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During the first quarter, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) subway cars covered more distance before encountering problems that led to delays than they did in the same period last year, the agency announced yesterday.Specifically, WMATA's rail cars traveled an average 81,451 miles between delays in 2017 versus 48,064 miles last year. That represents a nearly 70 percent improvement for the agency's "mean distance between delays," a metric that tracks how far a rail car travels before encountering a problem that delays a train.In addition, propulsion-related delays were down 39 percent, while door problems fell 16 percent during 2017's first three months, agency officials said in a press release.WMATA also offloaded half as many trains for mechanical issues in 1Q2017 as it did for the same period last year.The agency attributed the reliability improvements to its ongoing retirement of all 1000- and 4000-series rail cars, which are WMATA's oldest and least reliable units. WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld has directed that all those units be retired by the end of the year as new 7000-series cars arrive.To date, 70 percent of 1000-series cars and nearly half of 4000-series cars have been permanently removed from service. Additionally, there are 39 7000-series trains in service, representing about a third of all trains during rush hour."These are all signs that [WMATA] is starting to get 'back to good,'" said Wiedfeld, referring to the name of the agency's train repair plan. "Once we complete the yearlong SafeTrack program in June, customers will notice their commutes are more predictable — and more likely to be on time."The news of WMATA's improvements came as the agency experienced a track fire yesterday that led to delays, radio station WAMU 88.5 reported. The incident, which occurred at the Gallery Place Station, stemmed from an arcing in a stud bolt on the tracks, according to the radio station.