Metro leaders pushed to improve service right now

WASHINGTON — Riders are frustrated with Metro’s problems, and those frustrations have spilled into the agency’s board room.

By Metro’s own measure, rail rider satisfaction has plummeted from 82 percent to 67 percent. Staffers say the system’s reliability is a key reason for the drop, and that things like new rail cars and better maintenance will help improve reliability.

They also pointed to efforts to make employees friendlier, upgraded digital signs on train platforms, and a new website set to roll out next year.

Still, some board members were not persuaded.

“Statements like ‘things are getting better’ or ‘things are moving in the right direction’ are false statements,” said DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo, who predicted customer satisfaction levels will decline even further.

He pushed new Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to get to the bottom of the system’s reliability problems.

“I’m going to find out what is going on in a number of fronts,” Wiedefeld responded. “That will be something I get out as soon as I know it, and that will be the path forward.”

Others, including board member Tom Bulger, told the new general manager that riders’ interactions with employees should be an area of concern.

He said during a recent tour of the Capitol Heights station, the station manager could not be located for a half-hour, and when he was found he was not wearing the new, easily-identifiable uniform Metro has been touting.

“The board … needs to go out to these stations and see what the hell’s going on,” Bulger said.

“We can put all kinds of nice fancy uniforms on station attendants, but if we don’t change their culture and their attitude, that’s not going to help at all,” Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille added. “If a customer approaches them, you may as well approach a bear.”

The board also discussed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Under the proposal, fares would not change despite a 5 percent drop in revenue.

Instead, money would be moved around in the budget, something Wiedefeld calls a “one-time deal.”

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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