WASHINGTON, D.C. – The new general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) provided a briefing to members of the board of directors for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) detailing his first two months in the role.
Paul Wiedefeld was named general manager and CEO of WMATA effective Nov. 30, 2015. He spoke for approximately 20 minutes during the COG board of directors meeting held on Wednesday, Jan. 13, according to board member Emmett Jordan, who also serves as the mayor of the city of Greenbelt.
“I was impressed with his background and straightforwardness, and his knowledge and focus,” Jordan said. “He has a great wealth of experience and it seems he’s really trying to build support among the stakeholders.”
WMATA officials did not return a request for comment, but Jordan said Wiedefeld told the board his three main goals were safety, service reliability and fiscal management.
“I think that we are working towards ensuring that all of those pieces are not just existing, but high quality. That’s the sentiment Mr. Wiedefeld expressed,” Prince George’s County Council Chair Derrick Davis, a new member of the COG board of directors (Wednesday’s meeting was his first with the organization), said.
Jordan said WMATA is also trying to improve communication with the public. He believes they have made progress in the field of safety, but the public may not know about it because of a lack of communication and transparency.
Wiedefeld has been riding the Metro trains in person to get a feel for how they operate and to meet with riders to get their views on WMATA’s troubles. He is also conducting an internal investigation of WMATA’s structure, which he said had already turned up some problems that will need to be addressed with the help of outside consulting firms.
Jordan also conveyed that WMATA is having difficulties with the vendor supplying their new 7000-series train cars, which will feature electronic maps that show riders exactly where they are.
“(Wiedefeld) talked about keeping fares flat and keeping service up which is always a nifty trick,” Davis said. “It’s something I think he’s going to have to work hard at while we all take a candid look at how we can improve service.”
One of those ways could potentially be by increasing WMATA’s funding. COG plays a role in that by funneling certain federal dollars among its member organizations, and Jordan said transportation funding is one of the organization’s priorities this year.
“Many of us in Maryland would like to see more done in the state of Maryland and in Prince George’s County in particular,” he said.