Let us help improve safety
Not much in the scathing Federal Transit Administration (FTA) report concerning the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s bus and rail service surprised the system’s operators and mechanics. We have been calling for these issues to be addressed for years.
If any of the findings surprise Metro, it is only because it has refused to listen and act. The members and leadership of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 have made numerous attempts to work with Metro on developing a safety culture. But over the years, all we have gotten from Metro and its leadership is lip service. Metro remains the safest mode of transportation in the area, but a system facelift is desperately necessary.
Since the deadly accident in January, the FTA has outlined 44 concerns about Metrorail and 10 about Metrobus. Metro’s board of directors and Congress can no longer pretend they don’t know about the system’s failures. We have consistently made them known.
In March, our union attempted to renew the conversation on safety by hosting a public hearing at which transportation experts, Metro workers and Metro riders shared perspectives on their safety concerns. Jack Requa, interim general manager of Metro, and I moderated that hearing. We listened as panelists described their concerns of inadequate safety training, broken or inoperable train radios, lack of transit police presence, fare evasion, water leakage in tunnels and lack of transit funding.
Workers, riders and Metro leadership came together at the meeting, determined to improve the system.
We immediately took the concerns from the hearing to Metro’s board of directors; no action has been taken. Metro continues to act as if a true investment in workers and maintenance corrections is a foreign concept. This is no way to run one of the nation’s largest transit systems.
To make matters worse, Congress is playing politics by withholding $50 million of its annual contribution to the system. Because fixing the safety issues will come with a price tag, Congress’s decision to cut Metro’s budget will make safety improvements more difficult.
On several occasions since the smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza, we have outlined to Metro the need for uniform emergency preparedness for the entire workforce at least annually, managers who have the same emergency preparation training as front-line workers, open communication with staff about safety issues and the elimination of retaliation toward employees who report unsafe conditions.
Now, the FTA has made directives that reflect what we have been saying all along. We call on Metro to address our four directives immediately in addition to the FTA’s directives.
Managers and directors should look at Metro safety with a different mind-set. Metro seems to ignore every issue unless it comes from a National Transportation Safety Board directive. That must change. And changing means more than just new safety rules and regulations. There has to be the effort to enact, teach and apply safety standards so that every employee can follow the directives, from the general manager to the custodians.
Every day Metro does not act, it is putting us in danger. We are tired of waiting for the next accident or fatality before something gets done.
AMetro employee directs passengers to the Foggy Bottom station inMay.