A recap of WMATA's recent safety struggles

May was a tough month for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In addition to enduring a slew of smoke-related incidents in its subway tunnels, the D.C.-area agency was subject to increased scrutiny from state and federal officials. For example, on May 24, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing to find ways to improve WMATA's safety and reliability.

During the hearing, WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Acting Federal Transit Administrator Carolyn Flowers faced a tough line of questioning from legislators, including U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who threatened to privatize WMATA's management if the agency isn't able to make safety improvements.

To get a better picture of WMATA's continued struggles last month, take a look at my short recap in our June issue. Do you think WMATA execs will be able to get the agency back on the right track? What do they need to do to improve safety? Also: In discussions about WMATA's problems, the term "safety culture" has been thrown around quite a bit. What are the essential elements of a good safety culture? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

1 Reply

  • WMATA Execs will eventually get the critical system repairs done. What will remain is the bureaucracy that runs the system. Hence, the problems will continue, as other systems start to collapse in turn.To see the organization chart for this operation is beyond ludicrous. A governing body made up of bureaucrats from three different states and assigned the responsibility of overseeing the operation couldn't be any further removed from the reality of operations than if they were on the Moon. The "Board" so to speak is made up of politicians and have zero knowledge of how an authority is to be run. Take that, coupled with a hiring system that believes the new age mindset that you don't have to know anything about the operation just be able to manage people is so much garbage it wreaks of progressive quota roles without specifically saying it out loud. The actual company management live in silos created to protect their little worlds and no one obviously takes responsibility for their actions. The workforce is not held accountable for their actions. In this case lack of action, there is obviously no real work getting done there. This is the result of labor friendly government where they're more interested in featherbedding and placating people instead of accountability. Where I previously worked before retiring is doing the same thing and prior to me actually leaving, the handwriting was on the wall and the results were exactly as we warned them would happen. The system had taken the best Commuter Railroad in the nation and tied it up in knots and didn't allow common sense, no less the "best qualified" for the job to prevail. You don't fix the rules and responsibilities of the employees from top to bottom it will continue to crumble pieces at a time and the riding public and the rest of us taxpayers will suffer.
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