MetroNow Statement on Leadership Changes at WMATA and Operator Recertification Lapses

Washington, DC —The MetroNow Coalition — comprised of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Federal City Council, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, the 2030 Group, and Tysons Partnership — today released the following statement on the WMATA operator recertification lapses and the early retirement of WMATA’s GM & CEO Paul Wiedefeld.

“WMATA’s revelation last week that nearly half of Metro’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification is shocking and unacceptable. On top of the ongoing 7000-series railcar removal and the 14 corrective action plans required by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission’s (WMSC) WMATA safety audit, the MetroNow Coalition is deeply concerned by the state of WMATA’s culture of safety.

The long-term economic health of the Washington Metropolitan region depends on a safe, well-run, and reliable transit system, which is why the MetroNow Coalition united for better transit in 2018. While we support the Board’s corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021, we continue to be disappointed by WMATA’s failure to develop an agency-wide culture of safety and accountability. While the leadership is ultimately accountable, safety is the responsibility of each and every member of the staff, who should be empowered and trained to identify, report, and resolve safety issues.

The MetroNow Coalition recognizes that change is difficult, that changing a 12,000 person, five-decade old institution requires time and resources, and the pandemic has brought a host of new challenges. However, better transit for the Washington Metropolitan region requires a better, safer WMATA. We thank WMSC for their diligence and the Board’s quick corrective action. We expect to see more of this leadership from the WMATA Board at this critical period of transition.

We strongly encourage the Interim GM and CEO Andy Off to prioritize a top to bottom review of operations and management at WMATA, and to identify sweeping changes to correct for the factors which are impeding the development of a comprehensive culture of safety. MetroNow urges the WMATA Board to make it a priority to track and report progress on fixing safety, operations, and maintenance.  In addition, we encourage the Board to work with Mr. Off and Mr. Clarke to begin strategic planning efforts for WMATA’s near- and long-term success.

Safety is the foundation of frequent, reliable, all day transit service. Our region relies on WMATA, and we hope that this is a wake-up call for more engaged leadership from every part of the organization — from the board, executive management, staff and our elected leaders — we are in this together. MetroNow remains committed to ensuring WMATA’s long-term success and sustainable funding which will require significant safety and accountability reforms.”