Metro opens doors ... on the wrong side

Friday - 6/10/2011, 2:56pm EDT

Metro officials are trying to fix the problem of train doors opening on the wrong side. (AP Photo)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Getting off the train can be harder than it seems. Four times over the last several months, Metro operators have opened train doors on the wrong side of the track. As recently as Tuesday, a Blue Line train made the mistake at Metro Center.

Other incidents occurred on Feb. 26 at Branch Ave., March 20 at Farragut North and May 3 at Pentagon City, Metro officials report. Last week, an Orange Line train failed to pull all the way into the Dunn Loring Station and had to open its doors off the platform.

No one was hurt in any of the recent incidents. The operator of Tuesday's snafu has been suspended pending an investigation.

The door issue has been a problem since the transit agency started doing it manually more than three years ago. At the time, an electronic glitch was actually causing doors to open improperly.

In a 2008 press release, Metro blamed the malfunction on electrical upgrades, which were "causing electromagnetic interference with the system that automatically opens train doors."

They instituted a temporary fix -- manually opening doors -- that was supposed to be removed by 2009, but which remains in place to this day.

"Right now, the responsibility for safe operation of the doors is a human responsibility -- it's literally turning a key," says Matt Bassett, head of the Tri-Oversight Committee, a Metro safety watchdog.

"You can never entirely remove the potential for human failure, but you need to ensure that they're implementing the rules and procedures that are critical for their safety and for the safety of the public," he says.

On average, train doors open 216,000 times per day.

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