Delaney proposes massive changes in the way Metro conducts business
A local representative said he has the legislative medicine to cure Metro’s ills.
“This legislation removes the brakes that have held back reform for too long,” said Rep. John Delaney (D-6), sponsor of the “WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) Improvement Act of 2017.”
If both the House and the Senate pass the bill and the jurisdictions complete the steps outlined in the legislation, WMATA would receive $150 million in annual funding: $75 million divided equally between the jurisdictions and $75 million from the Department of Transportation.
In the bill, Delaney said WMATA would have to reduce the size of the board to nine and raise qualifications for board members. The board would have two fiduciary members representing the three jurisdictions and the federal government, plus WMATA’s chief executive officer.
Every board member would be required to be a certified expert in safety, transit, finance or management within 18 months of the bill being passed, according to a news release from Delaney’s office.
A certified safety expert would need a minimum of five years experience as “a chairman, director, senior investigator or equivalent position of a transportation or transit safety board in the United States,” according to the bill. A person certified in management would have had to manage a staff of at least 1,000 employees for a minimum of five years in the capacity of president, chairman, chief financial officer or managing partner.
With the current board, Metro would only need to find members who meet the qualifications for the three jurisdictions. Anthony Foxx, the previous secretary of the Transportation Department, fired three of four federal board members and replaced them with individuals with backgrounds in safety in April.
WMATA Board member Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said he supports most of the bill. He said he would support shrinking the size of the board and increasing federal funding.
The money would be put toward capital projects and preventative maintenance, according to the bill. Goldman said this could help with WMATA’s operating fund challenges.
“(It) frees up, for Maryland and the District especially, the ability to put more money in the operating budget which is where I think WMATA is going to have big problems over the next couple of years,” Goldman said. “(That will) continue to be a difficult matter for the board because expenses are increasing more rapidly than revenue.”
However, he said he would likely no longer be qualified as a member, if the board member requirements are passed along with the bill.
“Probably not, which is why I don’t think it’s a very good provision in the bill,” Goldman said, regarding his likelihood of remaining on the board. “It’s a solution looking for a problem that doesn’t exist.”
He said he wants to remain on the board and be a part of improving Metro in safety and service.
“I think at this point it’s a desire to be around to show that we’ve accomplished something, so that we have the feeling that time spent has pursued things worthwhile,” said Goldman.
“I could be part of a board that really makes this system a more safe and reliable system, and does things that would make WMATA a better transit system for the region,” he added.
The bill also calls for Metro to amend its collective bargaining agreement, which Delaney said does not allow safety and service to improve. The amended collective bargaining agreement must “allow the transit authority to implement all necessary operational changes required both to provide a high level of service, reliability, and safety as well as lower costs by selectively using competitive bidding for certain capital improvement projects,” according to the bill.