WASHINGTON —The National Transportation Safety Board has diagnosed Metro’s continuing failed inspections and maintenance issues as “the failure of WMATA senior management to proactively assess and mitigate foreseeable safety risks,” resulting in Carol Glover’s death after she sat on a smoke-filled Metro train for more than 30 minutes last year.
So who are those senior managers? And do they still work for Metro?
Current Metro board chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans wishes the safety board had identified specific individuals in the findings and probable cause beyond the untrained D.C. fire commander.
“They blamed Metro. Metro is nothing. Metro’s an organization. It’s an institution. There’s no — as I’ve heard said many times — there’s no Mr. and Mrs. Metro,” Evans said in an interview.
“When I go over there, there’s not a guy behind a curtain like the Wizard of Oz.”
“I think it includes everybody,” Metro board member Mort Downey told reporters after the NTSB vote this week. “But I think it also speaks to a system in which at least the board does not have the information and can’t develop the information except by relying on management.”
While the man in charge of Metro’s operations left in February ahead of a broad reorganization under new General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, many others on staff remain in place.
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Evans said that based on the cause found by the NTSB, the problems could have been with Metro’s previous general managers, board members or chairmen, safety leaders or any number of others.
“I don’t know who they’re talking about, and they didn’t name names, and I think that’s a mistake. I think you cannot hold people accountable unless you identify who they are,” Evans said.
“To hold Metro accountable is meaningless. There is no Metro. There are people who run Metro.”
Metro’s new general manager came in last January. Wiedefeld joined the organization last fall after a long, halting selection process. He just announced new, major track work plans on Friday that will include station shutdowns at rush hour and lengthy single-tracking.
Former General Manager Richard Sarles retired as planned around the time of the deadly L’Enfant Plaza smoke — after joining Metro following the fatal 2009 Red Line crash near Fort Totten — and established a laborious track work program.
Downey, who was board chairman last year but is being replaced on the board in June, helped lead the search that eventually led to Wiedefeld.
“[Sarles] made a lot of good things happen,” Downey said. “I would not classify it as a failure, but I would say it didn’t get us to where we needed to be.”
As part of that organization, Wiedefeld set up an internal auditing group that will report to him on whether policies are actually being followed.
The NTSB noted that even good, standard operating procedures Metro had in place were commonly ignored leading up to the deadly smoke near L’Enfant Plaza.