Farbstein told WUSA-9 that "John Catoe serves at the pleasure of the Metro board," and that the petition "isn't worth a response" because there were a few obviously fake names. Yes, the petition only has 97 signatures as of 7:30 AM on Thursday. Some of the names are fake, the majority are real.
What is real, however, are the concerns. The petition references real and valid concerns about management at Metro. Catoe is the top manager, and if there is a problem with management, any solution has to start with him, or by replacing him. He does serve at the pleasure of the Metro board, which is where the petition is directed.
I understand that online petitions are not exactly the most effective organizing tool in the world. It does make a statement however, that people are concerned and upset about the problems plaguing WMATA. In less than a day, the petition received over 75 signatures. Today it will pass 100 and perhaps even more if there is more coverage. While not an amazing amount of people, the petition is leading to discussion. The petition is getting the idea out there, the idea that we need sweeping change at Metro.
That's been the idea the whole time, to get people talking. To get them thinking. Of course WMATA's press department, who serves at the pleasure of John Catoe, will defend him. However, they could do it in a more mature manner than simply saying they don't feel the need to respond to the concerns of a growing number of riders.
Why not just say, "We understand the frustration and concern of many Metrorail riders. John Catoe remains committed to ensuring that Metro operates safely and efficiently."
Or maybe Lisa Farbstein is just sick and tired of having to deal with this and is getting a little edgier. I wouldn't blame her, it's been a hell of a couple months.
UPDATE: I have sent a request for comment to WMATA, we will see if they respond. As of 12:45PM the petition has 119 signatures.
UPDATE X2: Lisa Farbstein responded to me via Email this afternoon. This time, her response was a bit more diplomatic:
My comment to Channel 9 last night was that Mr. Catoe has seen enormous support from customers as he has been riding in the Metrorail system. I saw that again today when customers approached him on the sidewalk downtown and in the Red Line trains this afternoon to share words of encouragement.
I declined to go on camera, but I also responded by telling Channel 9 that Mr. Catoe is focused on finding the cause of the June 22 accident, putting the needed fix in place, and running the transit agency.
Doesn't quite get to the heart of the matter, but at least isn't decrying the people who are demanding sweeping changes. As a side note, yesterday's Washington Post Express poll had 76% of respondants saying Catoe should be fired. Guess that other 24% really like to hang out down by WMATA HQ.