Advocates Criticize Metro’s Slow Progress on Restoring Protective Barriers

DC subway trains in motion in subway tunnel

by Andy Jones
July 4, 2017

The Washington Post ran an extensive story June 24, documenting the District of Columbia Metro’s slow progress installing protective barriers to protect people with visual disabilities from falling between the train cars.

On July 29, 2016, District resident David Kosub, who uses a cane for guidance, thought he was entering the train from the platform. However, he stepped into the gap between the cars and fell onto tracks. Remarkably, he survived.

Starting in the 1990s, the Metro installed protective chain barriers between each car on the train. However, on the 7000-series trains, introduced in 2015, chains only bridge alternating gaps, because the cars on the trains operate in pairs. A rubber barrier was installed in the gaps without the chains, but the rubber barrier was not enough to warn Kosub.

A year before the incident, the National Disability Rights Network criticized the new trains, contending that the lack of protective chains was dangerous and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. NDRN brought its concerns to the Federal Transportation Administration, which wrote a letter to Metro in January 2016, arguing that the change may violate the ADA.

Metro announced in October that it would retrofit its existing 7000-series fleet with the protective chains, as well as include them in its yet-to-be-delivered cars in the new fleet.

But according to the Washington Post, Metro is still working on a new design and not only has not retrofitted any of the vehicles, it has introduced 160 new vehicles in the 7000-series fleet without the chains. The timeline for retrofitting the vehicles has been pushed back to mid-2018.

For disability rights advocates, Metro's lack of urgency in addressing the matter is alarming.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Kenneth Shiotani, a senior attorney at the National Disability Rights Network.

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.