The National Transportation Safety Board says Metro riders are still facing a system with many of the rail car safety issues and track circuit flaws that led to last year's deadly Red Line crash.

The transit agency is continuing to use the 1000 series rail car model that crumpled to less than one-fifth of its original size in the June 2009 Fort Totten crash. The federal safety investigators recommended Metro stop using its oldest rail cars as soon as possible.

Metro's current system of putting the Rohr 1000 series rail cars in the middle trains, surrounded by newer model rail cars, was called "ineffective" as an interim step.

Metro signed a deal this week to buy 428 new cars, some 300 of which would replace the 1000 series cars. However, the first cars are designated for the Dulles Rail extension and they won't arrive until late 2013. The replacement cars will not be ready until 2016, according to Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

The NTSB did not explicitly weigh in on whether Metro should reprioritize.

"The safety board believes the 1000 series cars present a risk to the traveling public and we would like to see them removed from the system as soon as possible," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told The Washington Examiner. "It's up to Metro how they're going to make their decisions. But if they make decisions where operations and service are prioritized over safety, those are decisions that they're going to have to live with."

Meanwhile, the newer 2000, 3000 and 4000 series cars also have structural problems that endanger riders during a crash, according to the NTSB.

"They're not that much better," said Rick Downs, the NTSB's expert on crashworthiness of rail cars.

Also, some of the track circuits that make up the automatic safety alert system continue to exhibit the same "parasitic oscillations" that prevented it from seeing the stopped train that was hit. The NTSB called the current conditions an "unacceptable risk to Metrorail users."

Hersman said it doesn't matter whether trains are running in automatic or manual mode since they could come around a curve or blind spot and not realize another train is on the track when such problems occur. "The system is not failing in a safe way," she said.

The board called for Metro to remove all of the 1,482 GRS model circuits exhibiting problems. Interim Metro General Manager Richard Sarles could not immediately say when Metro could replace the track circuits, nor whether the $30 million the agency has set aside over the next three years would cover the cost.

Metro already has replaced some of the circuits and begun testing for flaws twice a day. It is working on a system that could find the flaws in real time; that system is expected to be finished this year.