The plain-speaking chief of the Metropolitan Police Department laid it on the line Friday before Congress. She was part of a panel testifying on Metro safety before a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
But first came the funding talk. The ever-diligent D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton made her pitch for Congress to come through with a promised $150 million for capital repairs, possibly now in jeopardy because of budget wrangling. Metro GM and CEO Richard Sarles noted that local governments match the payment, forming 40 percent of Metro’s annual operating budget.
Without the money, safety would continue to be the priority, but service and reliability would slip, Sarles said. “For instance, we would not be able to do the track reconstruction. We’re dealing with rails that are 30-35 years old. We would not replace them. What happens when you don’t replace them is you have to operate at slower speeds. So we’d slow down the system.”
Sarles also noted that more daily inspections would be required, which could lead to service interruptions, even during peak travel periods.
“Ultimately, we have seen, tragically, what has happened when there wasn’t enough funding for this system,” Sarles added, referring to the Metrorail accident that occurred two years ago this week and claimed nine lives.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) noted that the members had gotten the message on funding, and asked whether there was anything else Congress could do to help Sarles, Lanier and Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn better do their jobs.
Lanier noted that the Pentagon Force Protection Uniformed Police Department has 850 officers, almost twice as many as the Metro force of roughly 450 officers.
“I can’t imagine how Chief Taborn does his job with the size of the force that he has,” Lanier said. “I don’t know … the politically correct thing to say when we’re here testifying. He probably won’t say it but I’ll say it for him. I think he needs more police officers. I really, really do.”