Metro is getting safer. That’s the message of a new federal audit of the transit system. But it also warns that more problems could be ahead if Metro doesn’t continue to improve.
The 43-page audit, obtained by The Washington Post, says that the nation’s second-largest subway system has made major strides in increasing safety for both riders and workers. The report calls it “a critical but fragile foundation for the future.”
“Any major changes in personnel, relaxation in attention to safety, reduction of resources devoted to safety, or reemergence of complacency in the reporting and investigation of unusual occurrences and conditions could easily reverse WMATA’s gains,” the report says.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called for the audit by the Federal Transit Administration after several incidents over the summer including a derailment, randomly opening doors and a computer failure that shut the system down twice in 24 hours.
In response to those issues, the audit offered several recommendations, including: A more thorough investigation of the heat kink that cause a Green Line train to derail in July; taking steps to reduce the risk that railcar doors will open while moving; and more precautions to protect workers in rail yards.
“I applaud Metro’s new leadership for beginning to change its organizational culture to put safety first,” Sen. Mikulski said in response to the audit. “But I insist Metro continue making progress in creating a culture of safety.”
Metro said it will work to implement those recommendations.
“We welcome the recognition of our significant safety progress in this report and agree that vigilance is key to continuing our progress,” said senior Metro official Jack Requa. “We accept the recommendations by the Federal Transit Administration and are committed to addressing them as part of our ongoing improvement program. In fact, we have already taken action in several areas.”