WASHINGTON, DC – A Task Force report released today calls for dramatic changes to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to make certain that Metro is a safe and efficient transit system that meets the needs of the Greater Washington region.
The key finding of the Task Force is that shortcomings in Metro’s governance structure are contributing to its decline. Therefore, the Task Force recommends crucial changes to the overall governance structure of the Metro system to improve responsibility, accountability, leadership, and performance. Specifically, the panel recommends that the governors of Maryland and Virginia and mayor of the District of Columbia take a much stronger role in selecting the members and chairman of the WMATA board. Key proposals, which would require revision to the Compact that established the transit system, would allow the selection of a chairman from outside the board’s membership, as well as the selection of the most qualified board members whether or not they are elected officials. The group’s overarching recommendation is that signatories to the Compact form a WMATA Governance Commission to make the improvements and hold the board accountable for its performance.
“A high-performing, sustainable, and safe transit system is essential to our residents and regional economy. Millions of riders rely on Metro – from employees of our businesses to federal government workers to tourists. We must ensure confidence in the Metro system,” said Kwame Brown, co-chair of the Task Force, COG Chairman and D.C. Council-chair Elect.
“Every issue and challenge – and, therefore, every improvement - for Metro depends on effective governance. What may have been an appropriate governance structure for Metro in the 1960’s is not appropriate to operate today’s mature system,” said Jim Dyke, co-chair of the Task Force, Chairman of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and a partner at McGuireWoods. “The history of Metro is one of excellence and innovation. We need to come together as a region and make the governance changes that will propel Metro to regain its stature as the world-class transit system we need now and for the future.”
The Joint WMATA Governance Review Task Force was formed last June and is sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade (BOT) and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). The 18-member Task Force was comprised of business and political leaders from the region, including former Congresswoman Connie Morella, former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, Trinity Washington University President Patricia McGuire, and Vice Chair of the Fairfax County Supervisors Penelope A. Gross.
The Task Force recommends that the new Governance Commission take immediate action to put in place governance best-practices including:
- Clearly defined and uniform role descriptions and responsibilities for the WMATA Board;
- Transparent, accountable, and coordinated appointment processes for Board members;
- and Staggered Board terms and term limits.
“WMATA has had two GMs and two interim GMs over the past five years. No organization can operate effectively with that kind of turnover,” said Jim Dinegar, President & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “The lack of clear accountability and responsibility is eroding faith in the system among riders, funders, business leaders, and government officials. The increasing lack of confidence is a reality that threatens the future of the system.”
The Task Force calls for the WMATA Governance Commission to include seven members:
- Maryland Governor
- Virginia Governor
- District of Columbia Mayor
- Washington Suburban Transit Commission Chair
- Northern Virginia Transportation Commission Chair
- District of Columbia Council Chair
- General Services Administration Administrator
“Following a series of incidents and ongoing budget and management problems at WMATA, there is a palpable loss in confidence that the agency is headed in the right direction,” said David Robertson, Executive Director at COG. “The Task Force believes that it is necessary to look at the leadership structure and set forth governance changes that will improve leadership, accountability, and performance at WMATA. It makes sense to begin that process now before a new general manager is brought on board.”
Many of the Task Force recommendations can be implemented immediately. Some recommendations will require action on the part of the WMATA Board while others will require modifications to the WMATA Compact and can only be implemented if signatories to the WMATA Compact initiate action to make the changes. The Task Force strongly recommends that the Compact be modified to achieve the necessary accountability, transparency, and responsibility at Metro. Key recommendations include:
- Give the Appointing Authorities greater flexibility to select the most qualified Board members, whether they be elected or non-elected;
- Eliminate the role of alternates and increase the number of primary members from two to three for each Appointing Authority, resulting in a 12-member Board, with one member appointed by the Chief Executive of each Signatory;
- Enable the WMATA Governance Commission to appoint a Chair from outside the Board’s membership, agree on the compensation for the Chair, and increase the length of the Chair’s term to four years; and
- Determine the appropriate role for the veto in WMATA’s decision-making process, and give serious consideration to eliminating it entirely.
The Task Force Report will be submitted to the WMATA Board, and to the Signatories and Appointing Authorities as defined in the WMATA Compact.
To download the report, Moving Metro Forward, click here.