FTA orders WMATA to take immediate action to ensure Metro passenger safety

Metro train (WJLA file photo)

After a visually impaired woman fell onto the track at a Metro station in May, the Federal Transit Administration is requiring WMATA to take immediate action to address safety risks on the 7000-series railcars.

In a letter to Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld on Friday, the FTA says the rubber between-car barriers (BCBs) used on WMATA's 7000-series railcars don’t ensure the safety of passengers with visual impairments.

The FTA says the woman was using a cane as she looked for an open door of a stationary train car, but thought the opening between two railcars was a doorway. As she stepped off the platform, thinking she was walking onto a train car, she fell onto the track and was injured.

The letter notes that the rubber barriers used on the 7000-series trains are different from the chain barriers used on Metro’s other railcars. The rubber barriers are harder to detect with a cane and leave as much as a nine-inch gap at the platform level, which can be mistaken for an opening.

The FTA is requiring WMATA to submit a work plan by June 29, to ensure that the rubber between-car barriers on the 7000-series cars are replaced with chain between-car barriers by December 31.

If the requirements are not met, the FTA can withhold up to 25 percent of WMATA’s Urbanized Area Formula funds, according to the letter.

A WMATA spokesperson released the following statement to the news media:

Metro worked closely with the accessibility community and oversight personnel to ensure that safety and accessibility compliance were the highest priorities during the design and decision-making process leading to the dual between-car barrier concept. We remain confident in the safety, accessibility and compliance of the design with all applicable law.
While our testing confirmed the safety of the current design, after consulting with our customers and the FTA, WMATA will replace the existing between car barriers with chain-barriers on the 7000-series currently in passenger service. The testing of options was needed because there is no federal design standard.
We are working as quickly as possible with the rail car manufacturer to install the chain-barriers on the existing 7000-series rail car fleet as well as on new rail cars from the manufacturer. In the meantime, Metro is making public address announcements in stations to remind customers with disabilities to tap the floor of the train before boarding, a standard safety procedure. We will also work with and respond to the FTA with an action plan as requested by June 29, 2018.

Read the FTA letter:

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