Peter Rogoff is administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, part of DOT.

U.S. Transit Administrator Exposes WMATA's Flaws

A safety culture in shambles is what Peter Rogoff said exists inside the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but he put it more nicely when he said its Safety Department "has been dysfunctional and ineffective."

The Federal Transit Administration has taken a rare look inside the safety culture of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, conducting an audit at the request of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, with the encouragement of WMATA's interim chief safety officer. Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff released the audit report yesterday and also released a statement about the findings. While he described a WMATA safety culture in shambles -- Rogoff said its Safety Department "has been dysfunctional and ineffective" -- he made it clear there are problems in other large transit agencies around the country and said Congress must pass the Obama administration's transit safety reform bill (S. 1506, the National Metro Safety Act). Without it, FTA cannot propose safety regulations or conduct safety oversight, he said.

"The Metrorail crash last summer certainly accelerated our efforts within the Obama Administration to develop and transmit our transit safety reform bill," Rogoff said. "However, we have also been focused on accidents and safety lapses at the Chicago Transit Authority, the MUNI system in San Francisco, the 'T' up in Boston, and elsewhere. While we believe the situation at Washington Metro is particularly troubling, some of the deficiencies and vulnerabilities that we identified in our audit of Metro and the [Tri-State Oversight Committee] are similar to problems that exist at transit agencies and State Safety Organizations across America. That is precisely why we need Congress to move forward with our transit safety reform bill now."

At the time the audit was conducted, WMATA's Safety Department had a 25 percent vacancy rate, and the department had been reorganized six times since 2005 and had been headed by four different individuals since 2007, he said.

Train crashes are not the only safety incidents the agency has experienced recently; two track workers were stuck and killed by a track repair vehicle. Rogoff addressed this directly, saying WMATA "must institute a better process for protecting track workers." WMATA developed right-of-way protection rules after a 2006 accident, but FTA interviews showed WMATA employees have not been trained on them and, instead, were merely asked to sign indicating they had received them. Nor has the Safety Department been tasked to conduct an analysis of revisions in the rules WMATA intends to make, he said.

"Also, supervisors and operators told FTA that communications from right-of-way workers do not specify their exact location on the alignment," Rogoff said. "Specifically, operators stated that in some cases they do not know if workers are on the [track] alignment until they have visual contact, and, when this occurs, especially in 'blind spots,' operators have limited ability to slow the train."

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Safety Management Software - Free Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Software’s comprehensive suite of modules help organizations to record and manage incidents, inspections, hazards, behavior based safety observations, and much more. Improve safety with an easy to use tool for tracking, notifying and reporting on key safety data.

  • Create Flexible Safety Dashboards

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations allows you to easily create and view safety KPIs to help you make informed business decisions. Our best of breed default indicators can also save you valuable time and effort in monitoring safety metrics.

  • Schedule and Record Observations

    IndustrySafe's Observations module allows managers, supervisors, and employees to conduct observations on employees involved in safety critical behavior. IndustrySafe’s pre-built BBS checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important?

    A near miss is an accident that's waiting to happen. Learn how to investigate these close calls and prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

  • Get the Ultimate Guide to Safety Training

    When it comes to safety training, no matter the industry, there are always questions regarding requirements and certifications. We’ve put together a guide on key safety training topics, requirements for certifications, and answers to common FAQs.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - April 2019

    April 2019


      Taking the Guesswork Out of De-Energizing Industrial Equipment 
      Four Simple and Effective Ways to Avoid Digital Eye Strain
      PPE the Automotive Industry Needs to Invest In
      Eliminate 10 Fire Hazards That May Be in Plain Sight
    View This Issue