This Metro Problem Has Nothing To Do With ‘Unions’

And everything to do with managers.

While it’s almost always a bad idea to read the comment sections of local news blog, when I foolishly do read them about Metro, inevitably the idea that Metro employees are paid too much because of TEH UNIONZ! comes up. According to these chuckleheads, every problem Metro faces can be laid at the feet of unionized workers. Well, this episode of mismanagement really can’t be blamed on the workers (boldface mine):

Metro track inspectors copied the same details over and over for months, even years, regarding the condition of the tracks outside the East Falls Church Station, where a train derailed in July, and told investigators that they were pressured not to accurately report the severity of track conditions

Fifteen times this year and 34 times in 2015, Metro track inspection reports show the exact same note: “15 deteriorating ties in the diamond area” of the interlocking outside of East Falls Church Station — the same spot where the derailment occurred.

In interviews with track inspectors, Metro safety officer Robert Davis who worked for years at Amtrak, said the same exact measurements for the width and angle of the track in the area appeared to have been copied over from as far back as 2011. The tracks would typically move a bit month to month due to regular use from the trains running over them. No change was ever recorded.

One track inspector admitted that if it rained or if he was assigned too much to actually accomplish, that some inspections would be skipped. Both inspectors, whose interviews with the Metro safety officer were made public, said that no Metro inspectors had known they were supposed to be regularly checking the center of interlockings on a twice-weekly basis….

Two inspectors interviewed as part of the derailment probe said that they would get pushback, and in some cases face retaliation, when they reported problems along the tracks.

Jovito Azurin, 50, who has worked at Metro for 16 years, blamed supervisors for at least some of the issues when confronted with reports he signed that showed the exact same measurements were detailed in reports twice in 2013, four times in 2014, four times in 2015 and once in 2016.

Azurin said he was told not to enter any changes to the measurements.

In some cases, Azurin said, information on inspection reports were largely preprinted for inspectors. He said he was sometimes assigned far more switches to inspect than he could physically get to in the given time.

Both Azurin and another inspector, Trapp Thomas, said that supervisors would get upset if a problem was identified as one serious enough to slow down trains or take the track out of service if the issue had not been slowly escalated up Metro’s defect reporting system.

“You solved the problem. You prevented something from happening. That’s not how it was looked at. It’s, well, why didn’t you find it before,” Thomas said according to the transcripts…

On the Blue and Yellow lines near Reagan National Airport, Thomas said a supervisor told him to ignore some problems and even took him for drug and alcohol testing as part of an effort to discredit Thomas’s reports of issues.

Staggering incompetence. I really don’t understand how Metro leadership let things reach this point.

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