Photo by cliff1066™ on Flickr.

Today’s WMATA Board meeting revealed several surprises, both disappointing. Chris Zimmerman is stepping down from the board. Also, WMATA will begin random bag checks.

Zimmerman, the member from Arlington for 13 years, was one of the best members, both in transit knowledge and in his responsiveness to riders. Apparently even fellow Board members were unaware of Zimmerman’s decision, and praised his long service.

Zimmerman said as he is in line to take over the chairmanship of the Arlington County Board, now was a good time to step down. Update: Mary Hynes will take over Arlington’s seat on the board.

Gordon Linton, Montgomery County’s alternate member, is also leaving. More changes are likely to come when Vincent Gray makes his picks for the DC mayoral appointees and Rushern Baker for the Prince George’s alternate; speculation is that Kwame Brown will also change one or both of the DC Council appointees.

Meanwhile, General Manager Sarles announced that WMATA will ramp up useless security theater in the form of random bag checks. As usual, anyone can just turn around and decline to enter the station instead of having a bag searched.

This will let riders be confident that anyone trying to smuggle contraband into that particular station at that particular moment is instead walking to a different station instead, while having enormous amounts of time and police energy wasted on not catching actual potential terrorists.

TBD summarizes the more meaningful news from the safety committee’s meeting: Metro has made good progress on safety incident investigations, and suicides have declined. However, train doors are still occasionally getting opened on the wrong side, and there are more fires but fewer smoke incidents. Also, people keep assaulting bus drivers.

Update: Zimmerman sent a letter which is included below. He announced that Mary Hynes, his colleague on the Arlington County Board, will be taking over the seat.

Today I announced that I will be stepping down from my role as Arlington’s representative on the WMATA Board of Directors.  On January 1st I will assume the Chairmanship of the Arlington County Board.  In view of those responsibilities, and my desire to give greater focus to some of the needs within my county, I have decided that this is a good time for me to pass on the day-to-day duties of Metro representation.

I want to assure you that my commitment to transit and to Metro is as strong as ever, and I will continue to work for improvements to rail, bus, and paratransit services in our region.  I will continue to serve on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (which is the governing body for WMATA in Virginia), as well as on the Transportation Planning Board for the National Capital Region, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

One benefit of this move is that another member will have the opportunity to become immersed in the daily issues involved in the system, increasing the level of direct knowledge about Metro significantly on the Arlington Board.  And I am confident that my County will be well-represented, and the region well-served, by the member who will succeed me on the WMATA Board.

My colleague Mary Hynes will take over in January.  Mary is an exceptional public official, and she is well-prepared for this role.  For the last three years she has served on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, for which she is currently Secretary-Treasurer.  Mary has a very personal connection to Metro. For many years, she and her family have lived about a block-and-a-half from the Clarendon Metro station.  They have relied upon the system, and seen the changes Metro has brought to the community over the years.  Mary is also a very experienced local elected official, having served Arlington since 1995 as a School Board and now a County Board Member.  She is known for her responsiveness to constituent’s concerns, and for paying close attention to details.  Mary is also highly respected for her command of capital budgeting issues.  She will be a strong advocate for riders, and a conscientious steward of the agency.

It has been a great privilege serving on the WMATA Board, and I appreciate all the help and support you have given me over the years in this role.  I will be, as I have been, an ardent advocate for Metro, its riders, and the jurisdictions it serves.  I look forward to continuing to work with all of you.  There is much we need to do for the betterment of public transportation in our region, and for a bright future for Metro.

Thank you.

— Chris Zimmerman

Arlington County Vice-Chairman
WMATA member