Metro is making final preparations to change the way it operates its trains.
News4 has learned that a presentation to convert trains into computer-controlled automatic mode is on the agenda for this week’s Metro Council meeting.
The plan is to convert the Red Line into automatic train operation by summer and the entire system by the end of the year.
Metro has not used an automatic train operation (ATO) in over a decade. Currently, train operators control the movement themselves.
However, Metro is designed to operate in automatic mode – it is currently among the few large transit systems that are not automated.
Metro says the ATO should improve everything from on-time performance to train wear and even energy consumption because it will ensure a smoother ride.
“It’s like, you know, hitting the gas in your car, it’s not the preferred way to accelerate, nor is it to hit the brakes, right? It’s similar logic when you’re running an auto,” said Andy Ove, head of infrastructure at WMATA.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Committee says its members are awaiting additional information required from Metrorail and extensive work is needed to ensure the transit agency is ready to launch the ATO.
“As part of our oversight of Metrorail’s safety certification work in relation to automatic train operation and automatic door operation, the WMSC regularly engages with Metrorail regarding specific safety issues. This includes questions relating to areas such as potential Metrorail schedules, testing, training development and implementation,” the commission said in a statement. .
The metro has not operated in ATO mode since the Red Line train crash in 2009, killing nine people. It remains the deadliest accident in Metro history.
In this case, a perfect storm of events contributed to the accident, according to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. First, the computer signals indicated that the path ahead was clear – but the second train stopped near the bend. After that, the automatic system pushed the train forward at full speed. By the time the worker saw the second train, it was too late.
Metro knows that it will need to convince everyone that this new system is safe.
“We have verified with our manufacturers that, in these conditions, this equipment is safe,” said Tiffany Jenkins, a WMATA employee.
The Subway Board will hear the full plan this Thursday.
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