.

In order to qualify as “clear,” three of the four WUSA9 testers would have had to graded the announcement as clear.

21% of Metro announcements were graded as clear in our test.

Only when all four WUSA9 testers rated an announcement as “very unclear” was the audio listed as “very unclear.”

Of the 79% rated unclear or worst, our analysis found 36% very unclear and 43% somewhat unclear.

See the results yourself

In the link below, you’ll see under the analysis tab (far left) the final rating for each announcement.

You’ll note, in the four categories to the right, that often testers disagreed, which is why the analysis might say clear, while one of the testers found it unclear, or it could be labeled unclear when two testers found it clear, but two testers found it unclear.

Only when all testers found it very unclear was it rated as very unclear.

See our Full study here: