Metro Boss: Agency Needs to Confront Hard Truths

The new general manager and CEO of the D.C. Metro said he has listened to riders, employees and experts in his first 90 days to come up with a new plan to “confront some hard truths.”

Paul Wiedefeld said at at public policy talk Monday at the National Press Club that he wants Metro to be the best transit system in the country yet found the system to be in bad shape.

"To be frank, it's much worse than I expected," he said.

To fix it, he said he plans to be transparent with riders about projects that are underway. Also, he said Metro is looking at ways to inform riders of delays before they enter the system, potentially posted on electronic boards at street level.

Wiedefeld took over the top Metro post on November 30. At the time, his former colleagues said he had experience turning programs around, which made him qualified to lead the troubled transit system.

In a letter posted on the Metro website, Wiedefeld said he wants to restore pride in the Metro system by improving safety and security, deliver more reliable service, and continue financial reforms.

“The safety culture at Metro is not integrated with operations, nor well-rooted at all levels,” Wiedefeld wrote. “Understandably, high-profile incidents have shaken confidence in the operational safety of the rail system and corrective actions are needed. And, while crime on Metro remains lower than in most communities, recent assaults have alarmed customers who deserve to be reassured by active policing strategies.”

Wiedefeld said rail on-time performance fell from 92 percent to 85 percent in the last year. He said mechanical failures with the rail cars caused many of the delays.

While the financial position of the transit authority is stable with a positive cashflow, he said the financial systems are substandard and require efforts to modernize. Despite the rosy financial picture, Wiedefeld said the persistent deficit would require passenger fare increases of about 6 percent annually, in addition to subsidies, over the next 10 years to maintain existing service levels.

In the letter, the new GM outlined several points that he considers a beginning to improve service and reliability.

  • Recruit a new chief safety officer (CSO) to lead day-to-day safety culture change
  • Accelerate delivery of new 7000-series rail cars
  • Develop a mobile app that provides customers easier access to train and bus departurestrip planning, and other information on demand
  • Increase the number of police officers in the rail and bus system

He said despite these and other efforts, which he thinks will improve service and security in the Metro system, there are also foundational issues that need to be addressed to improve Metro for the entire area.

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