I was in the middle of writing a post praising Catoe's candor when discussing difficult topics related to the Metro system. As my readers know, I have been calling for change at the top levels of WMATA since the deadly 6/22 crash.
Events of the last six months have created an unhealthy distraction, says General Manager John B. Catoe Jr.
Says there was no pressure from the board to do this. He decided about a week ago.
Board didn't know this was coming. Convened closed session to hear from him. Mood in the meeting was somber. Board members were not eager to accept his resignation, but this apparently as not negotiable.Catoe held a brief press conference in the middle of the board room. He seemed very emotional but under control. Asked about his achievements, he talked about Metro's performance during the inauguration and the opening of Nationals Park. People had questioned whether Metro could handle those crowds,,but it did he noted. He expxressed great pride in the organization.
There was certainly no indication last night that this move was coming. Catoe seemed engaged and willing to hear criticism. It was obvious that he had taken to heart many of these concerns, and that he was aware that the system was not living up to it's potential. However, absolutely no one expected that he would resign.
It is true that Catoe had remained dogged by continuing concerns about safety, both on Metrorail and Metrobus. Last month Metro announced a shake-up in the safety department, and just last night Catoe told us that he had made it clear to his superintendents and assistant superintendents that safety failures would be grounds for immediate dismissal. He even acknowledged that some people felt that he should be held to that standard.
The ever-present cynic in me has to wonder what prompted this decision. It seems unlikely there was pressure from the Metro Board of Directors, as they recently approved an extension of his contract. Will the NTSB report about the 6/22 crash indicate there was a failure at the top level to assure safety? Or did the criticism of Catoe reach such a level that he simply did not feel it worthwhile to continue? Perhaps these details will be forthcoming, we will have to see.
In any event, this move comes 206 days after the 6/22 crash, and marks the end of the Catoe Watch on this web site.