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.