News & Politics

Here’s Why the Metro’s Been So Slippery This Week

WMATA says it's not your imagination: Floors are unusually wet

Photograph by Arya Hodjat

During my commute Tuesday down the super-long Bethesda Metro station escalator, I found myself a bit more afraid for my life than usual: The escalator was notably wet and slippery, and when I tried to walk on it, my feet kept sliding around. On the platform, I encountered similarly rough conditions. I didn’t actually fall, but I very well could have.

Later, at the office, a discussion about this broke out—it turned out other staffers had similarly treacherous experience in the Metro that morning, sliding around various floor surfaces in a number of stations. Reddit readers were also reporting unusually wet conditions (“Are the metro floors being greased? WTH!!“).

What is going on? I reached out to Metro to see if they are aware of the slippery situation, and it turns out they are. Sherri Ly, a spokesperson for WMATA, says the inadvertent slip-and-slide is due to the recent fluctuations in temperature in the DC area—snow on the ground Monday, 80 degrees on Friday—as well as the subsequent melting of snow and salt tracked in from people’s shoes. In an email to Washingtonian, Ly wrote that:

We are doing everything we can to mitigate the slippery floors in stations. This phenomenon is caused by the rapid swing from prolonged extreme cold to unseasonably warm most air, combined with melting snow and salt residue from the street. The floor tiles and infrastructure are slower to warm and remain colder than the air also leading to condensation accumulating on the floors. This is an extremely unusual occurrence. Our teams are monitoring conditions throughout the system, and staff are working to power wash, clean and dry floors. We have also posted wet floor signs and are advising customers through social media, vehicle, and station public address announcements to continue to use caution when entering, exiting, or traversing through our stations and facilities.

In other words, if you plan to ride the Metro right now, it’s probably best to stick with your snow boots rather than breaking out the 80-degree-weather flip-flops.

Arya Hodjat
Editorial Fellow