Taking the Reins on the Metro Board
By February 10, 2016 0 962•
Our Metro transit system continues to suffer from serious issues. After a trying year in 2015, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority now has a new general manager and CEO. Paul Wiedefeld is focused on identifying the full slate of Metro’s technical and organizational problems and finding solutions to improve the system for riders and for the entire region.??
I’m excited to be taking on a larger role at WMATA to aid the GM in his turnaround efforts. At the most recent meeting of the board of directors, I was honored to be unanimously selected by my colleagues as chair for the upcoming year.
The board is responsible for setting policy, establishing the operating and capital budgets and representing riders and the jurisdictions in advocating to improve the system. I previously served as Metro board chair in 1994 and 1997, during what most people call the “golden age of Metro.” We were completing the original 101-mile system, ridership was increasing and the federal government and the three jurisdictions (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) had a more sensible funding agreement.??
That’s a far cry from the condition Metro finds itself in today. The Silver Line expansion is underway, but it came online without many of the necessary upgrades to infrastructure and assets for it to seamlessly integrate with the existing operation. Ridership is decreasing and has been for the past five years. Each year is a fight or a roll of the dice to see how much money the federal government and the three jurisdictions will contribute to the needed safety, maintenance, capital and operating costs.?Metro needs much greater oversight to ensure that things are actually getting better for riders — and that the entire organization is focused on making the system safer, cleaner, more reliable and more efficient.
One last point I want to make is that I am still very much the Ward 2 member on the D.C. Council. A few folks have sent me messages saying they’ll miss me (and, more to the point, my great Council staff). However, the Metro chairmanship is an unpaid position that is in addition to my Metro oversight role on the Council. I will continue to represent Ward 2 residents on all of the District’s pressing issues: schools, affordability, roads, economic development. Most important, my excellent staff will continue without interruption to assist me with the constituent services work that is such a major part of my Council position.
I’m excited to help make Metro once again a point of pride: a convenient and affordable transit system and a shining example of regional cooperation. As we did from the Control Board era to the present, we need to bring smart change management to improving Metro’s safety, service reliability and financial management.
This year is going to require a lot of hard work, and the agency will undergo quite a bit of change, but with our general manager Paul Wiedefeld, the board and staff, the riders and the region committed to improving Metro, we will get it done.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.