Metro’s New General Manager Says Riders Have Been Patient Long Enough

Metro's new general manager says he isn't going to ask for riders to be patient while the troubled transit system gets back on track, because he believes riders have been patient long enough.

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with News4, Paul Wiedefeld said he is now working around the clock to improve the Metro experience.

"I can't be worried about (the job) being hard," he said. "I definitely can make a promise that it is going to get better."

Wiedefeld certainly has a lot of challenges right off the bat.

Safety and security concerns, reliability issues, falling ridership and declining customer satisfaction are all major issues right now. And then there's the issue of getting Metro's financial house back on track, which some have described as on fire.

When asked if it is clear that something needs to change at Metro, Wiedefeld simply answered, "Yes."

He says he hasn't made any decisions about changes with top Metro staff at the moment, but he did say he thinks there are too many people who report to him. Right now, 20 people report directly to Wiedefeld. He says that structure needs to get more focused and streamlined.

A former leader at BWI Marshall Airport and the Maryland Transit Administration, Wiedefeld said it's comforting that a lot of familiar transportation issues exist at Metro.

"First and foremost, we have to have respect for each other, because that also reflects how we treat our customers," he said. At an agency of about 13,000 employees, there can often be differences at Metro.

Wiedefeld said he has an open door policy and will listen to all employees, but that doesn't mean he will agree with them. What he does want is a respectable organization.

"When someone asks, 'Where do you work?' and they say WMATA/Metro, I want them to be proud of that and I want the person to hear that and think -- 'Wow, that's a neat place to work.' I don't think we are there," Wiedefeld said. "I think we have lost that and we need to regain that."

He says Metro needs to get creative. The new GM wants to hear from people who aren't from Metro about how the organization can improve.

And yes, even on social media, Wiedefeld said he needs to get involved.

"We just have to understand that's the way of the world now. We just have to embrace that. One of the most frustrating thing that I hear from customers is just communication," he said.

On a personal note, Wiedefeld -- a long-time Baltimore-area native -- says he has found an apartment in the NoMa area, right off of H street NE. His home Metro station will be Union Station. He plans to ride the Red Line every day, even though it'll just be one stop to Metro headquarters.

But he makes it clear that he needs to get Metro's current operations back on track and then everything else will follow.

"If you know something is not right, it's gotta get fixed," he said.

Metro’s new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, walked into his first day at work to a report that shows riders are becoming increasingly frustrated with the rail system. And there are already some ideas to earn back some good will. News4 transportation reporter Adam Tuss reports.
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