DART apologizes to passengers trapped in tunnel



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Posted on June 21, 2011 at 10:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 21 at 10:15 PM

DALLAS — The president of Dallas Area Rapid Transit apologized to 200 passengers who were left stranded inside a stalled train in a dark tunnel for more than an hour last week.

The passengers, who were returning from the Dallas Mavericks victory parade, complained they were never told what to do — or whether help was coming. There is no cell phone service in the tunnel.

"If I were in their same shoes, I'd be concerned about what was going on if nobody was talking to me about what was happening," said DART president Gary Thomas. "We need to communicate better, no doubt about it."

Thomas said DART train operators will get refresher courses on communication, making sure they're clear on how to use the microphone and speaker system, to articulate what passengers should expect when problems arise.

On Tuesday night, Kelli Pearson, a passenger on the stalled train, told DART board members the transit agency failed to communicate, and that led to confusion and worry.

"Does anyone know we're here? Could we get rear-ended by another train?" Pearson asked the board.

An air hose tied to part of the braking system ruptured on one of the cars, which suddenly stopped the train on the tracks in DART's only subway tunnel between CityPlace station and Mockingbird Station.

Passengers said they only decided to leave the train and trek through the dark tunnel because DART had failed to communicate with them after an hour.

"We had no direction from DART so we emptied off the train," Pearson explained.

But DART said its train operator told the 200 stranded passengers to sit tight.

Thomas said some passengers heard a very low-volume sound, but couldn't understand what was being said.

But Pearson and many other passengers said they never heard a word from the train operator.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com