Audit of Metro Rail service disruptions in 2016

One of Metro’s core values is to try to continuously improve. In that vein, the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released an audit of Metro Rail service disruptions in 2016 to help better identify and reduce the root causes of rail delays. The OIG is an independent part of Metro that reports directly to the Metro Board. Its purpose, simply put, is to make Metro more efficient and effective.

The audit is posted above; a pdf version for download is here.

Click to see a larger version of this page from the audit.

The key statistic from the audit: there were 2,585 service disruptions involving Metro Rail last year. Of those, 441 delays involved service interruptions for health reasons (i.e. sick passengers) or policing issues and the remaining 2,144 disruptions mostly involved problems with equipment and, to a lesser extent, staffing shortages (see the chart at right). Of Metro’s five rail lines, the Blue Line had the most incidents with 689. The Blue Line is Metro’s oldest rail line and opened in July 1990.

The audit contains both criticism and praise for Metro. First the praise: the agency was credited for its renewed focus on its State of Good Repair program. On the other hand, the audit questioned whether the $4.8 billion for State of Good Repair that Metro will spend over the next decade is enough. The audit also found that Metro needs to better identify the root causes of service problems to ensure they get fixed.

The audit specified 57 improvements that needed to be made and concluded with these words:

While expansion of the system is critical, it cannot take place at the expense of maintaining the existing system. Setting this balance, however, requires a firmer understanding of the condition of the core infrastructure. Expediting the work currently underway will position Metro to better make these tradeoffs.

I encourage you to read the audit. I also want to add some perspective: Metro Rail runs 20 to 22 hours a day, 365 days a year. Most (but certainly not all) of the service disruptions that we see are minor in terms of actual delay to passengers, although undoubtedly  annoying to riders who are impacted — which sometimes includes yours truly. The average maximum delay in 2016 due to rail service disruptions was about 20 minutes, according to the audit. Overall, trains have arrived on-time about 98 percent of the time over the last three years, according to Metro records.

It also worth noting that maintenance-wise, there is a lot happening on the Metro Rail system. New Kinkisharyo light rail cars continue to roll out on the Blue Line, which still has the oldest rail cars on our system with some still dating to 1990. Also part of the Better Blue Line program, a contract was awarded by Metro earlier this year for other necessary upgrades to the Blue Line, including signals, new switches and track improvements.

New subway rail cars for the Red/Purple Line have been ordered with delivery of the first cars expected in late 2020. A number of system upgrades will be made on the Green Line as part of the work to join that line with the Crenshaw/LAX Line tracks.

Metro’s Operations Department has reviewed the audit; some recommendations are already underway and others will be implemented. A significant portion of Metro’s State of Good Repair funding, by the way, will come from Measure M, the sales tax measure approved last year by Los Angeles County voters.

To learn more about Metro’s Office of Inspector General please see their home page, which includes previous audits. This audit will be presented to the Metro Board as part of their November round of meetings.

The best way to receive timely service alerts is to check out the homepage or follow Metro on Twitter. We also have a Twitter stream dedicated only to service alerts. We’ll also have more posts in the months ahead with videos and photos of important maintenance work that is ongoing on Metro’s bus and rail systems.


6 replies

  1. Key Findings
    The report has overall findings include:
    Metro does not currently have a good system or complete information to identify root cause for service delays. The root cause for many delay incidents was not identified in Metro’s records.
    Metro lacks asset condition surveys for each asset class. These surveys are essential for identifying and rating the condition of each asset and its component parts as a guidepost toState of Good Repair investment decisions.

    I copied this right out of the report folks, I wrote a lot more but evidently, they’ve purposely limited the amount in which we can comment. This proves that the the overall bigtime board and managers don’t really know what they’re doing and they don’t have adequate knowledge to fix the problem. With all of the money from Measure M, there was the statement that those funds wouldn’t be adquate yet Metro still refuses to staff stations to make sure every rider pays to ride. We’re being majorly screwed here and the fine print gives us an insight as to how things really run. I remember making a comment about the extra cars on the Expo Line and the answer didn’t match this one. I instinctively knew that, due to the big delays, the full number of trains which should have been on the line weren’t.

    • Hi Paul;

      Feel free to leave another comment. As per usual, we don’t let anyone completely take over the comment board but if there’s something else in the report you want to point to, that’s fine.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. I would like for Metro to define what they consider a time delay. (How late do they have to be before they consider it a delay…15, 20, or 30 minutes?).

    Unless Metro provides Wi-Fi service at its stations, many of us will continue to be left in the dark about delays. Many of us cannot afford that service on our phones/devices.

  3. I presume that most maintenance occurs at night to minimize the number of people impacted by the delays. Last week I was on the Red Line at about 10 p.m. when the train came to a complete stop in between stations. The delay was short, only a couple of minutes. Then, after a few minutes of low speed travel, it once again came to a complete stop, again for a short time, after which it resumed normal speed to the next station. Since the stop times were short, I presume that this was to let another train that was heading in the other direction, to pass, probably due to the timing of the two trains in relation to double and single track sections. This brings up a question. Since trains going opposite directions obviously have to pass each other, and sections of track are sometimes under maintenance, this would require both trains to share the same track. How is the timing controlled so as to avoid collisions? Is this automatic or controlled by the operators? What safety measures are taken to prevent accidents, especially when for whatever reason the train schedule must differ from normal?

    • The schedule for single tracking is built so that only one train is scheduled to be in the single track area at a time — the reason why trains don’t run as often when single tracking. The interlockings that allow the trains to switch tracks are controlled by Rail Operations staff. Safety mechanisms are in place to prevent trains from being routed into each other. The subway also has an automatic train protection to prevent collisions. Hope that explains it!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source