The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority board of directors unanimously named Paul J. Wiedefeld the next Metro general manager and chief executive officer Nov. 5.
Wiedefeld, who formerly served as CEO of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, will replace Interim GM/CEO Jack Requa, who has now served for 10 months after a formal WMATA board vote to officially appoint him Nov. 19.
Additionally, the House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan amendment to approve the Federal Transit Administration’s takeover of the Metro on Oct. 9.
This selection follows former defense and airline products executive Neal Cohen, rumored to be the WMATA’s first choice, leaving negotiations Nov. 2, reportedly due to an unwillingness to undergo public scrutiny.
WMATA board of directors Chairman Mortimer Downey emphasized the board’s support of Wiedefeld’s appointment and expressed the belief that the new leadership will improve Metro operation.
“This Board is very pleased to have a senior executive of Mr. Wiedefeld’s caliber who will help us build a new standard of safety, reliability and financial stability for our system,” Downey said in a Nov. 5 WMATA press release. “The board will continue in our governance and oversight role in a manner that helps Paul succeed in running the day-to-day operations of Metro to better serve our riders, rebuild faith in management and restore credibility with stakeholders.”
The press release also noted that Wiedefeld is declining further comment until after his official appointment next week.
“I am humbled and excited to learn of the Board’s unanimous support, but believe it is inappropriate to comment further until the Board takes its final action at the November 19 meeting,” Wiedefeld said in WMATA’s press release.
According to the Washington City Paper, the Metro’s consumer satisfaction is at its lowest point since 2013, with 82 and 67 percent satisfaction rates for the bus and rail systems, respectively.
Wiedefeld’s leadership comes after other efforts to improve WMATA’s rider satisfaction. WMATA launched Amplify, an online forum for rider feedback, Oct. 15.
WMATA Riders’ Union spokesperson Graham Jenkins expressed hope that Wiedefeld’s appointment will mark the start of a new phase of leadership for the Metro.
“The number one thing is to have some leadership that’s stable and seems permanent,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully he will bring with him a new sweep of leaders and upper-level managers to implement his vision.”
Jenkins cited a number of issues he hopes Wiedefeld will address, including frequency of trains, fares, safety and communication. Midday frequency on weekdays for all rails is 12 minutes.
“At the very least [this] is a waste of this expensive infrastructure,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said the Riders’ Union would like to see a more reasonably priced monthly pass. Currently, WMATA’s only offer is a rail-only 28-day pass for $237.
Jenkins also highlighted the need to prioritize Metro rider security. Jenkins noted that this would require improved communication between upper management and line-level employees responsible for construction, as well as riders.
“The safety culture is a real thing that the agency should be striving for,” Jenkins said. “Much more informative notices of pending track work, of disruptions, and why we’re being disrupted and what’s being done to prevent future instances of it would be ideal.”
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