Metro's biggest problem: Not putting safety first
Last week, a task force report sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recommended a significant restructuring of the Metro system governance [“Report: Metro organization is outdated,” Metro, Nov. 18]. The task force cited many deficiencies with the current structure, including the inability of elected officials to adopt a long-term, regional perspective. While I don’t disagree with the report’s recommendations, the safety issues that have caused this appropriate attention cannot wait for the task force recommendations to be evaluated and implemented.
The root cause of the problem is that safety is not considered a core value at Metro. The problem is not a program issue; it’s a cultural one. A core value is a value that is never compromised — in this case the safety of employees and customers. A core value is not the same as a priority. Priorities change as circumstances change; values do not.
Changing the culture starts at the top. Supervisors and management should encourage and recognize upward reporting of safety issues from the people with “boots on the ground.” If an escalator technician cannot return the braking system to factory-specified conditions, he needs to be recognized for refusing to place the escalator back in service. If a bus or train operator sees a safety-compromised condition, he or she should be encouraged to stop the vehicle immediately. Conversely, employees who knowingly violate significant safety policies should be fired.
It is not easy to bring about a change in culture. There will always be a tension regarding adequate funding. But the solution is not to compromise on safety. The solution is to educate the public so that it will accept the appropriate, humane allocation of limited resources.
James Potts, Fort Washington
| November 22, 2010; 6:55 PM ET
Categories: D.C., HotTopic, Maryland, Metro, transportation
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