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Posted at 10:58 AM ET, 11/17/2010

Task force seeks new Metro structure

By Ann Scott Tyson

[This post will be updated]

12:10 p.m. update: Metro Board of Directors tyson.gifChairman Peter Benjamin issued the following statement in response to the release of the task force's report: "We understand the critical role of Metro governance in providing safe, reliable and effective transit service in our region and we greatly appreciate the hard work of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments/Greater Washington Board of Trade task force and the careful consideration which it gave to the issues. We look forward to addressing the issues raised in this report with all deliberate speed, as well as those raised by our own Riders Advisory Council and other governance recommendations we receive."

Original post: A joint task force has determined that Metro's governance structure is outdated, lacks accountability and has "contributed to its decline."

The task force of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) issued a 35-page assessment that calls for "dramatic changes" to how Metro is run.

"WMATA has had two GMs and two interim GMs over the past five years. No organization can operate effectively with that kind of turnover," Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said in a statement. "The lack of clear accountability and responsibility is eroding faith in the system among riders, funders, business leaders, and government officials. The increasing lack of confidence is a reality that threatens the future of the system."

The report calls for the governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District to take a "much stronger role" in selecting the members of the Metro board of directors.

It also calls for the creation of a governance commission to make the improvements and hold the board accountable.

"There is no clear understanding" of who is accountable for running Metro, said David Robertson, executive director of MWCOG.

The governance commission would include seven members:
-- Maryland's governor
-- Virginia's governor
-- The District's mayor
-- Washington Suburban Transit Commission chairman
-- Northern Virginia Transportation Commission chairman
-- District of Columbia council chairman
-- The administrator of the General Services Administration

The task force called for the restructuring of board membership, creating a four-year term for the chairman, and possibly eliminating the veto power of members.

"There is a palpable loss of confidence that the agency is headed in the right direction," Robertson said.

Some of the recommended changes would require the complex process of revising the compact that governs Metro. Task force members said some of the changes could be implemented without pursuing that route.

Report (PDF)

Related stories:

Riders' Advisory Council examines Metro governance

By Ann Scott Tyson  | November 17, 2010; 10:58 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Scott Tyson, Metro  
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"There is no clear understanding" of who is accountable for running Metro, said David Robertson, executive director of MWCOG"

I have a clear understanding, NO ONE is accountable in Metro.

David Lacosse, who is in charge of escalators: still employed!
Kubicek, who is in charge of safety: still employed!
Every driver who has texted, threatened passengers, etc: two weeks paid vacation!

Name one time in the last 10 years that a malcontent has been fired, and fired for good!

Posted by: jrutter21 | November 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

These are good recommendations, and much-needed. The current Metro Board has been a spectacular failure in recent years, contributing to the rapid decline of Metro rail and bus transit service.

And the new report reinforces the recommendations made earlier this year by Gov. McDonnell, to make Metro Directors from Virginia more accountable and responsive. Unfortunately, the self-serving local politicians in N.Va., who control Virginia's seats, have been blocking the Governor's reform plan.

Let's hope these new recommendations help to rally public opinion to force changes in the Metro Board -- the necessary first step to restoring reliable transit service in the D.C. area.

Posted by: jrmil | November 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse


You may want take a look at the vote and attendance record of the members of the current board Why you ask? Simple turns out Virgina has the best recorded and Maryland and DC are in the race for worst. Translation appointing board members does not appear to work very well.

Posted by: markeverline | November 17, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Metro needs an entire change of culture. Safety should always come first. Fire the whole bunch and make them reapply for their jobs . Everyone hired should all be 'at will' employees. The current attitude of "I've got mine" and retiring on the job has to be put 6 feet under!

Posted by: 10bestfan | November 17, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"We look forward to addressing the issues raised in this report with all deliberate speed"

The fundamental question is: What's the penalty if Metro DOESN'T accept these recommendations? They are simply that, recommendations. Until there is some type of concrete, legally actionable penalty which can be brought to bear against the Board of 'Directors', nothing will change.

Posted by: mika_england | November 17, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse


Simple meeting attendance is hardly a measure of effectiveness. The current voting Board members may attend, but they are leading the system down the wrong path. Last fall, they voted to extend the contract of the previous disastrous General Manager (John Catoe); this spring, they voted to block cost-saving reforms.

They are pushing for wasteful new projects (like the Columbia Pike streetcar) which will divert Metro's attention away from the urgent need to improve bus and rail service. And they continue to deny the widespread safety and service problems with the Metro system -- despite the repeated findings of transit experts and federal agencies.

The Metro Board members appointed by the Md. Governor, by the D.C. Mayor, and by the Federal government, have at least admitted the problems of the Metro system, and shown some willingness to make major changes to improve safety, service and efficiency. That's not the case for the current Va. members, who are elected local politicians.

The current Board excludes the Va. Governor (even though the state contributes substantially to the system); and it limits the accountability of Va. Board members. The new report quite correctly concludes the Virginia Governor should be involved in Metro Board selection.

FYI, the Post made the same recommendation in its editorial this summer:

Posted by: jrmil | November 17, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

No one is accountable. This should be obvious. Has anyone ever been dismissed, recalled, or not re-elected to the Metro board? Of course not. They don't serve at the pleasure of the governor and are not subject to election.

How about separately elected officials with one or two year terms?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 17, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Just read the report. It's openly anti-democratic, so there's no hope of accountable board members.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 17, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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