WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Frustration is mounting for hundreds of thousands of riders who rely on metro service every day. Nearly half of Metro’s train operators are almost a year behind on their recertification, meaning their training to safely operate a train is no longer up to date. In response to this lapse in recertification, Metro immediately pulled 72 train operators from work, a move that is already creating delays for riders on the Yellow and Green lines.
Sharron Webb relies on the metro for her everyday travel around the city. She called the system a headache, especially for her fellow riders who commute in and out of the city on the train.
Alex Infantino rides the metro to and from work at Reagan National Airport. While he wasn’t surprised by the new announcement of delays, he hopes they won’t get any worse and is glad Metro is taking steps to keep riders safe.
“Train operators need to be trained obviously it’s like a really essential job that they do, it’s safety-related,” Infantino said. “Transportation is really important, you know, we don’t want anybody getting hurt, but I’d be really, really sad if it got any worse.”
The staff shortage is already slowing Green and Yellow line trains to run every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes. This new staff shortage could also reduce service for extra trains to relieve crowds, support special events, or replace out-of-service trains.
Metro’s Board of Directors said in part: “The board finds this unacceptable and extremely disappointing. We support Metro management’s decision to immediately remove from service operators who became out of compliance more than a year ago as a first step. The Board directed Metro management to provide a full accounting of how and why this occurred and develop a plan to ensure it is remedied as fast as possible.”
Some riders said the staff shortage isn’t even the biggest problem metro riders face. One hospitality worker and native Washingtonian explain he directs visitors who stay at his hotel to use other transportation methods like rideshares and taxis or even to walk to their destination before using the metro. Anastasia Smith expressed her frustration with the lack of maintenance for the physical trains rather than the stations.
“They need to upgrade it. They don’t care for the train, they’re only working on like gates and stuff and we need trains,” Smith said.
Others said WMATA could fix a lot of the service issues by listening to their own workers.
“If our system would actually listen to the workers, I believe it would function a lot better than it is right now,’ Webb explained. “It’s more than just building systems for the subway. It’s more than that. You gotta listen to the people that run it.”
WMATA said the delays on the yellow and green lines could last until the end of this month when the new CEO is set to take office, but the process to recertify more than 250 rail operators will take at least two to three months. Metro’s safety department is reviewing the refresher training of more than 2500 bus operators, which follows a different process than rail.