There is little doubt the Metrorail system is in desperate need of repair.
Despite a “Safetrack” plan by Metro to bring Metro “Back 2 Good” and despite all the inhouse ads on Metro touting its increased efforts to fix escalators, tracks, bring new metro rail cars online and clean up the metro stations, the federal government recently outlined more than 100 deficiencies the system still faces.
We at The Sentinel decided it was best since our readers are some of the most frequent Metro riders as they go to and from work, to take a close look at the Metro system.
During the last four months we physically inspected every station in Prince Georges and Montgomery County. We have posted the results of those inspections online.
We found copious amounts of garbage, stations left nearly untended, found railway clips - meant to hold the tracks in place - broken and unfixed for months.
We looked into reports that the new 7000 series cars were too heavy for the rail lines.
We spoke with union members, riders, consultants and when possible, Metro managers.
We looked over federal reports, sent more than two dozen freedom of information requests to the jurisdictions governing Metro as well as to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Some of these requests were answered and some were not.
We have continued to pursue these requests and will report on them as the information is sent to us.
We spoke with managers who think members of the various unions who work for Metro are not productive enough to keep Metro running correctly.
We spoke with union members who believe Metro management is trying to break the unions and maintain metro management cares little for safety and more about a healthy bottom line.
Many times we came away with the thought that the unions and management consisted of quite a few “Wile E. Coyotes” - people who are contriving to blow up their opponents just like the Road Runner and in the end doing more harm to themselves than they have to their counterparts.
And in the case of union workers and management both sides seem totally ignorant of the fact they are in a symbiotic professional relationship and by finding this concept foreign to their nature they are doing harm to themselves and to those who depend on Metrorail as part of their daily work commute.
Granted, those who work for and run the local subway are in a unique situation.
Local, state and federal governments in Virginia, Maryland and The District of Columbia oversee the local subway system and at risk of using a hoary old cliché one too many times - too many cooks do spoil the broth.
Paul Wiedefeld, Metro General Manager has perhaps one of the most difficult jobs in the country.
Overseeing this cumbersome system, which also includes buses, is difficult under the best of conditions - answering to as many government officials as Wiedefeld handles is not the best of conditions.
Metro has never been well run - that we can see and some of us have been traveling the Metro subway or bus system for a quarter of century - some of us on the staff at The Sentinel were among the first riders on the subway.
We certainly wish the best for Metro managers and workers as they tackle the continuing problems of providing safe and cost-effective transportation.
But our concern remains in the area of transparency. There are dozens of questions about procurement, maintenance, safety and planning Metro officials refuse to be transparent about.
On numerous occasions we’ve asked for comments, tours, lengthy sit downs to understand the problems Metro management and the rank and file face in trying to provide safe transportation to the masses.
But Metro officials have not only been reticent in providing the media with information, but those in government who oversee Metro have similar complaints.
The time for playing games with the public is over.
Metro may well be on its way to their goal of “Back 2 Good,” which is of questionable grammatical construction - but in reality it is even more questionable if managers refuse to open up the books, the complaints, the inspections and allow the public a good look at what is going on.
Metro is operated by tax money and fares - so in a very real sense everyone who pays taxes or rides the Metro owns a piece of the action.
We are all stakeholders in the safety of the Metro.
We all deserve and demand more transparency.
We all know Metro is broken.
We all know Metro managers are trying to fix it.
That it continues to have problems is a testament - perhaps - to the fact that someone still doesn’t get it.
We all deserve to know why.