Local media report that John Catoe will be resigning as General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, ‘Metro’). He will step down on April 2.
Catoe became Metro GM in 2006, inheriting an already-failing transit system. During his tenure, Metro’s precipitous slide in quality and safety continued unabated—culminating in a deadly MetroRail crash last June. Metro has habitually ignored safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Many area residents (myself included) now consider the system unsafe.
Metro has never implemented a redundant fail-safe train detection system, so single failures can cascade into deadly accidents. In fact, there are multiple single points of failure in the system that have caused documented accidents and near-misses. In the aftermath of the June crash, Catoe claimed that no transit system has redundant train detection systems, but here in the real world we know that many have them. In fact, San Francisco’s BART system—often called a ‘sister system’ to Metro because of their technical similarities—implemented a fail-safe mechanism in the 1970s.
When Catoe’s contract was extended by the Metro Board of Directors in September, I issued a call for accountability. I renew that call today. This would be a great opportunity both to replace Catoe with a strong, capable leader and reform the structure of the unaccountable Metro Board. If you’re a D.C.-area resident, write your representatives and tell them so.