Larger than the rail cars alone, WMATA’s challenges involve thinking through the long-term transit needs of our region and how the Metro system can evolve and adapt to post-pandemic ridership patterns
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (Both D-Va.) met virtually Thursday with Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration (WMATA) General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld to thank him for his service and discuss challenges the transit agency is facing with its rail cars and the need to confront the long-term realities of ridership impacted by the pandemic. After the meeting, the senators said it was a productive discussion, during which they urged Wiedefeld to make a final push for a safety-first cultural shift in the transit agency and to stay involved as the region evaluates the most efficient and equitable way to deliver transit across the DMV.
“There are real challenges that WMATA is dealing with today. In addition to short-term needs, such as restoring use of the 7000 Series cars, the transit agency must evaluate longer-term strategies for meeting the region’s post-COVID needs due to enduring changes in travel and work patterns brought on by the pandemic,” the senators said. “Larger than rail cars alone, WMATA must take steps to restore customer confidence that it is adopting the right strategies to ensure full, safe and efficient service throughout the Metrorail system.”
The senators urged General Manager Wiedefeld to use his remaining time at the helm of WMATA to make an earnest push for improvements in the organizational culture of WMATA, especially in safeguarding the safety of the Metro system. In this regard, the senators and Wiedefeld agreed it is important to continue WMATA’s cooperation with the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) and improve relations with the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.
The infrastructure bill signed into law last year by President Biden paves the way for investing billions of dollars in improving WMATA over the coming years, including through the Federal Transit Administration formula grants and a reauthorization of dedicated funding. The senators asked Wiedefeld to identify any ways they can be of further assistance in dealing with the current rail car issues.