I've written many posts here about Metro and the safety problems that exist within the organization. I'm currently working on a completely new series of posts that will be appearing soon elsewhere in the DC blogosphere. I've poured through NTSB accident reports and safety letters, and read every news article about every fatal incident that's ever happened at Metrorail. Let me be clear in saying that I don't believe now, or have ever believed that John Catoe was personally responsible for the June 22 crash.
The point of the Catoe Watch, and the petition, is to highlight long-standing organizational problems at Metro. The transit system is facing all sorts of challenges, including significant financial strains. It would be hard for WMATA to search for a new manager in the midst of all of this. However, I still believe that's exactly what needs to happen. Metro needs reform, and has needed it for a long time. We'll never see that kind of reform with John Catoe, or with this Board. As some media accounts have reported, some on the Board were hesitant to fire Catoe because they were the ones who had hired him! These sorts of political considerations, while the reality, are also the problem.
Organizational, institutional problems cannot be solved without organizational and institutional reform. Yes, Metro has to solve funding problems. Yes, Metro has to solve infrastructure and safety problems. It's a tall order. We really believe that Catoe is the best person in the entire country to do it? Expand the search. Find someone who is good with reforming organizations, even if they have little or no experience with transit. We need someone who can revamp Metro's entire culture within and it's image to the public.
It's a difficult task. It's not impossible. The longer we maintain the status quo, the harder things will be to fix. We've got at least another three years with Catoe. Three more years of the status quo. I'm keeping the Catoe Watch up to remind people that we didn't arrive at the status quo by chance. The Metro Board and those who support Catoe chose this path. If and when things do not improve, and if and when there are more incidents or accidents, I hope we all remember that.