After years of safety and customer service concerns, and promises of improvements, Metro’s new general manager has his work cut out for him, on his first official day at the helm of agency.
Paul Wiedefeld tells WTOP he’s determined to instill a culture of safety at the agency.
“It starts with me,” said Wiedefeld, “making sure that everyone understands that is the most important thing we do.”
“From the operator on up, everyone (will) understand that their job is to make sure we move our employees and our customers safely, every single day, every single minute of the day.”
After meeting with employees within agency, as well as the Federal Transit Administration, which provides oversight to Metro, Wiedefeld has asked for patience.
On WTOP, asked how long riders should expect to wait before seeing signs of change, Wiedefeld didn’t offer a timeline, but promised “we’ll get there.”
“I understand the frustration of the customers, and to be frank, if I’m sitting in their shoes, I’m not going to be patient, either,” he said.
Despite its problems, Wiedefeld says Metro remains an important cog in the region.
“It’s fantastic what it means to the metropolitan region, in terms of the economy, in terms of congestion relief, in terms of pollution — just everything that it does,” said Wiedefeld.
Wiedefeld, who will receive an annual salary of $397,500, says he wants to return the system to the days it was an example of efficient, reliable mass transit.
“I’m very excited. I think we’ve got great opportunities in front of us. A lot of work to do, no doubt about it,” he said.
Still, Wiedefeld believes employees, riders, and those whose business is affected by Metro are united.
“They want to see us succeed, they want us to get back to where we’ve been, and I’m looking forward to doing that,” Wiedefeld said.