Image via Susan Sermoneta/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Metro’s Red Line will not be getting the full injection of eight-car trains that it was supposed to see by 2020, but it will see one major change on Monday when WMATA reintroduces automatic train operations on the line for the first time since the 2009 disaster that left nine people dead.

“The return of automatic train operation on the Red Line is a significant safety milestone for Metro,” Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup said in a statement released Thursday. “I want to thank our riders for their forbearance through years of work, often on weekends, to allow us the track access necessary to perform essential signal upgrades.”

The Orange, Silver, Blue, Yellow and Green lines are also expected to see automated trains again – though not until late 2017. In the meantime, track-circuit module replacement projects are taking place on those other lines.

The Red Line’s existing eight-car trains will be the first to make the transition. Shorter six-car trains will will ditch their drivers to  drivers to go automatic eventually, but WMATA will have to roll out a software upgrade first.

Before that happens, riders are likely to experience fewer jerky stops when riding longer trains on the Red Line (news that should be appreciated by many). In the wider scheme of things, the milestone should be a good sign that WMATA is making progress  with its safety improvements – though the checklist on that front still has numerous boxes waiting to be checked.