In January of 2016, safety and disabilities advocates identified the 'between
car barriers' as a safety hazard for people with disabilities. In
summary, it was too large of a gap, and people were at risk of falling
in between the train cars.
In July of 2016, a visually impaired man fell into the gap between the
train cars. That October of 2016, WMATA said that the thought the design
was safe but that they planned to install additional safety protections
by the end of 2017. To date, no physical installations or fixes have been made.
Unfortunately and almost inevitably, on May 25th of this year, a visually
impaired woman fell into the space between two train cars. As a result,
federal regulators are now stepping in and forcing WMATA to take immediate
action to "retrofit the transit system's fleet of 7000-series
trains with new safety devices." “This accident highlights
the ineffectiveness of the rubber barriers on WMATA’ s 7000-series
rail cars in mitigating safety risks for passengers with visual impairments,”
Henrika Buchanan, an acting associated administrator of the FTA, said
in her letter to the Metro Transit General Manager, Paul J. Wiedefeld.
Thankfully, the regulators are finally forcing Metro to take action before
someone is severely injured or even killed. Unfortunately, WMATA/Metro
has a longstanding culture of compromising safety for budgetary needs,
and requiring very drastic (or even deadly) events to get Metro to make
any changes to its safety protocols and procedures for the better. Hopefully,
this time around, they will get it right, and no more incidents such as
those noted above will ever happen to anyone again.