A rare opportunity to influence Metro policy at the highest levels has appeared. Following confirmation of continued ethics violations, Councilmember Jack Evans resigned his post on the WMATA Board of Directors Thursday, which leaves DC in need of a representative. (As of press time, the FBI is apparently also raiding Evans’ home, and we’ll be following developments in that story closely.)
DC Council chair Phil Mendelson should appoint a board member who can draw on both legislative knowhow and regular experience of riding Metro.
Councilmember Charles Allen fits the bill. As far as we know, he’s the only regular Metro rider on the DC Council. He also has a track record in working for better Metro service for all. He successfully led the regional Transportation Planning Board for four years; championed transit-oriented development in Ward 6 and elsewhere; advocated strongly for Metrobus; and led the effort to decriminalize fare evasion.
The mounting legal complexities around Evans, serial dabbler-in-venality, underscores the need for leadership with clean ethical credentials. The WMATA Board is a body of regional decision-makers with far-reaching influence. Its members should be well beyond the level of ethical shade under which Evans has long happily parked his Sebring, with near impunity. We need someone in this role with respect for our laws and ethical standards, right now.
Why would it help to have a Metro rider on the WMATA Board?
Metro’s ridership on both rail and bus have declined consistently in recent years, a trend attributed in part to the lack of focus on the needs of riders who regularly depend on Metro services. Existing Board members are not known for being regular Metro riders. The Board even toyed with the notion last fall of dismantling its Riders’ Advisory Council. Reportedly, they ditched the idea partly in response to concerns from members of Congress about neglecting public input at a sensitive time for Metro.
Now is a time to turn up the dial on meaningful responses to rider and would-be rider needs, else the Board continue at the helm of a ridership freefall. The opening gives Mendelson a chance to appoint a Board member with a more responsive approach to improving Metro service, who can work effectively to make the huge improvements to service and infrastructure that Metro needs. By stepping down from this Board post, Evans has also cleared the way for a member with no taint of ethical misconduct. This is a key requirement for restoring public trust in and respect for this powerful institution.
Christian Dorsey, Arlington’s WMATA rep and also chair of the County Board this year, rides regularly. He said that so do Maryland’s Clarence Crawford, Virgina’s Paul Smedberg, and the federal appointee Steve McMillin. At least one if not all DC representatives should be regular riders as well.
If we convinced you, together we can convince Phil Mendelson
Chairman Mendelson may make his choice quickly. Now’s the time to signal that we support a representative who understands the needs of Metro riders and would-be-riders, and has receipts in working for sustainable and equitable Metro service.
Do you think Mendelson should be All In for Allen on the WMATA Board? Tell him today!
Clarification: This article has been edited to clarify that some non-DC appointees are regular Metro riders.