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Metro chief: We're making progress

Sunday - 11/24/2013, 7:47pm  ET

WASHINGTON - If there's a light at the end of the tunnel, it's probably a digital sign reading: System Repairs, Expect Delays.

Or so it might seem to Metro riders.

The system is about three years into a massive reconstruction effort, and another three to four years of work remain.

The repair-on-the-go reality has suffered plenty of growing pains. Just this month, a hydraulic fluid leak caused major rush-hour delays. Additional breakdowns have forced unscheduled single-tracking - and more delays.

Those events led to an unusual apology from Metro's chief, who said at the time that riders have every right to be angry and frustrated.

But could these high-profile headaches be covering up gradual, un-celebrated improvements? Metro says yes.

"We've seen the results of the improvements we've made thus far," says Richard Sarles, Metro's general manager. "On-time performance has increased - especially on the Red Line. (The percentage has) gone from the high 80s to the low 90s."

Day to day, more riders are arriving on time, according to Metro's figures. But Sarles acknowledges, "it's of no comfort to you if you're sitting on a delayed train or waiting to get on a train because service has been disrupted."

Sarles is candid about the recent system failures, and he says Metro "will never be perfect." But he's also convinced service is getting better.

The reconstruction of the system will continue into 2017.

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