There are plenty of instances where people engage in a practice that psychologists call “denial.” We all know what it is, and we are willing to bet that most of you have engaged in it at one time or another. Some common colloquialisms for the practice are “playing ostrich” or “putting your head in the sand.”
It’s the sort of thing that happens a lot with individual people. Someone will not pay a bill and hope that the credit card company won’t notice, or someone will drink five beers and think “Nothing bad will happen to me” as he gets behind the wheel of the car.
As we mentioned, it’s a common enough occurrence, but it’s the sort of thing that we see in people. We almost never see it in organizations or companies. The idea that an entire organization would pretend that something dreadful isn’t happening on their watch is a difficult thing to believe.
Yet it seems that’s what the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has been doing for about 6 years. And we aren’t talking about a minor bit of denial involving paperwork. We mean there was system-wide denial going on about the brakes on the Metro subways.
From the Washington Post:
Metro has known for six years that some of its rail cars have brake parts that fail sooner than expected, transit officials said Thursday.
The failure was found in some of the agency’s newest rail cars in 2006. Most of the defective parts have been replaced, but 184 cars with similar parts are in service, according to Metro. The transit authority plans to begin replacing the parts — known as “brake disc hubs” — in the summer.
There are 184 cars with potentially failing brakes still in service on our subway system. Would it be too much to ask for them to tell us which ones? Maybe if we had the car numbers we could choose whether or not to get on the train. Or maybe it would be better if they got those cars off the tracks and replaced the faulty brakes entirely.
We are having a very difficult time understanding this. WMATA is not a fly by night carnival. It is the public transportation agency of a major metropolitan city. How could they possibly let 184 cars with admittedly faulty brakes roll on the tracks for 6 years and do nothing about it? And more to the point, how could they do so even after a catastrophic accident that left nine people dead and many more badly injured?
The Red Line Crash happened in 2009, and while that crash involved a faulty sensor system, you would think that WMATA would do a thorough overhaul of everything. That hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s been a litany of things going completely wrong.
Escalators have collapsed, spilling commuters down to the bottom of the L’Enfant Plaza station, and causing commuters to actually fall through and get their feet stuck. The security presence has gotten worse and worse, with passengers getting robbed and beaten with barely a mention from the WMATA police. And now we find that a serious percentage of the cars have failing brakes, and have had them for about six years.
There needs to be a sea-change in culture and attitude at WMATA. If the public depends of the subway and our bus system, then they should at the very least expect it to be safe. Right now it isn’t. It’s defective in many ways.
While we are certainly glad that some of the escalators are being replaced, and that the sensors are being upgraded, we can’t pretend that failing brakes are nothing to worry about. Those need to be placed on the priority list before someone else gets hurt.
Greenberg and Bederman is an injury law firm located in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are currently offering legal assistance to people who have been injured due to no fault of their own, and that includes those who have been hurt on Metro or any other public transit system in the Washington, D.C. area.
If you or a loved one in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C. has been hurt in an accident that wasn’t your fault, contact Greenberg & Bederman for a free consultation today.