Metrorail Closing Greatly Extends the Daily Commute

Amber Ecelbarger, Sports Editor

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, Metrorail was shut down for an emergency electrical inspection. The inspection was brought about due to numerous malfunctions in the system’s jumper cables which are believed to have been the root cause of the fire that had sprung about the previous Monday morning. Also, in January of 2016, smoke filled one of the metro carts around L’Enfant Plaza, an incident that had left one dead and several injured. The two malfunctions were credited to the faulty electrical system. Metro general manger and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said, “While the risk to public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here; this is why we must take this [step] immediately. When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it.”
Crews working to resolve the problems came across several problems that sparked immediate attention and demanded fixing. With the system down, hundreds of thousands of commuters who had relied on the metro set out to take alternative methods of transportation. Metro transports about 750,000 people on a typical weekday and is the second busiest railway system in the U.S, behind the subway system in New York City.
The traffic was chaotic with heavy backups along I-66 and the Capital Beltway. Virtually stagnant traffic near the Pentagon on the Capital Beltway frustrated thousands of drivers. The federal government decided to keep offices open but allowed workers the option to take unscheduled leave or telework (work from home). Many chose to stay home simply to avoid the hassle of the commute. However, those who did choose to commute, had a very difficult time doing so.
Due to the fairly early warning of the closing, many metro riders were able to somewhat plan their commute ahead of time. Lester Broughton (71) and Glorious Broughton (68) decided to spend the night at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, anticipating the possibility of missing their Wednesday flight. They originally planned on taking the Metro and were able to alter their plans with the closing notice. Leander Talley (52) planned to take several buses to commute to the Alexandria area. “I’ve got to catch five buses to get to Alexandria…It’s like three and a half hours. It’s crazy.” Many metro riders who typically have a short commute, were shocked with Wednesday’s travel time.
When will the Metro be safe to ride? There may not be a sure answer to this but the system has been announced to reopen at 5 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2016. Because of this prompt reopening, it is plausible to believe the glaring problems have been fixed and the system is back up to par.