Metro has posted a “News Q & A: June 22 Red Line Collision” in an effort to communicate better about the events of a week ago.
Probably one key question we all want to know is “Are Metro’s 1000-series rail cars safe?”
To this, Metro says: “All of Metro's 1,126 Metrorail cars are safe, including the 1000-series rail cars. Metro is subject to oversight from the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC).”
That also appears to be the answer to a question we posed last week regarding oversight of WMATA.
But wait a minute.
In the aftermath of the accident, ABC 7 found that the TOC has "no office and it's not clear who is a member."
According to this excellent and scary Washington Post article from 2005, the TOC “has no regulatory authority.”
“The agency (WMATA) is able to leave safety issues unaddressed without fear of formal sanction because no state, regional or federal regulators have direct power over it.”
Furthermore, the article states, “Internally, Metro's safety department investigates accidents and develops policy recommendations to reduce risks. But it cannot require other departments to abide by its recommendations. The agency also lacks accountability, records show; it rarely fires people who commit serious violations.”
After Monday’s crash, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), held an online chat with the Washington Post, during which she said “There is a regional board called the Tri-State Safety Board. I have not heard of their interventions, but we are in the process of looking at what, if any, regulatory features are part of this system.”
If you Google "Tri-State Safey Board," that Post article is the only result, so she's probably refering to the TOC.
Metro’s odd position in a netherworld of criss crossing, often feuding jurisdictions not only impedes funding, it makes it unaccountable to anyone for such basics like safety.
Instead of pretending there's someone looking over its shoulder, Metro should be screaming for meaningful oversight. It would bolster incredibly the agency's bargaining position regarding funding, but it might shed light on some things WMATA would rather keep in the dark.
If a regulatory agency with teeth had told Metro "either get rid of those 1000-series cars or make them safer by 20XX," Metro would have been able to go to the jurisdictions and say "look, if we don't get money to replace or improve these cars, we're going to have to significantly cut back service. Our hands are tied."
One could easily imagine that under that scenario, the jurisdictions would fall over themselves to fund replacements given the "credible risk of the Federal workforce being stuck in the burbs," as one reader put it.
Stop pretending you have oversight, Metro. We'd all be better off if you played this one straight.
A cheaper route to Metro core capacity? (GGW)