Metro managers knew six years ago that a key brake part was failing on some rail cars (because of metal fatigue), but did not replace the parts because of lack of money.
The parts are now being replaced.
In late December, chaos reigned on Metro's Blue-Orange Line when part of a brake literally flew off the train and hit the third rail, creating a shower of sparks. It happened again – to another train – in January.
Now the board that oversees Metro has been told that two similar incidents happened back in 2006, and transit managers then concluded that the metal in the brake hubs was failing sooner than their expected lifetimes of 30-35 years.
Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek told the Safety Committee that, in 2006 (before Kubicek had joined the system), managers designed a stronger replacement brake hub, but there wasn't the money to change the parts in the system's 5000 Series of rail cars.
Since the two incidents in recent months, all brake hubs in all 5000 Series cars have been replaced.
Metro's 6000 series cars came into service in the 1990's, and they use a similar "brake hub". Metro managers say they don't want to take chances, even though those newer hubs should last until 2014. They plan to replace all of them on the 6000 cars by this summer.
The chairman of the Safety Committee told Metro managers – in blunt language – to call attention when lack of money affects a safety decision.
Mortimer Downey said he hates the thought that rail cars with deficient brake parts have been rolling on the nation's second-busiest subway system six years after the discovery of the problem.
Downey told managers that someone should have come to the board with their "hair on fire" to say "we can't do that."