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Talkin’ Transit: Hard Questions

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‘Franconia-Springfield metro station’ courtesy of ‘nevermindtheend’

So Metro, now what?

That’s the question in the back of everyone’s minds here in the District after Monday’s tragic Metro accident. It’s not an easy question to ask and in the coming days, how John Catoe and WMATA answers it may well make or break the transit agency.

It will certainly redefine it, for good or ill.

One of the biggest issues I’m seeing so far is the continued lack of communication from WMATA. From the top down, Metro needs a serious reworking of how it communicates with the public, emergency personnel and with itself. Catoe’s shameful performance on WTOP yesterday morning is just one poor example; his response was a canned one, not addressing the reporter’s question but instead rambling into an answer I’d heard verbatim elsewhere. The response was so off the mark that WTOP had to interrupt him twice to try bringing him back to focus.

But more damning is the failure of Metro to let emergency responders know what the magnitude of the situation was in the first critical minutes after the collision. DCFD officials have been critical of how understated the accident was described; fortunately, rescuers realized the magnitude of the incident upon arrival and summoned additional help. But the question remains – what if the proper amount of help had arrived at the start? Would some of the victims be alive today?

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