New WMATA general manager promises better communication during delays

WASHINGTON – When a train breaks down, there’s scheduled single-tracking or a switch freezes, Metro riders often face delays with little personal communication from Metro staff about what is going on.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said he wants to change that.

“I’ve experienced some situations that I’m not happy with in how we respond,” Wiedefeld said Monday in an interview. “To me, when we have major incidents where there’s a major impact on the customers, it’s an all hands on deck type of response, and I don’t sense that right now, so we’ll be making some changes there in the near future.”

Wiedefeld cites rush-hour single-tracking on the Red Line last week as one time where an overhaul of communication could help.

“I want to see much more proactive response from [all] our staff,” he said.

That’s in addition to the dozens of mandated safety, financial and operational changes ordered by the Federal Transit Administration in the past year. A number of those issues were raised by the National Transportation Safety Board and others involved in the investigation into the deadly smoke incident one year ago Tuesday outside the L’Enfant Plaza Station.

Carol Glover died after riders sat on a train that filled with smoke amid failed communication and ventilation.

Wiedefeld said again Monday that his top three priorities are the safety and reliability of the system and getting Metro’s financial house in order, and he signed an open letter to riders.

On separate issues, Wiedefeld said there’s an ongoing investigation into what caused a Green Line train to separate into two parts last week. He said a smoke incident over the weekend that led to riders being evacuated from the Federal Center SW station was tied to an issue with a railcar, not an insulator.

The National Transportation Safety Board has suggested that an arcing insulator was the cause of the smoke in the deadly Yellow Line incident. A final NTSB report is expected in the coming months.

In the long term, Wiedefeld said after making all the ordered changes, he would like to make more alterations that would again make Metro one of the leading transit agencies in the country and the world.

“What I’m proud of is the line people,” Wiedefeld said. “The more I meet them, there is a sense of pride in them, there is a sense that they want to do more.”

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