“My first question. You’ve been in office for about three months now and clearly there are a barrage of issues facing the nation’s second busiest transportation system. How are you going to tackle and actually solve the problems facing Metro,” Thomas Burr, the Washington correspondent for The Salt Lake Tribune and president of the National Press Club, asked Paul Wiedefeld this afternoon.
“That’s all?” Metro’s new general manager responded with a laugh.
Speaking today in conversation at a Press Club luncheon—as well as in an open letter and aWashington Post op-ed—the newly instated GM has laid out his assessment of the beleaguered system and what steps are needed to turn it around.
“What’s equally clear 90 days in, is that turning Metro around requires us to confront some hard truths,” Wiedefeld wrote in his plan to “restore pride” to the region’s transit system.
After spending his first few weeks in office reaching out to stakeholders and becoming familiar with Metro’s systems and problems, Wiedefeld said his focus areas are on improving safety and security, making the system more reliable, and getting WMATA’s fiscal house in order.
“My approach is starting really nuts and bolts, and not so much maybe the larger things,” Wiedefeld told Burr.
Among his plans:
- Create online reports to monitor all actions taken to meet Federal Transit Administration safety recommendations
- Restructure the executive unit
- Introduce platform attendants at key transfer stations
- Establish management “ownership” by rail line to improve customer experience
- Launch traffic signal prioritization to improve performance for buses along seven busy corridors
- Cut back-office costs and redundant positions
- Conduct cost-benefit analysis regarding sale of Metro headquarters building.
- Begin installing new Metro and public safety radio systems, including cabling for cell phone service in tunnels.
- Improve customer complaint resolution through social media.
To keep track of all those promises, and others, Wiedefeld has created a Customer Accountability Report (CARe). Riders can follow WMATA’ progress (or lack thereof) online.
“Actions will be taken in every department as part of Metro’s business plan to make these initiatives successful and to ensure accountability. Some initiatives will be experimental and will only be pursued if they prove successful. Others will be fine-tuned as we learn,” Wiedefeld wrote. “Plans and progress will be communicated frequently throughout Metro, and every employee will be held accountable through specific and measurable goals.
The plan, and the new general manager’s candor in addressing the magnitude of Metro’s problems, has already won praise.
“We applaud the General Manager’s comprehensive and detailed plan for fixing WMATA,” the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s executive director, Stewart Schwartz, said in a statement. It “[offers] confidence that GM Wiedefeld is a leader focused on implementing the reforms we need to restore the system and the public’s confidence.”
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