Metro Disaster Leaves Questions

I’m on my way to Richmond this a.m. for an Energy Commission meeting.  Last night, I spoke (along with Steve Shannon) to the Pakistani-American Congress which is having its annual meeting in D.C. 

Of course, the major issue the past 36 hours has been the horrific accident on the Red Line where a trailing Metro train hit another and caused at least seven deaths. 

I’ve been catching the reports on the news.  Since Virginia is one-third of the WMATA compact and supports the system financially, I expect we’ll get a briefing from our staff.  As I understand right now, the automatic braking system on the trailing train failed and the operator was unable to override it manually.

The Metro system is nearly 35 years old.  Many of the cars are vintage Seventies design.  We’ll have to wait for NTSB to give us more details on the crash and its causes.  Regardless, I expect the safety of the system and its riders to be a continuing issue into the 2010 session and well beyond.

(update June 25 @ 1130 am)

This topic merits a lot more discussion than just 3-4 paragraphs reciting the obvious facts.  The Post has a column here which pretty well describes the dilemma.

One issue must be raised at the risk of political incorrectness.  The participating jurisdictions in WMATA — Virginia, Maryland and the District of  Columbia — have changed markedly since the compact was formed almost 40 years ago.  Northern Virginia has gained population and influence.  The District has been losing population and jobs.  Yet we are stuck with the same Board make-up from the Seventies. 

That means that D.C. and Maryland essentially have veto power over Virginia, although the Commonwealth has the majority of D.C. area residents.

If Virginia is going to step up its participation in WMATA, then the Board must reflect the reality of the Washington Metro area.  It should and we should.  Because it was only luck that the accident didn’t happen on the Orange Line in Dunn Loring or the Blue Line in Huntington.

 

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