New Metro chief safety officer confident in fixing transit system's problems

Despite facing the threat of a shutdown by the U.S. Transpiration Secretary, Metro's new chief safety officer is making big promises about getting the troubled transit agency back on track.

The big threat from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is leading to some big changes in Metro's "SafeTrack" maintenance program. For example, Metro had only planned to shut down the Blue, Orange and Silver lines from Eastern Market to Minnesota Avenue for 16 days between August and September. However, it appears those repairs will be moved up after the FTA ordered Metro to immediately fix three areas of tracks before the transit agency starts the "SafeTrack" program.

On Thursday, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said he needs to do better communicating with the Federal Transit Administration after receiving the order for the immediate urgent repairs.

Stepping into the current situation is new Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin. After four days on the job, he said he knows what to do because he has done it before by helping rebuild New York City's subway system. Lavin has worked in transit safety for 33 years and he said Metro's problems are not nearly as bad as what he saw in New York City in the 1980s.

"When I started the job in 1983, we were in such a state of disrepair that we derailing a main line train every 28 days, so you can imagine what it would take to turn a system like that around, which we did," said Lavin.

He also said Metro has the talent to do the job, but it has not gotten the time to do it because trains are always running. He is confident he can help fix what is broken at Metro.

"WMATA is very good at telling you what happened, but we need to work on the why," he said.

Lavin also added, "It doesn't give you any value to have a blame game. What you need to do is identify the resources you need, commit to getting those resources, implement effective programs and that's how you turn the tide."

But the tide Lavin is swimming against at Metro is strong. Revenue is down six percent and ridership is down five percent. Metro said of the 445 critical action plans that have been ordered to Metro, only eight have been completed.

The "SafeTrack" plan that is being revised after the FTA directive is supposed to be finalized on Monday.