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Metro suspends automatic door-opening days after starting it

The move follows about half a dozen erroneous automatic door closings

A Red Line train at the Metro Center station (2016)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Metro has temporarily paused automatic door-opening on the Red Line just days after launching it July 7, the head of the transit agency announced at a Metro board meeting Thursday. Metro says the reversal is being made out of caution, as there were roughly six automatic door closings earlier this week that were not directed by train conductors and happened prematurely. Conductors are supposed to manually order train doors to close.

“While automatic door closing is a feature of the system, it is not one that we want active,” a Metro spokesman says in a statement. “The number of reports – about six – is small relative to the thousands of door openings that occur each day on the Red Line. Despite this, we have put door operations in manual mode to allow engineers to look into the issue.” Metro CEO Paul Wiedefeld disclosed the problems without immediately providing a timeline for fixes.

Automatic door-opening allows passengers to board trains and clear station platforms more quickly than manual door-opening, which conductors initiate over 20,000 times a weekday, according to Metro. Transmitters on the trackbed inform train systems when a train has fully arrived at a platform. This helps stop human error by conductors who manually open doors.

Metro previously said it had completed testing for the function earlier in 2019 and intended to introduce it to all rail system’s lines later in the year. It’s unclear when this will occur now.