For Immediate Release: December 7, 2017
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Brian Coy, Brian.Coy@governor.virginia.gov | Department of Rail and Public Transport: Chris Smith, (804) 225-3930, chris.smith@drpt.virginia.gov

Governor McAuliffe and Former USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood Release Independent WMATA Review

~Governor McAuliffe commissioned the review to address and improve national capital region’s critical transit system~

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Governor Terry McAuliffe and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Ray LaHood this week released Secretary LaHood’s independent review of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). In order to look for opportunities for improvement and dispel myths about the various issues impacting WMATA’s performance, Governor McAuliffe commissioned Secretary LaHood to conduct this independent and objective review of the operating, governance, and financial conditions atMetro. Secretary LaHood delivered the report to Governor McAuliffe on Tuesday, December 5th and the Governor released it today after review by his administration.

“WMATA provides critical transportation not only for the thousands of Virginia commuters and businesses it serves, but also for the capital region’s many visitors, and it is essential to the long-term success of our new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I am confident that if Secretary LaHood’s recommendations are enacted, then WMATA can once again provide travelers with safe and reliable transportation.”

Secretary LaHood’s review focuses on WMATA’s current condition in several key areas including: board governance and structure, labor costs, employee benefits, safety, and operational reliability, and benchmarks WMATA relative to its peer agencies nationwide. The review also provides a comprehensive set of recommendations that WMATA and its member jurisdictions in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia can consider to bring the nation’s second-largest mass transit system back into a state of good repair.

The conclusion of Secretary LaHood’s work reinforces the Commonwealth’s commitment to safe and reliable transportation options for its citizens, including the hundreds of thousands who rely on WMATA as a daily transportation option.

“To maintain its leadership in the world of transportation, Virginia had to stop and find out what it can do to restore confidence in WMATA,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. “We look forward to working with our partners in D.C. and Maryland to implement many of these recommendations that will make WMATA safer and more reliable.”

Among the key findings, Secretary LaHood has noted:

  •          WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld is performing well.
  •          The existing WMATA Board continues to function poorly due to its large size (16 members) and a structure that encourages a highly parochial, rather than systemic, approach to managing a regional transit system.
  •          WMATA costs are mostly average and comparable to other large transit agencies.
  •          WMATA ridership has declined at a faster rate than national transit ridership.
  •          WMATA offers more service per rider than other large transit agencies.
  •          WMATA has no capital funds of its own, and the jurisdictions that fund its capital needs have not provided enough to keep the system in acceptable condition.
  •          WMATA can be improved without opening the Interstate Compact that governs it, which could take years.

In addition to his findings, Secretary LaHood has recommended the following:

  •          Install a temporary Reform Board, thus replacing the current sixteen-member board with a five-member board.
  •          Offer service that matches actual demand. By resetting the WMATA bus service, both finances and the customer experience will be improved.
  •          Manage costs and increase productivity in the next labor contract.
  •          Reliably deliver a large capital program to increase the pace of repairing or replacing aging infrastructure.
  •          Provide WMATA with dedicated capital funding. It is estimated that $500 million per year is needed for additional capital funding, and without it, WMATA will never be fixed. Each of WMATA’s funding partners will need to play a role in raising funds.
  •          Create a new dedicated source of capital funding for WMATA at the federal level, as nearly 40 percent of rush hour Metrorail riders are federal employees. Congress and the administration should create a successor program of dedicated WMATA funding to take over once the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) funding expires.

Secretary LaHood’s study can be found at www.drpt.virginia.gov

 

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