WASHINGTON - For years, Metro riders have been paying full fares, but not getting full service. However on Thursday, Metro's board has given the green light to let fares be reduced or even dropped if the general manager declares an emergency.
This comes as there are new questions and new scrutiny about how Metro's previous leadership allowed the system to get into such a state of disrepair.
This fare change authority was described today as almost as sort of a weapon that can be deployed for riders and keep them from having to pay full price during a Metro meltdown that we have dealt with before. Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld said it is not something he is going to all the time, but when faced with a critical emergency, he needs to give riders a temporary break from paying full fares.
The move was made during another big change to Metro's leadership. Three new members of WMATA's board took their seats. They are all appointments by the Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who has stepped up federal oversight of Metro's safety issues and repair work now underway with SafeTrack.
There are also eye-opening revelations by another new face in Metro leadership. New chief safety officer Patrick Lavin, who has been on the job for only a month, said one of his biggest surprises is despite all of its breakdowns and safety issues, Metro still does not have a regular and dedicated investigative body.
"One of the gaping holes in your safety department is that although you have people who respond and investigate accidents, you don't have a true dedicated investigative body and that is one thing I would like to create here," said Lavin.
Likewise, in response to growing questions about how Metro's previous general managers, board members and staff allowed the system to spiral into such disrepair, board chairman Jack Evans said Metro cannot put those questions off any longer.
"There will come a day of reckoning where we are going to have to find out answers to that," said Evans. "Because at the end of the exercise, I always say Carol Glover died on the floor of a Metro car after a five-year period of fixing this place, and that is unacceptable end to that whole experience."
Glover was the person who lost her life in the Metro train smoke incident at the L'Enfant Plaza station in January 2015.
With Metro's first SafeTrack surge underway since Saturday, officials are bracing for Surge No. 2, which could spell a disastrous commute for anyone who uses the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between Eastern Market and Minnesota Avenue/Benning Road. That section will be completely shut down for 16 days from June 18 to July 3.
Metro is planning bus bridges to move people through the closed sections, but they are also urging anyone who can to come up with alternate transportation.