Talkin' Transit, The Features, WMATA

Talkin’ Transit: Face to Face With John Catoe

Photo courtesy of
‘WMATA Blogger Roundtable’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

[Editorial update: We had no idea Catoe would tender his resignation today. And apparently, neither did anyone else at the meeting, except for Mr. Catoe.]

Wednesday afternoon at Metro HQ, we had a chance to sit down with the General Manager, John Catoe, along with ten of our closest blogfriends here in the District. No limits, all on the record, just our recorders and our questions and him. Before we get into the rest, I’d like to thank our contact at Metro, Ron Holzer, for putting this together. Getting direct access to the head of the transit agency is a pretty special thing, and I thank him for the opportunity.

If you’ve ridden Metro in the last few weeks, you’ve experienced the worst that the system has to offer: long delays, packed trains and stations, the system is at a boiling point. Tempers flare from riders and employees, and things are out of hand. We talked a bit about the root causes of the situation we’re in, and much leads back to the Crash of June 22nd. Metro relies on its Automatic Train Operation (ATO) system to operate at its highest efficiency levels. ATO allows for higher speeds, better control in a delayed operation situation, and right now it’s not available to the operations staff. That’s a choice made by Catoe and the Metro Board, until such time as they have the final NTSB report, and until they have the realtime detection system in place and operating. That’s months away at this point, with no clear timetable in place other than “this year.”

Better than that, Catoe admitted that they’re having an engineering problem since they went to mixed-model trains (to move the 1000-series cars to the center of trains) with doors not operating properly and sometimes not accepting the proper signals to close or open, which has lead to some of the platform crowding that we’re seeing on a daily basis. So that’s where we are. And we’re likely facing that sort of delay well into the Spring, when we’re looking at potential fare hikes and service cuts. But what about that shortfall? Continue reading

News, People, Special Events, The Daily Feed, WMATA

Live Metro Chat on Friday

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courtesy of ‘Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie’

WMATA is hosting a live chat with John Catoe this Friday from noon-1pm. This chat will be in the wake of the Thursday board meeting, during which general cuts to service are expected to be announced.  Metro is dealing with a $40 Million deficit, which the blame largely on decreased ridership due to the economic downturn, and in the wake to the train crash in June of last year.  Expect questions on how individual routes, particularly bus routes, will be effected by service downgrade.  You can join the chat here.

Talkin' Transit, The Features, WMATA, WTF?!

Talkin’ Transit: In the Dark

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‘Where To Set One’s Eyes’ courtesy of ‘Bogotron’

It’s been a month since the fatal Red Line crash outside of Fort Totten. You’d think a deadly event like that would force some changes over at Metro at how they do things, right? More accountability, more transparency, better oversight, more concern for public safety..

Initially, I was impressed on the fact that they were at least trying. Despite some hard questions. Now, however, I’m not so sure.

Everyone by now has heard about the Post’s pretty damning report regarding Metro and the continual widespread failure of track circuits on four of the five lines. Incredibly scary stuff; those circuits are used to keep track of trains, their speed and location. The failure of such a circuit seems to be the cause of last month’s accident – though the NTSB has not officially announced the actual cause. Metro rail chief Dave Kubicek has downplayed the Post’s report, saying that none of the problems detected are anything close to the track circuit problem at the crash site. He insisted again that “the rail system is safe” and that it’s “a gross exaggeration” to suggest it’s widespread.

What is troubling isn’t just the technology failure; it’s how Metro’s handling it and other issues that have popped up lately.

Continue reading

The Daily Feed, WMATA

The Best Transit Manager in the Nation!

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Karon’

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has named Metro’s own John Catoe as the best public transportation manager of 2009.  APTA has credited Catoe for managing Metro well during Inauguration craziness, as well as improving safety system-wide in the wake of several Metro-related pedestrian fatalities.  Metro has started calling itself “The Best Ride in the Nation”, and with this honor, it doesn’t seem so off-base.

What do you think?  Has your commute gotten significantly better since January 2007, when Catoe began at Metro?