STATEMENT: Reaction to WMATA General Manager Wiedefeld’s Metro Repair Plan

May 6, 2016

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director
(703) 599-6437

Tackling this Challenge — Together

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s Metro repair plan statement this morning at Metro Headquarters, Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz issued the following statement.

“We have been impressed by the strong, deliberative leadership of WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Therefore, as a community and as Metro riders, we need to work together with the GM and the agency to get the job done. We need the roll up the sleeves attitude of Americans who’ve worked together after major natural disasters or mobilized for war.

“While those of us outside the agency will not be turning wrenches, we can support the funding WMATA will need and work with our employers to plan alternative ways to commute. And it won’t work if everyone jumps into their cars. Expanded bus service, telecommuting, flex-time, and carpooling will be critical for longer distance commuters. For those living closer to work, bicycling, bikeshare, and walking will be important additional options. Among our top recommendations is providing the dedicated bus lanes we’ve long needed.

“At the same time, based upon reports, the management and staff at WMATA owe the public a real turnaround in their performance in communications, maintenance, repair, operations, and above all safety. As a former Navy aviator, the revelations about the lack of a safety culture have been a particular concern for me.

“The extended repair times will hopefully give the staff the breathing room they need to make more effective and long-lasting repairs to the system, but this should also be a time for a complete culture change – breaking down the communications barriers between departments and between management and line workers, and infusing safety, customer service, and pride in every member of the team.”

Our specific recommendations include:

  • Much better and more effective customer communications by WMATA including, sufficient advance notice of shutdowns and planned alternatives, reliable travel time and schedule information for both rail and bus service at all times, and transparency about the repair work being done and the results.
  • Funding for the purchase of sufficient buses and hiring of more bus drivers to provide an essential transit alternative during extended shutdowns. But this will not be enough. We should take this opportunity to provide the dedicated bus lanes we have long needed.
  • Enhance and improve other alternative transportation services like expanding bikeshare, accelerating the installation of protected bikeways, and working with local jurisdictions to increase funding to transportation demand management programs including encouraging carpooling and telecommuting.
  • If stations are to be shut down for extended periods for rail repairs, then use the time restore the stations as well – cleaning, repairing damaged tiles, repairing fare gates, installing new lighting, etc. Take the time to restore and enhance the customer experience from the moment they enter the stations.

“Finally, we urge unity among elected officials in backing up the General Manager, and a shared commitment to providing the funding the system will need to complete a full mid-life restoration. Giving up on our Metrorail investment and all of the transportation and economic development benefits it has brought to our region is simply not an option.”

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at