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Metro’s massive communications meltdown this week has revealed that two critical but aging power units need to be replaced at a cost of $14 million.

A decades-old power unit failed Wednesday, shutting down the public address system, two-way radio links with bus drivers and some bus fare boxes, among other things.

“It was something that had been previously identified as needing to be upgraded,” Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said of the power unit. “Unfortunately it failed before we could address it.”

Farbstein says a temporary fix is in place, but they have no other options.

Officials also admitted Metro has no backup for the failed unit. Passengers say that needs to change.

“They need to update the system so that it’s more reliable for the riders,” said Sara Alston.

Metrorail was not affected because it is served by a second power distribution unit. But that unit is also 27 years old and must be replaced.

The agency is already struggling with a $22 million budget shortfall and now must find money to replace the units. Deputy General Manager Gerald Francis calls this one of Metro’s most urgent needs.

Metro riders have some ideas on ways to save money.

“Cut salaries, don’t hire on the people that they would have hired on and just take care of the problems that are immediate,” said Kaleb Johnson, a Metrobus rider. “Project for the bigger problems.”

“Equipment is getting older. It’s bad for everybody,” added Lolita Robinson. “It’s like your car. Some people used to get a car every fours year now they get a car every six years. Why? It’s not because they don’t want a new a car, but it’s because they don’t have the funds. Metro is no different.”

The power unit’s failure is expected to be a topic of Thursday’s Metro board meeting.


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