Washington Metro’s computers crashed twice this past weekend, forcing all trains to stop and stranding passengers for up to 30 minutes. This is just the latest example of how the aging transit system is slowly falling apart.
It is hard to imagine today what kind of computers Metro used in 1976, when it opened DC’s first new rail line. Programming probably used COBOL or some other now-archaic language. (The Antiplanner has heard rumors that the COBOL programmers who wrote the software that runs the San Francisco BART system refuse to ride the trains.) Anyone who has an older computer knows that things go wrong and those cumulative failures add up until eventually the system just does not reliably work.
In any case, the Metro system has roughly a $10 billion maintenance backlog. As a result, rails break; trains fall apart during operation; computers crash; and the agency’s bureaucracy can’t even keep up with the problems.