A month in, Metro’s new GM talks priorities

ARLINGTON, Va. — A little over a month after taking the reins, Metro’s new General Manager is talking about what he’s done so far and what his goals are moving forward.

“Even though it’s a public entity, it needs to be run like a business. We need to perform like a business,” Paul Wiedefeld told the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission at its Thursday night meeting in Arlington.

Wiedefeld said his priorities center around three things: the transit agency’s safety, reliability and financial health.

As of late October, the Federal Transit Administration has safety oversight of Metrorail, and Wiedefeld said he’s been working closely with that agency’s acting administrator, Therese McMillan.

“To make sure that we’re giving them everything that we can to meet their standards, but more importantly to change the culture of the agency and then just literally how we perform,” said Wiedefeld.

He said a national search for a new Chief Safety Officer continues.

“We’ll be starting those interviews very, very soon.”

Wiedefeld said a lack of rail car parts is a problem that is being addressed.

“We have roughly 70 vehicles — trains — out today, based on missing parts or lack of parts. And there was a procurement issue that the board gave us some room to deal with. We’ll start to roll those out in the next few months to get those numbers down,” said Wiedefeld. “I need 954 cars a day basically to run the system, and we’re right on that edge every day.”

“I’ve also accelerated just the ongoing repairs. We may have anywhere from 100 to 150 cars out for just repairs. Just things that are just normal wear and tear. But we can do a better job, I think, in turning those things out quicker.”

Metro has been waiting to receive new 7000 series rail cars to add to the system, and Wiedefeld said progress is being made on that front.

“That’s been delayed … almost two years now. And so I’m actively working to get those delivered as quickly as we can and commissioned … into service. A number of those cars have come in. I think we’re very close to getting beyond some of the issues we have with the vendor.”

When things go wrong on Metrorail, delaying or disrupting service, Wiedefeld wants to give customers just entering the system a break.

“We’re proposing a 15 minute grace period that if you come in and something happens, you leave (and) you don’t pay.”

Another break for customers: no fare increase anytime soon.

“In the current budget before the board I have not proposed a fare increase … even though we have financial issues. We can make the budget work. I just don’t think it’s the time to do that given the level of performance that we’ve had,” said Wiedefeld.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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