WASHINGTON - Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld issued some blunt statements about the transit agency's problems after his first months on the job. The remarks come as Metro faces falling ridership amid concerns over safety and security.
For years, Metro has gained a reputation of downplaying the system's troubles. But Wiedefeld made it clear that Metro can't get better until it admits what is wrong.
He addressed failings in two key areas - rail breakdowns and safety on Metro.
"What I found in each one of those categories - to be frank - it's probably much worse than I even expected and maybe even publicly we have been talking about," said Wiedefeld.
He also said, "One of the first things that I noticed with our security is it tends to be almost invisible at times literally because of the uniforms. They blend into the crowd. So when we have an event where anything occurs, it's even hard to see who is in charge."
Wiedefeld spoke for more than an hour on Monday at the National Press Club detailing problems he said are ingrained through Metro both inside and out.
Internally, he said he has found serious "turf" issues between Metro departments that has held up progress. Externally, he said the depth and gravity of system's problems have not been framed correctly in dialogue with both the public and with the Metro Board.
Wiedefeld spoke on two other key areas - repair work and customer service.
He said the need right now is to focus on the nuts and bolts of just getting Metro clear of the backlog in repair work.
He acknowledged customer service has affected dropping ridership levels and needs cooperation from Metro workers in order to make a change.
"In my estimation, we have tried to make everyone happy, and we have pretty much made everyone not happy with some of the approaches we have taken. I think when you look at other systems around the country, you have to make hard decisions," said Wiedefeld.
The general manager said he is also trying to address some things he thinks have not made sense, such as why Metro does not have a modern phone app that gives passengers updates on train and bus information. Also, he wants to address why the transit system in 2016 does not have a state-of-the-art cell phone network, which he described as vital for both customer service and safety in the event of an emergency.