Rep. Connolly: Metro fixes must include ‘culture of mediocrity’

WASHINGTON — Metro may have announced the firing of 20 managers, including 7 senior managers, and a yearlong trackwork plan, but an area congressman says the organization’s “culture of mediocrity” really needs to be fixed.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, told WTOP on Monday that Metro needs to fix not only rails and trains but an entire culture. He said that the firings reflected that “accountability is important in any organization, and it’s certainly important to Metro,” especially in light of the changes promised by General Manager Paul Wiedefeld when he took the job.

But while the fired managers were among the 650 at-will employees at Metro, Connolly said Wiedefeld needs the flexibility to do the same kind of housecleaning throughout the system.

“I think this is going to have to occur throughout the organization,” Connolly said. “The general manager is going to have to have some flexibility to hold people accountable from top to bottom.”

When any of Metro’s roughly 13,000 workers ignores safety or customer-service problems, he said, “they jeopardize the whole operation. …

“We have allowed, or somebody has allowed, Metro to deteriorate into this culture of mediocrity and indifference with respect to customers. That has to be turned around; you don’t do that overnight.

“It’s not about fixing one thing, or a series of things, and then we’re OK. It’s very clear to anyone who rides Metro that it’s a culture-wide problem that’s set in among the workforce.”

Wiedefeld on Thursday released the final version of the SafeTrack program, an extensive program of safety upgrades and repairs that will lead to nearly a year of early closures, single tracking and service disruptions.

Connolly called it “a very sound plan, [though] I mourn the fact that it was necessary. Because what it represents is years of neglect and maintenance deferral.”

He added that the lack of extra track and equipment at Metro would make the fixes more painful in the long run: “We don’t have redundancy built into the system, and that is why this plan is going to cause a lot of disruption as we go line by line.”

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