- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2017

The lights in the underground subway car flashed, grabbing the riders’ attention.

“This train is out of service,” the operator announced, repeating the line six times.

Commuters exited as Metro workers walked through the train. Once empty, it pulled away. The platform sign overhead showed five minutes until the next train. Four minutes later, it showed nine minutes until the next train. Then it went blank.

“People had always gotten so furious about the Metro and how unreliable it can be, and I had never really empathized or sympathized with their fury until it happened to me,” said Trenton Kennedy, a summer intern working in the District.

Monday was the second consecutive work day in which Mr. Kennedy was late to a meeting because of Metro delays. He had canceled one Friday after two arcing insulator incidents. This time, it was a lunch meeting on Capitol Hill.

“It’s public transportation and I know I should plan better because it can’t be perfect all the time, but for it to just not work during rush hour,” he said, not finishing the statement.

Monday marked the first weekday after the completion of the yearlong SafeTrack maintenance program for the 41-year-old subway. It was also the first weekday of higher fares and shortened hours. Most Metrorail fares increased 10 or 25 cents; Metrobus fares rose 25 cents.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has called for $500 million a year of dedicated funding to keep the perpetually cash-strapped transit system safe and reliable.

Mr. Wiedefeld’s SafeTrack initiative, in which three years’ worth of subway repairs and maintenance were completed in a single year, had caused delays and forced commuters to reconsider their transit options since last June.

At the Shady Grove station, which was closed last week for SafeTrack, one of the subway system’s older model railcars pulled out with passengers heading into the city.

One of them, who did not give his name, said he was a retiree who commutes for downtown meetings.

“It has all worked out fine for me,” the retiree said. “Some people complain about different things, but I’ve never had a problem, and I’ve been riding the Red Line since it opened.”

The Red Line opened in 1976, and the Shady Grove extension opened in 1984.

Another Shady Grove rider, Daryll Miller, rides Metro to volunteer at the Smithsonian. When SafeTrack hampered her commute last summer, she was allowed not to work.

She said she has noticed more of the newer, 7000 Series railcars this year, and was surprised that Monday’s commute used an older car.

“I do trust it more, the newer trains,” Ms. Miller said. “More safe, more on time. I’ve been stuck a few times on an older train where they actually had to take it out of service and everybody had to get off the train and wait for the next train.”

She said it hasn’t happened to her since the end of last year. “Maybe things are better,” Ms. Miller said.

Before Monday, Mr. Kennedy had never had to get off a train for a service interruption.

“That is so frustrating,” he said.

Mr. Kennedy said this was his third extended period in the District. He rides Metro several times daily, mostly the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. He budgets 45 minutes for what should be a 30-minute trip, typically leaving home at 7 a.m. and not returning until 7 p.m.

When the platform sign jumped to nine minutes before going blank, Mr. Kennedy decided to take Uber to his lunch meeting. He left the platform, walking up a broken escalator.

“Now I have to burn $7 because the Metro couldn’t get me there,” he said.

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