Improving the Safety and Reliability of the Washington Metro
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Summary of Subject Matter
Official Hearing Transcript
NTSB INVESTIGATIONS INVOLVING WMATA METRORAIL 1982 – 2015
Hearing on “Improving Safety and Reliability of the Washington Metro”
May 24, 2016
(Remarks as Prepared)
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Millions of people come to Washington, DC every year, and they need to be able to get around our capital safely and efficiently. Metro should be the crown jewel of our Nation’s transit systems, but it isn’t, even though Metro spends more money per trip than the systems in New York or Chicago.
Over the last 50 years, Metro has benefited from significant federal support. The federal government also subsidizes the fare for over 40 percent of Metro’s rush hour riders, providing the system with significant revenue to use for its operations.
Despite all the federal investment, Metro’s safety and reliability record have deteriorated as the responsibility has switched from building the system to maintaining the system.
Using the authorities provided to them by Congress, the Federal Transit Administration has temporarily taken over direct safety oversight because Metro lacks an appropriate safety oversight body. Transportation Secretary Foxx has given the states and the District of Columbia one year to stand up an oversight body that meets federal standards – it is up to Virginia, Maryland, and DC to step up to the plate.
Last year, Congress passed the FAST Act, which strengthened FTA’s safety oversight authority and provides the DC region with five years of increased federal transit funding.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about what actions will be taken to ensure that riders can utilize a safe and reliable system.
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
We are here to discuss how the Washington Metro System will address its safety and reliability issues. This issue is important to Members of Congress because when our constituents come from all over the country to see their Nation’s capital, they should be able to move around the region safely and efficiently.
The federal government has invested billions in Metro, yet the system is not safe and is not reliable. Metro has been plagued by long-standing, well documented safety issues.
Unfortunately, investigations from the 1980s, 1990s, and today have a common refrain: a lack of communication and safety procedures have put riders and workers at risk.
The focus of today is how the system is going to change. I am heartened to hear Metro’s new general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, talk about his commitment to improving safety and addressing the maintenance backlog. The Committee will be watching to ensure that the talk turns in to action.
The Federal Transit Administration is playing an important role as Metro’s temporary direct safety oversight entity. FTA is here today to share with us what it is doing to promote safety and reliability at Metro.
Congress cannot legislate communication or buy WMATA a safety culture. WMATA must take on the responsibility of providing safe transit in our Nation’s capital. It must be accountable to the federal, state, and local taxpayers that fund them.
I am looking forward to a frank discussion with our witnesses about how we can work together to improve Metro.
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