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“This is an unforgivable breach of safety that needs to be dealt with firmly and swiftly.”

by Prince Of Petworth August 14, 2015 at 9:45 am 22 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user John Sonderman

From WMATA: “The following statement was issued today by Metro’s Board of Directors:

“The Board is outraged and dismayed that anyone working at Metro would have critical safety information and not act on it immediately. It is totally unacceptable that the wide gauge track problem reported yesterday by the General Manager could go unaddressed and unrepaired for four weeks. This is a breakdown of the organization’s chain of command and our safety culture. We obviously have much work ahead of us to improve the organization’s safety culture, and we will do so,” said Metro Safety Committee Chair Michael Goldman, speaking on behalf of the Board. “However, Jack Requa’s transparent release of information, as well as his actions to order immediate track inspections and gather information to hold people accountable at every level, is what the Board expects and what the circumstances demand.

“The Board has directed the General Manager to complete his operational investigation within 10 days that will explain to the Board and our riders how this track deficiency went unrepaired for so long. The Board looks forward to learning how the chain of command broke down and where the responsibility lies. This is an unforgivable breach of safety that needs to be dealt with firmly and swiftly.”

  • Truxton Thomas

    Metro has a chain of command and safety culture? I’ll be darned.

    • Pixiesticks

      Ding, ding, ding. Love this comment.

  • “hold people accountable at every level”
    Let me know when they start firing people. Until then this is just all smoke and no fire.

    • I Dont Get It

      +1 you beat me to it.

    • meh

      Pun intended?

    • palisades

      Jobs program with no accountability. Nothing will change.

    • BlueStreak

      Firing a bunch of people will do no good. Systems fail, not people. You need a system so that it’s not possible for one or two people to screw up this badly.
      Firing a bunch of people after an incident just makes it so that people hide their mistakes so they aren’t punished. Mistakes need to be owned up and the system altered so they don’t happen again. A culture where mistakes are hidden is one that is just asking for mistakes to be repeated.

      • KPS

        No, in the case of Metro the problems are DIRECTLY because of employees. Humans create systems — not the other way around. If the systems are screwed up (and they are) it’s because of lousy employees and the refusal to discipline, fire, and re-hire.

        • textdoc

          +1. This isn’t a case of competent and innocent people helplessly caught in a flawed system. The system is flawed because of the people who make it up.

  • Nope

    …and by swiftly, i think he means 16-20 years. I bought a bike years ago and only use the metro when there is no other reasonable option. I cringe when I think about how much time I use to waste sitting in hot cars underground.

    • anonymous

      Agree. I think long and hard about (a) whether I absolutely need to use the Metro, and (b) how badly I want to go somewhere before I have to use the Metro. It is beyond frustrating to hear all politicians and WMATA board members alike express shallow concern when absolutely nothing is being done. Nobody is backing up their outrage with any kind of meaningful action as we coast from one (practically) daily disaster to the next. Given the entrenched problems (and the politically unattractive solution of firing a lot of people), the given status quo is apparently tolerable to the powers that be and the riders themselves.

      • textdoc

        What the Metro board is saying now sounds a lot more forceful than anything I can recall them saying before. I’m hoping that maybe this time they mean business.

    • MorgaNado

      While it took me a little longer, I have enjoyed my bike commute, every day — but, dread the cold, winter months when I submit to the perils of WMATA. The DangerRail is dangerous on so many accounts — not just nasty, uninterested employees, broken and unserviced equipment, but, many of the fellow-riders, too.

  • so-tri

    the picture for this post is perfect

  • Ben

    When will the board start holding themselves responsible too?

    • anon

      +1 exactly

  • Los

    The WMATA board reminds me of the UN. They issue a strongly worded statement after a calamity and warn that if things don’t change for the better, they will have no other option than to issue another strongly worded statement.
    Let’s see some actions. The entire system needs to be revamped. It’s a simple 2 step plan. 1) Fire absolutely everyone. 2) While you go thru the process of hiring new staff, do complete overhaul of the system. Finance the whole thing with bonds, special taxes, and fare increases.
    I see no other option other than nuking the whole thing. I’ve been to several 3rd world countries with far superior metro systems and much more educated, cordial, and helpful staff.

    • 1300blk

      Pretty much. Realistically, some kind of NTSB receivership that would allow cancellation of the union contracts, widespread firings, entirely new management, and establishment of a new guaranteed proportional 4-way funding stream (DMV+Fed), is something like a bare minimum of what it would take to reform the current system. If they keep it up with these life-safety issues, some kind of receivership might be possible, but I’m not betting on any real change.

    • districtwanderer

      Brilliant comparison! I’ve “divested” myself of WMATA entirely as of a few months ago. I’m no activist by nature, but frankly I think the best thing people could do to promote change at WMATA is stop riding. Even if it means just taking metro four days rather than 5. They need to share in the pain. I realize this is not a realistic option for many people, but if it is I hope one would consider it.

      • KPS

        I’ve been walking rather than taking the bus or train as much as I can for the better part of the past 2 years. I probably walk 85% of the time versus train or bus).

    • KPS

      I agree totally. Start from scratch. I don’t see it happening, however. Can you imagine the backlash from firing a thousand African-American employees? In a way I feel sorry for the higher-ups at Metro. They have a real mess on their hands and almost no sane way out of it.

  • KPS

    Good luck with that. *side eye*

    Fix the nepotism and the bogus hiring and the punishment of whistleblowers, end the entrenched clan culture among the employees from the top down, fire a bunch of managers and replace them with people who are educated, experienced and highly trained, and then maybe Metro will have the chance to run like an actual company.


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