Metro is one small step closer to regaining control over its safety oversight, after a fatal 2015 accident triggered the federal government to step in and take over. The Metro Safety Commission will include candidates from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, but the jurisdictions have dragged their feet on nominating members.
On January 4, DC’s picks for the safety commission firmed up when the Mayor’s office finally presented two names. The two new nominees will join the commission — when it’s finally set up — to oversee Metro and ensure the agency’s operations stay safe. Regional leaders will continue searching for an executive director for the body and also need to finish appointing its commissioners.
Robert Bobb and Chris Geldart were nominated by the DC Mayor’s office to be members on the MSC when the agency becomes law. The commission will take over from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) which has been temporarily overseeing Metro safety since October 2015. The FTA took over from the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC) in the fallout from the January 2015 incident in which a Yellow Line train filled with smoke outside L’Enfant and resulted in the death of a passenger.
The new safety commission will have powers that the TOC never had, including the ability to penalize the agency financially by withhold funding, or, in the worst cases, step in and suspend service in case of some sort of emergency. However, their primary tasks would be performing inspections and overseeing the agency to ensure operations and procedures are up to snuff.
Newly-appointed voting DC member Robert Bobb is currently President and CEO of The Robert Bobb Group, which provides “expertise to public sector entities on issues that include education reform, economic development strategy, community and neighborhood development, contract negotiation, municipal budgeting, and financial management.”
Before the Bobb Group, Bobb was appointed in March 2009 as Emergency Financial Manager to turn around the Detroit Public Schools system. He was previously elected President of the DC Board of Education in 2006, and served as City Administrator and Deputy Mayor under Mayor Anthony Williams. Williams currently serves as CEO/Executive Director of the Federal City Council, whose Deputy Executive Director serves on the GGWash Board of Directors.
Chris Geldart, the other appointed nominee, most recently served as Director of the DC Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency from 2012 to 2017. Before that he served as president of G2 Solutions, a consulting firm from Severna Park, Maryland, providing homeland security advice to local officials.
Bobb and Geldart join four others that have already been appointed to the MSC by both Virginia and Maryland, according to the Washington Post:
- Greg Hull, former VP of American Public Transportation Association (APTA)
- Mark Rosenker, former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Board member
- Howard Roberts, former New York City Transit Authority (NYCT) president
- Debra Farrar-Dyke, former Metro Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) liaison
Maryland has also appointed their alternate member, John Contestabile. The second DC voting member seat and Virginia’s alternate remain to be filled.
The work needed to fully establish the new safety commission continues. While the commission is still being set up and certified, the FTA continues to withhold funding from DC, Virginia, and Maryland as a penalty for not acting quickly enough. An FTA spokesperson told the Washington Post that the amount withheld is $15.8 million, up from $8.9 million in July.