Report: D.C. Metro needs 3 years to fix issues

Posted on March 12, 2010

[IMAGE]D-C-Metrorail-full.jpg[/IMAGE]In his assessment of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), transit industry expert David L. Gunn told the board of directors that it would take three years to turn the agency around, according to a Washington Post story. He urged the agency to "level with the public regarding the seriousness of the problems facing Metrorail"and the need to move quickly to recruit a general manager with "a strong operating and technical background."

To read the full story, click here.

 METRO TV: To watch an interview with Metro Board Chairman Peter Benjamin, click here.

A summary of Gunn’s report is provided below.

Issues of Safety

Safety is affected by virtually every aspect of Metro’s governance, finance, organization, management and operations. Metro needs to regain its strong safety culture throughout the entire organization.

  • Create a workplace where safety is openly discussed, problems are reported, solved and all employees, supervisors and managers know they can ask for help without fear.
  • Provide all employees with the training and knowledge required to be safe and ensure the system is safe.
  •  Ensure safety is the responsibility of line departments such as signal, track and operations.
  •  End “shoot the messenger” at all levels of the organization.
  •  Communicate candidly about safety with the public

Financial Issues

  • Avoid service cuts to Metrorail; recognize cost recovery of 80 percent on rail and 35 percent on bus.
  • Deal with Metro Access and Metrobus subsidy increases:

         1. Percentage growth for Metro Access from 2000 to 2009 was 321 percent.
         2. Percentage growth for Metrobus from 2000 to 2009 was 89 percent.<
         3. Percentage growth for Metrorail from 2000 to 2009 was 12 percent.

  • Manage rail fare increases realistically to minimize ridership losses.
  • Allocate financial resources based on the system’s operating and capital needs.
  • Educate the public about financial realities: this trend cannot continue.

Organization and Management Issues

  • Organizational Structure

         1. Increase direct reports to the general manager for better control and strengthen senior management.
         2. Merge engineering and maintenance functions around systems (examples: signals, power, track.)

  •  Departmental Goals and Objectives

         1. Create an organization with clear responsibility centers.
         2. Develop with key managers realistic, quantifiable goals tied to capital and operating budgets and hold managers accountable.
         3. Link personnel allocations more closely to the budget, goals and objectives.
         4. Monitor monthly reports to assure goals are being met (examples: miles of track, ties, fasteners, joints and turnouts replaced).

  • Personnel

         1. Recruit a permanent general manager with a strong operating and technical background; the quality of the next general manager will significantly affect the ability to hire competent senior managers.
         2. Recruit experienced senior managers with engineering experience to fill many currently open positions.
         3. Hire and train qualified staff to address the maintenance backlog.
         4. Overcome the negative impact of reductions in force and early retirements.
         5. Address pending Metrobus management retirements, as they will pose a recruiting challenge in the near future.
         6. Stop using hiring freezes to control the budget.

  • Budget

         1. Introduce new reporting regimen so that quantifiable goals are tied to the capital and operating budgets.
         2. Prioritize capital and operating budgets by asset class (ex: bus procurement, rail replacement, ties, grouting, etc.)
         3. Hold managers accountable to manage the personnel, results and dollars.

  • Operations

         1. Metrobus operations are working relatively well.
         2. Metrorail operations need attention to reverse current trends.
            a. Accelerate track and car maintenance, cleaning and replacement.
            b. Clean tunnels and stations, necessary for equipment reliability and safety.
            c. Generally increase maintenance programs.

Issues of Board Governance

  • The Board and the general manager should agree on the transit authority's agenda, goals and objectives.
  •  To provide continuity, the Board chairman should serve a multi-year term.
  •   The Board and general manager should adopt and implement bus and rail service standards.
  •   The Board and general manager should streamline procurement policies to facilitate acquisitions.
  •   Level with the public regarding the seriousness of the problems facing Metrorail


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