Monday, April 4, 2022

WMATA to address Rockville Metro safety concerns at Mayor & Council meeting tonight

Representatives of transit agency WMATA will appear before Rockville's Mayor and Council tonight at 7:00 PM, to respond to elected officials' concerns about safety and recent shutdowns of the system's Shady Grove and Rockville stations for extended periods. Outgoing WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld addressed five concerns the Mayor and Council expressed in a letter in late 2021, ahead of tonight's presentation.

When asked why WMATA delayed in tackling defects on its 7000-series railcars, Wiedefeld completely dodged the question in his written response. Instead, he reiterated the general pablum the agency has released to the public since the removal of the 7000 cars led to reduced service, promising more details in the future when a consultant WMATA hired completes its investigation.

The timetable for the return of the 7000-series cars also remains vague in the written response to officials' second question. However, since Wiedefeld wrote the letter, it was announced that the cars won't be back in use until sometime this summer.

In response to two questions about rider safety during the pandemic, and how it will be maintained as more workers return to commuting in the future, Wiedefeld mentioned several policies and public relations initiatives. Some, such distributing face masks to unmasked riders, have been in place during the worst of the pandemic. Others, such as a new awareness campaign, will begin later this year.

Finally, officials asked how safety would become more transparent at WMATA. Wiedefeld did not have any new developments on that front, either. He pointed to existing accountability measures that have been in place for some time. City officials will have the opportunity to press WMATA on these and other less-than-upfront responses at the meeting tonight.

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