On Wednesday, January 27, a DC subway train was stopped at the Smithsonian station, near the site of the recent derailment. Passengers were getting on and off the train.
That train came dangerously close to a head-on collision due to completely avoidable failures, and the Obama administration is seeking to blame everyone but itself.
Normally the feds wouldn’t have a direct role in a local transit agency’s failures, but DC’s Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is different. In practice it operates as an arm of GSA, getting government employees to and from work, cutting back service drastically whenever government doesn’t need it.
Many transit agencies get federal funding, but most don’t give the feds such direct control. The Obama administration has appointed 25% of the board of WMATA, giving active oversight, as well as hiring and firing the General Manager.
Obama’s board members have had a checkered history. Harriet Tregoning breaks her own rules, and much more seriously, Mortimer Downey abused the office.
So under this board’s oversighs, we keep having near-disasters on the WMATA rails. Derailment, operator-sabotaged trains, and near head-on collisions as operators ignore red lights, such as in the Smithsonian case last week when the offending train was only managed to be stopped 150 feet from the train with passengers on it!
What’s the Obama administration’s answer? Blaming DC city government, Virginia, and Maryland for a lack of oversight. No demands for resignations from Downey and Tregoning. No self-awareness of the administration’s own failures to provide oversight. Only blaming others.
And they wonder why WMATA ridership keeps declining. The first step toward fixing WMATA is to reform the compact, kicking the feds off of the board, and converting the remaining slots from patronage positions, to an elected board.