Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
A coalition of business, labor, and advocacy organizations have jointly signed a letter to the chief executives of DC, Maryland, and Virginia urging action to fix the problems at Metro.
Ultimately, these executives have the greatest ability to start turning around the situation, starting but not ending with hiring an excellent leader for WMATA. Helping that leader succeed requires the jurisdictions, and the board members they appoint, standing behind potentially controversial decisions he or she may have to make to get WMATA on a constructive course.
Helping WMATA succeed also will require changing the culture to be more open with riders and other stakeholders about decisions that affect budgets and service, both of which impact the public. Declining service is also a recipe for a “death spiral” and not a solution; our region depends on frequent and reliable rail and bus service.
The text of the letter is below.
Dear Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan, and Governor McAuliffe:
The undersigned organizations have come together out of concern about Metro, which is vital to our region’s economic, environmental, and cultural success. We are writing to express some basic principles that we believe must be heeded if Metro is to emerge successfully from its current crisis and fulfill the essential role it plays in our region’s transportation network and economy.
1) Metro needs to hire a new General Manager before the year’s end who has experience with operations of large technologically complex systems, will provide strong leadership to change organizational culture, and will surround himself/herself with capable specialists.
2) To recruit the strong leader Metro needs, the Board and the jurisdictions must commit to backing up the new General Manager with the political support, organizational authority, and funding needed to do the job successfully. Our organizations stand ready to provide our assistance as well.
3) Metro must provide choices to the Board and public about key decisions, such as service changes, budgets, or planned safety and maintenance work. The Board and public need to understand and debate tradeoffs that affect them, such as how station closings, single tracking and reductions in train frequency relate to safety, maintenance, budget, and regulatory or contractual restrictions.
Our groups have been staunch advocates for maintaining transit service, ensuring adequate funding, and expanding capacity such as through more eight-car trains. Yet recent events have shaken our, and the public’s, confidence in a system and agency which our region depends upon. We are weighing in now to help the agency reach a path to restore this confidence.
To preserve and improve the region’s livability and economic health, Metro must ensure service levels that meet demand, reverse recent years’ erosion of train and bus service, restore off-peak train frequencies, and return to an expansion path so that it can meet future needs for core capacity and regional access.
Nick Brand, President, Action Committee for Transit
Jackie Jeter, President, Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 689
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Anthony Williams, CEO and Executive Director, Federal City Council
David Alpert, Founder and Editor, Greater Greater Washington
James C. Dinegar, President and CEO, Greater Washington Board of Trade
cc: Chief Executives of MD & VA counties and VA independent cities; WMATA Board; Congressional delegation