Mechanical problems force MTA to suspend all light rail service: ‘The safety of our riders is paramount’

BALTIMORE — All light rail service will be suspended indefinitely beginning Friday, Dec. 8, due to mechanical issues, Maryland Transit Authority officials said.

At an emergency news conference Thursday, MTA officials said they needed to make much-needed repairs to their cars. The shutdown will inconvenience thousands of Marylanders.

MTA Administrator Holly Arnold said the decision to suspend service was based on two issues. High-voltage power lines were found to have been punctured following a fire in October that injured a rider.


Light Rail Fire blurred from
MDOT MTA Maryland on YouTube

In addition, machinery that connects light rail cars, called intercar coupling, caused six smoke events between November 2021 and November 2023.

“The risk level for this particular issue at that time was identified as a medium level that required mitigation and the risk level was available for continued work,” Arnold said.

Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement Friday that his office had contacted the Moore administration about the matter and called the prolonged shutdown “simply unacceptable.”

Scott also said his administration is “working to identify workarounds for residents who rely on Light Rail — especially in Baltimore’s underserved communities — and ensure that Light Rail service resumes in a timely manner.”

An updated safety risk assessment was carried out on Monday and Tuesday.

MTA officials say they deemed it necessary to stop the streetcar as an precaution.

Now that’s forcing riders to find a new way to get around town.

“It connects me directly from here to downtown,” said Baltimore resident Chris Caldwell.

From Friday, there will be buses at all light rail stops.

“We understand the significant impact this will have and will work to mitigate those impacts where possible,” Arnold said. “The safety of our riders is paramount and we must act with that in mind.”

“I’ve never thought of it as completely reliable, but not having it at all is pretty terrible for a lot of people who rely on it every day,” said Baltimore resident Haley Slocum.

Officials say 53 light rail cars are affected and they range in age from 21 to 34 years old. Limited service will resume once they have eight cars that have been repaired and inspected.

The MTA said there is no set timetable for when service will be restored.

“I use this as a means to support myself, survive, pay bills, things like that,” Caldwell said.

There will still be express service for Sunday’s Ravens game.

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