Metro exploring possibility of mask-only cars

Metro officials say they are considering designating some Metro rail cars as mask-only.

During a meeting of WMATA’s Board of Directors Thursday, Bryna Helfer, an alternate board member, mentioned that she’d been working with the Rider Advisory Council and said, “Somebody had suggested, can we have a mask-only car, like a Quiet Car, like on Amtrak. Has that been considered? I’m just curious.”

Theresa Impastato, Metro’s executive vice president and chief safety officer, said the agency was “absolutely looking into it,” but she explained that there were concerns about enforcement “and how that could potentially create conflict.”

At the same time, Impastato said, Metro was reminding staff and riders “that the lack of an enforcement mechanism through the TSA on the mask mandate does not mean that Metro is not advocating for wearing a mask.” Masks are still being provided to riders on Metro rail and buses, she said, “and we will continue to do so indefinitely.”

Performance report

The Metro performance report for the third quarter of fiscal 2022 showed that Metro met or exceeded 13 out of 18 performance measures, but failed to meet targets in areas of employee injury rates, Metrorail on-time performance and customer satisfaction.

While Metro reported “low” crowding levels across the entire system, the report cited “acute crowding” during peak hours with “hotspots” reported at Rosslyn, Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza.

According to the report, property crimes fell to pre-pandemic levels, but crimes against people are still higher.

When it comes to customer injury rates, the latest report shows 80% of Metrorail injuries are due to “slips, trips and falls,” mostly on escalators.

On the Metrobus system, over half of customer injuries are due to collisions.

For employees, the injury rate fell 25% in the third quarter, but according to the report, that’s partly due to reduced service levels in January.

According to Joseph Leader, Metro’s chief operating officer, “On average, there have been 18 crimes against persons per month in FY22, the majority of which were on Metrorail.”

“Our front-line staff are increasingly threatened or assaulted by passengers or individuals occupying the Metro system,” said Impastato. She said they “frequently” witness crimes, with over 150 this year alone.

Some of the strategies Metro’s using to try to address safety: de-escalation training for bus operators and station managers; adjusting Metro Transit Police deployments, and analyzing DriveCam footage regarding bus collisions.

Contract approval for new GM

During the morning session of the WMATA board meeting, the board approved the contract for incoming General Manager Randy Clarke.

Clarke’s appointment was announced earlier this week. His five-year contract includes an annual salary of $485,000, and he’s eligible for an annual bonus of up to 10% of his base salary at the board’s discretion and based on performance goals.

Clarke is currently the president and CEO of the Austin, Texas Capital Metro system. He’ll begin his term in late summer.

He’ll be replacing Paul Wiedefeld, who’s retiring effective June 30.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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