Metro board member calls for shutdown of system to allow time to fix problems

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Washington Metrorail Safety Commission says Metro’s plan for safety improvements needs more work.

Earlier this week, RT&S reported the results of an audit of Washington, D.C.’s Metro transit system conducted by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The key message of the report was that Metro, particularly the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC), is a toxic workplace and has a weak safety culture.

Today, the Washington Post is reporting that one Metro board member, David Horner, has had it with the continuing problems at the agency, and said that Metro should be shut down until the toxicity and safety issues are resolved, and that local, state and federal officials should work with the Board to restructure Metro’s leadership.

Paul J. Wiedenfeld, Metro’s General Manager did just that in March 2016 after a series of electric cable problems created concerns about passenger safety. The system was shut down for 24 hours. In addition, there have been other safety problems that caused the federal government to threaten to shut down the system for a period of time.

Horner said “We should not overlook the fact that the problems of the ROCC are derived in part from how [the agency] is organized, meaning the region’s work on governance is not finished. The fact that many of the problems identified in the report have persisted for a decade suggests to me that management and the board actually don’t possess the tools needed to address fundamental problems in a timely manner.”

To make the situation more challenging, Metro, like nearly all public transit agencies, is facing a serious budget shortfall. Metro has received hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the system running since the pandemic hit, but these funds will be exhausted by the end of 2020, leading planners to forecast a $212 million shortfall, which raises the specter of possible service reductions and employee layoffs in 2021.

Horner said that he is working on a plan to restructure Metro’s leadership in concert with all of the jurisdictions that contribute to Metro’s operation.

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