Could the DC metro crash been avoided?

Written by admin on June 26, 2009 – 5:25 pm -

At approximately 5 p.m. on Monday, June 22nd, two trains crashed on the packed commuter metro Red Line near Tacoma Park, Md.

The accident is the deadliest in the D.C.’s Metro’s 33-year history. Nine people were killed and least 76 people were injured and transported to hospitals.

After New York City, Washington’s rapid transit system, called the Metro, is the second-busiest urban rail system in the country. An average of 800,000 people use it each day. During President Obama’s inauguration, more the 1,200,000 people used it. The system has been in a constant growth mode as the  Metropolitan D.C. area has exploded into the suburbs.

Since the crash, there has been extensive debate as to whether or not the crash was due to a human or a mechanical error. Initially, reports attributed the accident to a human error on the part of the conductor, who was killed. After further examination, some of the cars were found to have mechanical faults.

District of Columbia’s Mayor Adrian Fenty has said the crash dramatizes the need for the rail system to be upgraded because some cars were found to have mechanical defects and others were overdue to be inspected. Federal transportation inspectors say it will require a minimum of six months until the reason for the crash is ascertained. Fenty said federal safety investigators are still searching for the cause of the crash and there’s no question the issue of rail car safety is a valid one.

The mayor is adamant that the transportation system must protect more people with stronger cars. The governments of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia operate the system jointly.

According to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority,  metro trains in Washington will be manually operated by operators until further notice. This way, the train operator has full control of the train’s starts, stops and its speed. The operator must operate within specific speed parameters set by the signals or the train will automatically shut down.

Many people are questioning the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s liability. Many feel this accident could have been easily avoided. They don’t remember this is only the second accident where there were fatalities in the history of this rail transit system.

Do you think this will be a wake up call for cities throughout the world to institute more assiduous inspection systems?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Witnessing the beginning of a new era in Washington

Written by admin on January 21, 2009 – 9:23 pm -

I witnessed history in Washington yesterday. The expression sounds trite, but it’s true. People descended on the nation’s capital from everywhere for the big event.

There was such a feeling of solidarity. People who’d normally never talk to one another have become best friends as they waited — and waited — to board the Metro. Getting around the city was a walking event and people from all over the world gathered together to welcome President and Mrs. Barack Obama and his two daughters to the White House.

People were literally in tears — of happiness and from the cold — as they watched the 44th President of the United States be sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States.

Even if they were nowhere near the Capitol, just being on the Mall was enough to be a part of the event.

There were at least twenty events taking place in Paris including one at the Hôtel de Ville (French for “City Hall”) today. Americans held celebrations all over the world.

If people couldn’t attend an event, they could sign onto the Internet. Facebook and other social networking sites enabled people to virtually participate in the swearing in and other festivities. More people watched this event than any previous inauguration – either on television or via the Internet.

Being in Washington holds special significance — welcoming the first black American President. Barack Obama is inheriting some the greatest problems the world has ever known.

Everyone, no matter their political affiliation or nationality, is unanimous in wishing him and his administration luck. Even though the weather was cloudy yesterday, the sun is shining.

How did you celebrate this Inaugural Day?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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Sorry, no Inauguration Day tickets — or space on my floor

Written by admin on January 16, 2009 – 12:16 pm -

When you have digs in the Nation’s Capital, your popularity increases exponentially when Inauguration Day rolls around every four years.

This coming Tuesday is different from other recent Inauguration Days. An estimated four million people will be descending on Washington to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as America’s 44th president.

Festivities will commence at 10 a.m. at the west side of the U.S. Capitol. For the first time ever, the length of National Mall will be open for those wishing to attend the swearing-in ceremony.  Sure, there are bleachers with allocated seating. But obtaining a ticket is next to impossible and if you don’t have one by now, don’t plan on scoring one.

The President-elect and Vice President-elect and their families will participate in the traditional inaugural ceremonies and events that include performances by the United States Marine Band, the San Francisco Boys Chorus as well as that city’s Girls Chorus.

After proceeding with the formalities including speeches, invocations, musical selections, Vice-President Biden will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of Office, administered by Chief Justice, the Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

President Obama will then deliver his Inaugural address. That’s simply the beginning of the day and the formalities.

Later in the evening, there are ten official Inaugural Balls taking place in the city. President and Mrs. Obama will make an appearance at each of them. They’ll be surrounded by the members of the Secret Service and the Press Corps. People will be able to see what dress Mrs. Obama is wearing (and, later, read about every detail).

If you’re a woman who’s attending a ball, do not buy a new dress. The balls are so jammed-packed that you’re going to feel like a sardine and your outfit will end up looking as if came from the Salvation Army — and I don’t mean a chic second-hand store. Most dresses don’t survive being stepped on, having drinks poured down them and other mini or major catastrophes. Men are expected to wear Black Tie.

Unfortunately, I can’t get you a ticket to a ball. They were doled out long ago. Even the “peoples’ ball” tickets were sold out before you could navigate buying them on the Internet.

Transportation is going to be another horror. The District of Columbia isn’t equipped to deal with so many people. Bridges to and from Virginia are going to be closed and the only way to navigate the city will be by metro, some buses and more to the point, by foot.  Yes, there will be private cars for dignitaries and the very rich. But don’t plan on renting one now.

Do access this Web site: Metro on Inauguration Day to see what’s available. Please remember it’s going to be cold. Be prepared to walk. A lot of areas are going to be closed off for security reasons.

So what plans have area residents made?  Some have rented their places and left town. Others are stocking supplies and have decided to watch this historic day in the comfort of their own homes. Many others whom I know will go to a neighborhood bar and celebrate (and drink) while watching a large screen television.

Some people are throwing parties in private homes, delighted to avoid the massive crowds. The one I am attending is “Black tie, pot luck and please bring a bottle of champagne.”

If you haven’t made your plans by now, you’re pretty much out of luck. Hotels are filled, albeit you can still find a few rooms on Craig’s List.

If you can physically get to the Nation’s Capital, you can try calling friends to see if they have an available blow-up mattress. Whatever you do, don’t request a ride to the festivities downtown. Your hosts may like you a lot but some things are out of the question.

If you are Washington, DC bound, what plans have you made, when did you make them and how will you be spending your time here?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.  She is currently in Washington but doesn’t have an inch of  floor left in her apartment.

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