Metro has endured heavy criticism this year for train malfunctions, assaults of bus drivers and other service deficiencies, but the transit agency’s leadership said Thursday it’s not as bad as people think.
“We’ve accomplished a major goal this year of getting our entire region to focus on Metro,” said board chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans after Metro’s last meeting of the year. “Not a meeting I go to that people don’t talk about how Metro is the [nucleus] of the region.”
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said progress has been made during the year such as the “Back2Good” program.
According to the agency, the systemwide improvements included:
• A 60 percent decrease in Red Line signal overruns;
• Nearly nine out of 10 customers trips arrived on time in October, compared to seven out of 10 during the same period last year; and
• Completion of all corrective actions from the Federal Transit Administration, which permits Metro better access to federal money.
The agency announced Thursday that free Wi-Fi service will extend to 24 additional Metrorail stations, bringing the total to 30.
“I do know from a customer perspective, I do know we are providing better service,” Wiedefeld said. “I’m very proud of our employees for what they’ve done over the past year … to move in the direction we want to go. We still have a long way to go.”
Metro’s most recent issue stemmed from a glitch in a 40-year-old communications cable along the Red Line on Tuesday. The cable, which dates back to when the system opened, helps transmit speed and location information between the Brookland, Fort Totten and Takoma stations in D.C.
Only one train will go through at a time between those stations while new cables are installed, and officials warned riders the work will result in congestion and delays.
All service should resume back to normal by Monday.
The year will end with at least one major unresolved issue for the agency: dedicated revenue from D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
To make the system safe and reliable, Wiedefeld has requested $165 million from each jurisdiction for fiscal 2019.
Evans said the agency has received 20 plans to fix Metro, but none offered dedicated revenue.
“The concern I have is … by the end of April we will not have a dedicated funding source for Metro,” he said. “After all the work that I’ve done and all the work that Paul’s done, there are so many people in important positions in the region that still don’t really understand Metro. That’s a task we are just going to have to continue [through] education to make it happen.”