There is a serious problem at Metro. It's not simply due to budget constraints, and it's not simply due to John Catoe, either. It wasn't a broken sensor, and it wasn't old equipment. It's far more complicated, and the solution is far costlier and difficult.
Just as the Challenger wasn't simply brought down by an O-Ring, the June 22 crash wasn't simply due to a malfunction. Sure, there was a malfunction, but that alone should not have resulted in a fatal collision. Instead, one failure led to another, compounded by limitations of the system. Sprinkle in the aging cars and a lack of a backup system, and you have a recipe for catastrophe.
This is roughly the thesis of the piece I am working on. I've even got charts. This is important. Metro is a highly complex system, that demands very high reliability. As it stands now, it cannot provide this degree of reliability. For at least the past 10-15 years, there has been a lack of a 'culture of safety' within Metro. This is organizational, this is a failure from the top down. There are dozens of causes, but at the end of the day it's a failure of administration.
The WMATA board needs to take a long, hard, look at what's going on inside Metro. John Catoe as well as his top-level administrators need to go. A new crop of administrators, those who understand concepts such as "fail safe" and "culture of safety" need to be brought in. The attitudes of everyone who works at Metro need to be changed, and it has to happen now.
I'll likely not be writing about Metro for the next few days while I research this, so all of you who are sick of hearing about it will get a break for a bit. I'll put together something funny for you soon.