The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) rolled out a new initiative aimed at boosting service.
WMATA says the “Back2Good” plan moves beyond the track repair it is taking on with its SafeTrack program and will focus on getting trains running safely and reliably.
The “Back2Good” plan includes a train reliability program that cuts rail car delays by first retiring the oldest (1000-series) and least reliable (4000-series) cars in the fleet by the end of 2017. The success of ramping up new railcar deliveries this year also means WMATA plans to convert all eight-car trains to new 7000 series railcars next year. In addition, a “Railcar Get Well Program” for the legacy fleet began on Nov. 1 as a massive component repair and replacement campaign. The 2000-, 3000-, 5000-, and 6000-series cars will undergo replacement and repair of HVAC, doors, propulsion systems and brakes that that agency says plague train reliability. For the first time, that program is being overseen by independent quality assurance teams at WMATA. Sixty percent of all train delays on WMATA are caused by rail car mechanical performance and the new plan targets a 25-percent reduction in those delays by the end of next year.
“While we remain focused on track safety and reliability, we must tackle the fact that six of every ten train delays are due to issues with our railcars,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, WMATA general manager and CEO. “Getting back to good means running trains safely and on time.”
Wiedefeld said that safety would continue to be his top priority and plans to use technology to prevent red signal overruns and strengthen protection for track workers and inspectors. New software installed onboard trains will prevent train operators from passing a red signal by requiring the operator to perform certain actions before they can move their train. In addition, stations that have the highest frequency of red signal overruns are having their signals upgraded to brighter LED bulbs to improve their visibility to operators and prevent overruns, a project that will be completed in early 2017.
Work is also underway to install a new public radio system and cellular service in the tunnels, with cellular service in certain underground segments of the Blue, Orange and Red lines coming online in 2017.
The plan is also designed to improve the customer experience without compromising safety. Wiedefeld said new measures of success will hold WMATA employees accountable for improving service.
WMATA will measure actual travel times by utilizing riders who use the MyTripTime tool and will conduct quarterly surveys in order to gain a deeper understanding of customer satisfaction through their perspectives on personal safety and security, reliability and customer service.
“Our message to our customers is we know we need to do better to earn your trust, and we are working hard to do just that,” Wiedefeld said. “Before we can once again be a great transit system, we have to first be good, and we are committed to delivering safe and reliable service for our riders and the region.”