While it’s easy to focus on horrible employees of the D.C. Metro (and the awful ones should be fired), many of the problems stem from horrible mismanagement–or the lack of any management at all. The FTA just released a(nother) scathing report (boldface mine):
“I’m very, very disappointed in reading this report of Metro’s complete lack of response over the years to this type of deterioration,” said Jack Evans, chairman of Metro’s board. “What have people been doing?”
He continued: “I’m worried that the end of SafeTrack is not going to get us a whole lot further along than we are. We’ll fix the whole 15 worst parts of track, but the rest of the track’s a mess anyway.”
…After the July 29 derailment, Metro was able to conduct comprehensive repairs on the stretch of track while that segment of the Silver Line was shut down over the weekend for the investigation and the removal of the derailed cars.
“It obviously only took a weekend of shutting the track down to accomplish the needed repairs. It’s hard for me to believe that if [Wiedefeld] knew the tracks were in this bad shape, he wouldn’t have done it,” Metro board member Michael Goldman said. “I think we have to explore whether or not that was a conscious decision. . . . I’ve got to believe that the real state of these tracks at the low level was not percolating up.”
…the FTA also issued a scathing analysis of Metro’s track inspections, finding that the agency’s track maintenance program doesn’t allow inspectors enough time to make needed fixes and fails to account for variances in track types, environments and volume of train traffic.
It’s an assessment that buoys the ongoing complaints of representatives of Metro’s primary union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, that workers are unable to do optimal work because they’re too rushed and overtaxed by supervisors.
“Today’s report is alarming, but not surprising,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Metro’s safety culture is lacking. The WMATA rank-and-file workforce has taken much of the blame for recent safety lapses, and while employees should and have been held accountable, that accountability must extend throughout the chain of command.”
The FTA said Metro’s maintenance manual “contains outdated references, confusing and conflicting information on track standards and requirements and does not clearly specify minimum safety standards.”
Federal investigators also said Metro fails to properly supervise its track workers, fails to use the information it gleans to make better maintenance decisions, and allowed a “gushing” leak and plugged-up and muddy drains to go unnoticed or unfixed.
This is a managerial failure, and needs to be fixed.
That said, the FTA report also calls for additional inspectors and other things that cost money. It’s clear that the local municipalities, especially Virginia aren’t going to pay more for mass transit (even though it improves road traffic).