In the last year, SafeTrack has inconvenienced riders, workers and taxpayers. Now, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has announced that the budget for SafeTrack will cost another $40 million dollars, begging the question: where is the additional $40 Million going to come from?
Riders, workers and taxpayers should not have to be on the hook to make up for WMATA leadership’s consistent lack of preparation and vision. If WMATA has its way, the public will solely take on the responsibility of repairing the system by enduring planned fare increases, service cuts, increased train wait times, and layoff of employees. WMATA’s constant mistakes come with a cost.
The members of ATU Local 689 are proud of the progress we have achieved after years of calling for the repair of long deferred maintenance. However, the lack of proper planning, and wasted millions on contractors with histories of performing shoddy work, demonstrate that the priorities of a safe, reliable and affordable system were not adequately addressed. The GAO now joins other federal agencies, including the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in calling out the poor decisions of WMATA leadership. In the future, we expect WMATA to engage with its workforce and do research to find the best practices before making such consequential decisions.
The position that Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has taken in his recent lawsuit against our union will be thrown to the side for the looming snow storm. Wiedefeld claims that working seven days makes the system unsafe, yet he will require all front line employees to report to work in anticipation of a snow storm expected to begin tonight. This is hardly the way to create a culture of safety if he believes that working seven days makes the system unsafe. Tomorrow will prove that Wiedefeld’s lawsuit has nothing to do with safety, only control.
The members of ATU Local 689, who are the operators, clerical and maintenance employees of the Metro system, will proudly be at work tomorrow to continue to provide the service of public transit as much as safely possible. The General Manager has an obligation to lead the creation of a real safety culture at Metro. Implementing a policy and then throwing it to the side when convenient is not how creating a safety culture will ever be accomplished.
The proposal for a federal control board for WMATA made yesterday by the Federal City Council is yet another thinly veiled attempt to attack Metro’s workers while ignoring the real issue of needed dedicated funding and the federal government failing to contribute to the operating cost of the system.
Nearly every other rail system in the U.S. operates with a dedicated funding source. That funding allows for maintenance, upkeep and upgrades without the interference of personal and political agendas. Currently, Metro is funded for capital construction projections by the federal government, Washington D.C., and the states of Maryland and Virginia. However, Congress does not spend anything on Metro’s operations, even though 50 percent of the DC-area’s federal workforce uses it to commute to work.