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Metro hopes to bring back train automation by next year

WMATA train operators have been manually stopping and starting trains since a deadly 2009 crash.

WASHINGTON — When you step on a Metro train, the trains operator has complete control of the ride -- from stopping and starting the train, to doors opening on the right. After more than a decade, WMATA hopes to bring back automation. 

Metro's train operators have manually stopped and started trains ever since a 2009 Red line crash at Fort Totten that killed nine people, and injured 80 others. It was the deadliest crash in Metro history.

An NTSB investigation partially blamed a malfunction in Automatic Train Operation for the June 22, 2009 crash. The system’s series of track circuits that regulate train speed and separation malfunctioned, keeping one train speeding toward another that was stopped. The train operator applied emergency braking, but it was too late.

Now, Metro hopes to return to automation next year, if approved by the Metro Safety Commission. 

Metro says all safety concerns after that 2009 crash have been addressed. Metro also says returning to automation would lead to an increase in safety because, "human factors are the leading cause of station and red signal overruns." Automation would also mean a smoother ride for Metro customers.


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