DC’s Metro has had a very bad few months.
The delay-plagued system shut down for an entire day in March to address power issues that made its subway unsafe to ride. Then its general manager announced a long-overdue and year-long repair effort for the 40-year-old system, involving station shutdowns and delays on every single line for weeks at a time.
To add insult to injury, a new survey Thursday said fewer than three of ten Metro riders were satisfied with the system even though half of the area’s residents use it.
So if it feels like the transit agency has been putting out fires every other day, you wouldn’t be far off. It is — literally.
An analysis from news site FiveThirtyEight, drawn from tweets that catalog Metro alerts, shows the transportation system of the nation’s capital sparks fire more than four times a week. The Twitter account @IsMetroOnFire, which collects tweets from two accounts monitoring Metro delays or announcements, noted at least 85 fires from Jan. 1 to May 16 in the first 136 days of the year, FiveThirtyEight reported.
That number has risen steadily since the beginning of the year, though the number of fires stalled briefly after the one-day system-wide shutdown in March during which the agency fixed damaged cables and addressed power issues. But the number of fires started to pick up again in April, according to FiveThirtyEight, approaching 3.5 fires weekly.
The @IsMetroOnFire account scans tweets from an official Metro Twitter account and another commuter-run account for mentions of fire or smoke. But alerts from Metro don’t always mention why a train is delayed, meaning it might be undercounting how many times you can’t get on your train because the tracks are aflame.
Online trackers for Metro are common. One profanity-laced website monitors each of Metro’s lines for delays at individual stations. Another, like the Twitter account, tracks Days Since Last Metro Fire.
But repairs to the system are a more difficult problem to tackle. The system’s year-long repair, which will begin in June, will force several subway lines to share a track back and forth while workers install new infrastructure and replace existing cables and equipment.
The repairs are scheduled to last until mid-2017.