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Baltimore commuters describe difficulties of troubleshooting light rail mechanical issues

Baltimore commuters describe difficulties of troubleshooting light rail mechanical issues
Baltimore commuters describe difficulties of troubleshooting light rail mechanical issues 02:34

BALTIMORE -- Friday was the first day that people who use the light rail to get around town had to alter their commute over mechanical issues.

The Maryland Transporation Administration announced on Thursday that all of its light rail services would be suspended indefinitely due to the issues.

WJZ spoke with people who used the light rail trains on Friday to see how they're dealing with the changes, finding many who are frustrated by the situation. Elected leaders have also been expressing frustration in statements posted on social media.

The light rail station on North Avenue was empty on Friday. Signs were posted to notify people of the suspension. A message also plays over the intercom system.

"Light rail service is temporarily suspended at all stations. Shuttle bus service is in place to accommodate passengers," the message stated.

People waited along the street curb since free shuttles have been running in place of light rail during the suspension. All 53 cars have been taken out for inspections and repairs.

Charles Ferrari usually takes the light rail for work. He feels moving forward, more money needs to be invested in public transportation.

"They will not spend money on getting light rail fixed correctly," Ferrari said. "It makes things harder on people that got to get to work every day. [MTA] transportation is very unreliable."

MTA leaders explained Thursday night that the suspension was due to two big issues. The first, punctured conduits, was detected in the aftermath of an incident in October that ended up injuring one person.

A video of the incident shows smoke and flames filling a light rail car.

The second issue is related to the cables connecting sections of cars. MTA said they've caused several smoke incidents over the years. In one of them, minor injuries were reported due to smoke inhalation.

Morton, who declined to give his full name, said this situation is a bad look for MTA.

"It doesn't do the tourists any good. It doesn't do the people going back and forth to work [any good]. It's just a mess," he said.

Mayor Brandon Scott, among other elected leaders, called the situation unacceptable.

In a statement he posted on social media, he said in part, "We will be doing everything in our power to ensure MTA addresses the necessary repairs as quickly as possible."

MTA said 10,000 people ride the light rail daily. Full service can resume when 19 cars are cleared.

When that happens, riders are hoping for smoother rides.

"It's just at certain parts of the time, like in the morning, it's kind of quick," Charles Richardson said. "But then after that, it's kind of hit or miss, especially on the weekends."

For the Ravens game this Sunday, there will be 20 express shuttles going from the Timonium Fairgrounds and Glen Burnie/Cromwell stop directly to M&T Bank Stadium.

Express bus riders should board these buses at the Cromwell light rail stop in Glen Burnie or at the Timonium Fairgrounds light rail station, according to transportation officials.

Regular buses have enough seats for 31 bus passengers whereas "articulated buses" have seats for 51 passengers, transportation officials said.  

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