Statement from WMATA Board of Directors Chairman Tom Downs to Metro Riders


“The following is a statement from Metro Board Chair Tom Downs to Metro customers:

“On behalf of the Board of Directors and all Metro employees, I offer my deepest condolences to the family of the passenger who died yesterday following the incident on the Yellow Line. To those who were injured or frightened, and to the thousands who have been inconvenienced by this major service disruption, I offer a heartfelt apology. Please also know that Metro is working to restore full service as soon as possible.

“Metro is actively cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board investigation that is now underway. This will be a thorough process that often takes time, and we understand that passengers want answers quickly. Please know that once the cause of this incident is understood, we are prepared to take the actions needed to prevent this from happening again. The safety of each and every Metro rider and employee remains our absolute highest priority.”

28 Comment

  • This letter should have one more paragraph that announces the resignation of all senior management and top union officials. The death was not necessary but the lack of communication and the lack of understanding of the situation by metro made the rescue attempt much harder and much longer. That death was avoidable in my opinion.

    • I think it’s a bit too early to tell who is at fault. Let’s let the investigation complete before calling for additional blood.

      • Please see other’s comment below. Your wait and see approach does nothing but buy time to white wash reports and test plausible excuses. I usually say wait till the facts are in but the most pertinent facts are already in: Metro’s lack of communication prevents rescue operations. No one should be stuck on a train filling with smoke for 45 mins because firefighters cannot get a straight answer about the voltage of the 3rd rail! Also, numerous other incidents involving metro employees that will be shown as hindrances to a speedy rescue. If that some was fire, everyone would be dead. But yeah…..let’s wait 3-6 months for a white washed report that will be filled with jargon but lacking accountability.

  • But if they were to be fired/ step down it would admit that they did something wrong and would be even more liable for the inevitable lawsuits that will come from this.

  • What about Bowser? How quickly people forget that she was on the WMATA board for years!!!

  • One of surely countless expressions of “sadness,” “concern,” “prayers,” “heartfelt apologies,” blah blah blah. But the crux of the matter is this: we have endured over five years of endless track work, repairs, “improvements,” fare increases, upbeat assessments, etc., since the last time Metro screwed up and killed people, and we still had what happened yesterday. We will never get anything satisfactory from Metro, the NTSB or the local media AKA “Dr Metro Apologist” about how to make Metro truly safe and its officials truly accountable. But sites like this could help by rallying the local residents who pay for this system and have to rely on its safety and keeping the pressure on the powers that be to fix this, now.

    • From Dr. Metro Apologist … “Metro officials say they won’t be discussing any aspect of the incident publicly.”

      How you like that accountability?!!

      • Dr. Gridlock might be a Metro apologist some/much of the time (I don’t follow him all that regularly), but he sounded fairly critical of Metro in his Q&A today.

  • “once the cause of this incident is understood”, After over 40 years of managing an electric subway system they still don’t understand the how’s, why’s, and remediation of arching. Honestly until accountability and performance metrics are in place there will be no change. You can say an environment of fear is not a productive work environment but fear is not needed when people take responsibility for their actions and lack thereof, I work in a company that promotes and fires based on performance we grew over 40% in the last few years and the only time someone was let go was after they made a horrible mistake that someone in that position knew better. This letter is the same every time they mess up and if the 2009 crash doesn’t spark a change in culture and how things work nothing will. Personally I hope that there is a lawsuit that cites individuals at WMATA as well as the organization and if possible/legal asks for an outside agency to review and act upon findings from an independent quality review board. Think about it instead of saying XX% of WMATA has been let go for not meeting standards you can spin it to WMATA announces hundreds of job openings for highly motivated and responsible individuals. One can dream and until then I will cross my fingers that our highly delusional public transit system does not kill more innocent people.

  • Let me guess, yet another Metro board member who actually doesn’t use the system, right?

  • At this point, isn’t the biggest concern the half hour delay in giving the firemen the info and safety they needed to go rescue the stuck passengers? Smoke can happen. Letting people be injured and die from it while figuring out whether a rail is live or not, whether trains are moving or not, THAT is dysfunctional.

  • Just imagine if people had continued following the instructions they had been receiving for 40 mins instead of self-evacuating.

    We’d have 84 dead people.

    Don’t believe anything Metro says. They do NOT care about you.

    • “They do NOT care about you.”

      No truer words… Metro’s culture, from top to bottom, is one that places rules and compliance, along with lack of accountability, over passenger safety. From train drivers who routinely, as a matter of policy, close train doors on boarding…and sometimes even exiting…passengers; to station managers who categorically refuse to involve themselves in situations that present palpable danger to passengers, even if all it means is making a simple call to Metro or District police from the relative safety of their booths; to bus drivers who take it upon themselves to ‘dead-head’ empty buses past scores of passengers waiting in dangerous weather conditions…Metro is rotten with their contempt for the people who pay to use their, all too frequently, deadly services.

  • Stuff happens, but WMATA’s response is yet another example why WMATA should cede control of Metrorail to MTR. WMATA is systemically incapable of operating a world-class subway system well.

    • Maybe I am being dense, but – what is “MTR”? Thanks.

      • MTR is the organization running Hong Kong’s rapid rail services. Known for its high profitability. Bringing them in to run Metro is nothing but a pipe-dream by pro-privatization advocates.

      • It’s worth mentioning that MTR runs a PROFITABLE operation in Hong Kong, where 99% of trains run ON TIME. If they are even 5 minutes late, an investigation is initiated. Compare that to our Metro, where not only are 5 minute late trains normal, but would hardly get anyone’s attention at WMATA. MTR’s safety record is also much better, and it operates Beijing, Melbourne, and Stockholm’s subways and London’s overground.

        So no, it’s not a “pipe-dream” at all.

  • Give me a break. I don’t ride the Metro as often as many people (I bike when I can), but I can recall SEVERAL instances where I’ve seen smoke in stations – one of those involved considerable amounts of smoke and resulted in passengers basically self-evacuating the station. Metro did absolutely NOTHING about it, and it was never reported in the local press.
    I suspect we’ll find that this is a widespread problem and that yesterday’s incident could have easily been prevented.

    • Now the Washington Post is reporting that there were no less than EIGHTY SIX fire and smoke incidents on Metro in 2013, and eighty five in the first eight months of 2014 alone.
      It’s probably pretty safe to assume, based on this, that the problem was pre-existing and worsening.

  • POP forgot to include the third paragraph where fare increases are announced to pay for the overtime middle-management will put it as the “investigate.”

    • Consultants, consultants, consultants. Staff overtime will be paid for overseeing the consultant contracts.

  • I just want to know how this happened, and I want to see WMATA to get a solid corrective/preventive action plan in place ASAP. I have confidence that NTSB involvement will lead to substantive findings, but we will likely have to wait to hear what those are given that they tend to withhold preliminary investigation information (and will require WMATA to do the same).

    The other thing I’d like to see is how effective WMATA has been at implementing solutions to previous CAPA findings. I hope someone does a FOIA request for information on their resolutions to the latest quality audit findings (see 2013 report here: ). The findings cite “insufficient resources,” which (from my limited experience in quality audits as a young engineer) usually is a cop-out for mismanagement of resources.

  • This statement rings eerily similar to Bowser’s response to the homicides last week. Does Microsoft Word offer it as a template?

    • “It looks like you’re trying to compose an empty statement of concern! Would you like help? Click here if you don’t want to see this tip again.”

  • After the 2009 Red Line accident we are still not back to normal/standard operations. I have no faith that once the problem is identified that WMATA will satisfy the NTSB in its remediation actions following this incident.

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