Putting together the pieces at Metro

I'm working on a very comprehensive series of pieces on the entire WMATA debacle. After digging around, I'm surprised any of us were shocked by last month's crash. I would imagine there were a lot of people at Metro who shook their heads and said "I told you so."

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.


  1. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    We Meet And Talk Alot = WMATA
    Culture problem has not changed for years.
    Take a look at a speech by Jim Hall formally from the NTSB. http://ntsb.gov/speeches/former/hall/jh970424.htm

  2. As much as a faggot as u is, you are correct about one failure leading to another. It takes at least TWO errors on the part of a driver or drivers to cause a traffic accident. Most airline accidents are caused by a series of errors, one after the other--usually never just one. It is systemic.

  3. Gee Matthew, if you are going to be offensively homophobic, you could at least use proper grammar.

    I agree with the first post, the culture of Metro is not one that puts emphasis on safety or efficiency.

  4. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    Good work. I agree that the entire board at Metro needs to go. Its fun to snipe and gripe about how crappy Metro can be, but, when the checks and balances that make the system safe are no workie, thats a serious problem. The data and information coming out clearly shows a pattern of neglect for maintenance and repair. Coupled with Metro's well documented financial woes and lack of revenue, it was a foregone conclusion that a failure was waiting to happen.

    Has the same shitty train control system been spec'd out for the Silver line to Dulles?

  5. Mr. AmazingJuly 24, 2009

    Are you out there walking the beat? Digging in trashcans? Meeting people in parking garages who say they have "information?"

    This ain't yo mamma's WIHDC!

  6. I absolutely am. I'm even creating a flowchart. You'll see. And you'll be bored, probably, but you'll see.

  7. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    "Hello, this is Dave from WIHDC. I'm looking for some information about... it's a blog. You know, blog... WEB LOG. Really? Lots of people have heard of it. No, not affiliated with the Post. Or the Times. Or the Examiner... Hold on a sec. Mom!!! Can you turn down the TV? I'm on the phone! No, you've seen that one already. That's the one where Samantha finds out she has breast cancer. No, she survives. She was in the movie later, wasn't she? Sure, what do you want?... We're all out of Heineken. Hey! Have you been drinking my Mike's Hard Lemonades?... Dammit Mom! Nevermind... Hello? Hello?!?... Son of a... Yeah, hi, this is Dave again from... Hello?!?"

  8. wow, it's like you live with me. amazing.

  9. Anonymous--Ahaahhahaahahahahaahaha! Fucking hilarious. Did you know Dave is also a member of the National Press Club? I know bc i am... :)

  10. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    so mat how many jobs has that gotten u? bet u wish u had those membership fees back so u can buy more weed.

  11. shut it, anonymous. I'm moving out of this popsicle stand. i bet you wish you weren't so ugly.