New GM: Metro's problems won't be quick fix

- Metro has been plagued by a wide variety of problems ranging from criminal to infrastructure. So what does the new general manager of the transit agency think of all of this and what is he planning to do about it?

He spoke to a collection of local leaders from D.C., Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday and gave a very frank assessment of the transit agency.

Paul Wiedefeld became Metro’s general manager on Nov. 30. Since then, he said he has been riding on Metro every day and he admits he is aware of some problems first-hand.

He said he has also been getting an earful from others about both the individual and systemic troubles they are dealing with on the rails.

“I ride it every day to work and to meetings,” Wiedefeld said. “I came here today on Metro.”

Wiedefeld said he personally experienced the effects of rail problems that plagued the Red Line last week.

“It's been tough,” he said. “I experienced the Red Line issue the other day. I was truly frustrated myself and there are a number of things we are doing as a result of that.”

The new general manager also gave the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments an assessment of all the problems he has become aware of since taking this job about six weeks ago.

He said he spent the month of December talking with riders and hearing their frustrations and impatience with everything – from malfunctioning elevators and escalators to train and rail problems, delays and public safety concerns.

He also said employees are embarrassed the system isn't performing well and he feels that too.

“There is a feeling of a lack of ability to deliver the basic service that we should be delivering,” said Wiedefeld. “Poor communication, lack of transparency by the organization, and unfortunately, there is fear out there for personal safety in terms of some of the stuff we do – in terms of crime, in terms of terrorism – all of those things on our customer’s minds. The bottom line is I think as an agency, we've lost credibility to provide the high quality service that we are used to in the past.”

Wiedefeld said he does believe he can get the beleaguered transit system to a better place. He knows he wants more visibility on platforms so riders can get information and reassurance when something is happening.

But he said he needs to finish his internal investigation before crafting wider solutions.

“There is a lot to do,” said Metro’s general manager. “We didn’t get here overnight. It will take us a while to pull out of this dive.”

Wiedefeld has told the Metro board he does not want to raise fares or cut service right now. He said he doesn’t think this is the time to do that given the performance they have had recently.

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