WASHINGTON – Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld on Wednesday said the system will double the number of new cars in service by next year, a move that will improve safety and reduce delays.
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The new 7000 series cars eventually will make up a third of the fleet during peak hours, Widefeld said at a National Press Club luncheon. Older Metro car models, the 1000 and 4000 series, will be eliminated by the end of 2017.
Production of the 7000 series cars has been boosted from eight per month to 20 per month, Wiedefeld said. There are currently 27 new cars in service.
With the stepped-up replacement of old cars, Wiedefeld said he hopes to cut down delays due to train car issues by 25 percent. He explained that a single train consisting of only 7000 series cars instead of a mix will improve communication between cars, resulting in fewer breakdowns.
“We need the same constants, keeping series together,” Wiedefeld said. “Different technologies don’t mix.”
After his first year at Metro, Wiedefeld said safety continues to be his No. 1 priority.
Wiedefeld said he makes sure that all of his employees come to work with the same mindset.
“I ask them to think of the most vulnerable person in their life,” Wiedefeld said. “(I tell them), ‘Your job is to keep that person safe. Come to work everyday and that’s the way you should be thinking.’”
From restricting speeds on cars to putting cell phone reception throughout the lines, Metro is focused on making the system safer.
“It’s amazing to see the transformation that is occurring out there,” Wiedefeld said of the SafeTrack surges, a series of scheduled heavy maintenance repairs along the Metro lines. “You don’t see it or feel it as much as we do, but the…quality of work that’s been done is unbelievable.”
Not everyone agrees.
In a Twitter poll put out by Unsuck DC Metro hours before Wiedefeld spoke, 66 percent of voters said they either were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the transit chief.
In addition, Wiedefeld said most of Metro’s complaints are being brought up by employees, which is “exactly what you want in a safety culture.” Operators are the ones who brought about the new reduced speeds because they could see firsthand the dangers of taking the tracks at full speed, he said.
Despite objections from some riders, Wiedefeld did not offer any new insights into Metro’s proposed decreased hours.
“We have proposed several options,” he said, highlighting Metro’s plan of potentially closing at 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11:30 p.m. on weeknights.
“Am I happy with it? The people I represent are not happy with it,” Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, who also is a D.C. Council member, told the Washington Post earlier this week.
To improve customer service, Metro plans to add full cell phone reception to the Red Line by the end of 2017. This will make riders feel more safe, as well as improve arrival board accuracy, Wiedefeld said.
Currently, the boards use an algorithm that predicts when the trains should arrive, but doesn’t take delays into account. With cell phone reception, the trains will have GPS trackers on them so the boards can be updated in real time.
Metro also is creating an app called My Trip Time. Users register their SmartTrip card to the app, which then tracks how much time they spent riding the Metro between when they scanned in and out of the system.
“I don’t want to track my trip. I want to go from A to B safely, affordably and reliably. That’s it. One job,” Unsuck DC Metro tweeted.
Wiedefeld said Metro’s accuracy on the app is currently at 68 percent, which is “not good.” However, he is hopeful for the future.
“We have a very long way to go to turn Metro around, but I know we are on the rise,” Wiedefeld said.