I'm dedicating all of my morning resources to this, since it's been months in the making. As you can see by the Catoe Watch, it's been 172 days since nine people were killed on the Red Line near Fort Totten. Since 6/22, several track workers have been killed in accidents, and millions of dollars in damage have been done to Metro rolling stock. I've spent a good deal of time chronicling all of this here, and on Greater Greater Washington. It's been a very important topic. All along, I have called for a change in management at Metro.
Well, the nine deaths weren't enough to encourage change. The track workers dying weren't enough. Time and time again the Metro board has stood by their managers, even renewing John Catoe's contract.
However, today we may see some changes in Metro management. All it took was a United States Senator. Yesterday Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) had some choice words for Metro at a Senate hearing on transportation safety. She called for immediate changes at Metro, demanding more "vigorous and aggressive" management. She stopped short of calling for Catoe to be fired, but did say: "Catoe wants to have a meeting with me. I don't want to have a meeting. I want action."
So what's the response? Metro Board Chair Jim Graham had this to say: "It's clearly past time for there to be some very substantial management changes at Metro," said Graham, who is also a member of the D.C. Council. "We're going to change Metro, and it's going to happen very rapidly."
I hope everyone in the DC area joins me in saying, "Too little, too late, Jim Graham." It's time to go. Here's the door.
If it's clearly "past time" for there to be changes, then why didn't you demand this sort of action before? Why did you stand by John Catoe and Metro management the entire time, up until now, of course? If we fire Catoe now, we'll have to buy out his ridiculous contract. I'm sure the transit agency can afford that. That'll total what, almost a million dollars for his 3-year extension?
It took nearly six months and Senate hearings for Jim Graham to finally see the writing on the wall. Glad to see you've joined us over here in reality. I really don't enjoy having to say "I told you so," except, I did tell you so.
The "substantial" changes to Metro management could come as early as today. What will these changes look like?
I find it unlikely John Catoe will be fired. Instead, we will see yet another reorganization of Metro's safety division. This is the standard Metro response to criticism. The organizational chart will again be redrawn, again placing the safety chief as reporting directly to the General Manager. They will likely name a new safety officer, and fire Alexa Dupigny-Samuels. Who in the world they will find to be the safety officer is a good question, it will have to be an internal promotion. I'm guessing it will be someone from the rail division, since that's what's getting all of the attention right now.
I can tell you this, if the response to the Senate hearings involves another safety reorganization, I'm going to dedicate 110% of my available time to turning The Price of Safety into a comprehensive research project, wherein I look to publish a complete collection of these missteps and band-aids, and send a copy to every single member of Congress.