October 24, 2018

Maryland, Virginia Senators Urge WMATA to Maintain Riders’ Advisory Council

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.), along with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) sent a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors Chairman Jack Evans, opposing their proposal to terminate the Riders’ Advisory Council. Tomorrow, after previous assurances by the WMATA Board Chairman that the Council would continue to operate, the Board plans to vote on whether to eliminate the Council and instead rely on its web survey system for rider input. Since 2005, the WMATA Riders’ Advisory Council has provided direct rider feedback to the WMATA Board on issues impacting all WMATA customers. The Council meetings are a way for riders and the general public to provide comments and express concerns about WMATA’s services.

The Senators write, “At a time when WMATA is rebounding from years of deep safety and operational problems and rebuilding trust with riders, it is disappointing to see an effort that is interpreted as a lack of interest in public input. We hope you will reconsider your position on this and not vote to terminate the Council. It is important to show riders that WMATA is interested in hearing from the people it serves.”

They continued, “We appreciate the need to evaluate the most productive means of facilitating public input. If there is a need to restructure the channels through which WMATA receives feedback, that can be done without dissolving the primary entity through which the views of Metro riders can reach Metro leadership.”

The Senators concluded the letter stating, “Metro has a long way to go to restore rider trust but has made significant strides, including in being forthright with the public about necessary inconveniences associated with long-deferred safety maintenance work. Dialogue with the public is a critical element of bringing Metro ‘Back2Good,’ and we hope you will not let this priority fade. We hope to learn from you why you support the termination of the Rider’s Advisory Council and how you intend to proceed to ensure that the people who use the system will continue to be able to provide feedback.”

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Chairman Evans:

We write in opposition to the proposal to terminate the Riders’ Advisory Council. At a time when WMATA is rebounding from years of deep safety and operational problems and rebuilding trust with riders, it is disappointing to see an effort that is interpreted as a lack of interest in public input. We hope you will reconsider your position on this and not vote to terminate the Council. It is important to show riders that WMATA is interested in hearing from the people it serves.

We appreciate the need to evaluate the most productive means of facilitating public input. If there is a need to restructure the channels through which WMATA receives feedback, that can be done without dissolving the primary entity through which the views of Metro riders can reach Metro leadership.

If WMATA’s intent is to receive more public comment in written form, we suggest it adopt rules for public responsiveness similar to the provisions in federal laws like the Administrative Procedure Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Under these laws, federal agencies may agree or disagree with public comments, but they must, upon pain of litigation, substantively address all issues raised in comments. An equivalent requirement would give the public some certainty that their communications will be read and will not disappear into a digital void.

Metro has a long way to go to restore rider trust but has made significant strides, including in being forthright with the public about necessary inconveniences associated with long-deferred safety maintenance work. Dialogue with the public is a critical element of bringing Metro “Back2Good,” and we hope you will not let this priority fade. We hope to learn from you why you support the termination of the Rider’s Advisory Council and how you intend to proceed to ensure that the people who use the system will continue to be able to provide feedback.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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