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“Safety is our first credo,” he said. “When you operate in an urban environment like we do, you have to be vigilant.”

Although the Los Angeles system boards 163,000 people per day on its subway systems, less than a quarter of the WMATA’s burden, Mr. Littman said, safety training and communication permeate his system efficiently.

No crashes have occurred in the past two decades of the subway system operations, Mr. Littman said, adding that a crash would be impossible because the systems there detect train presence and respond automatically.

“We have positive train control on the subway so you can’t have two trains on one block,” he said. “They would stop automatically.”

The lack of consistency in safety staff leadership was criticized at the meeting, too. Since 1996, the chief safety officer had the reporting structure changed eight times, and the safety team had a staff vacancy rate averaging about 25 percent.

“They do need stability and continuity,” said Ms. Hersman, who also questioned the turnover within WMATA.

Ms. Hersman especially criticized the approximately 8,000 alarms that go off per week, routinely ignored by Metro employees. The NTSB determined that the alarms were ignored because they were inaccurate so often.

“It’s definitely a surprise to see how inept some of these things are,” Ms. Hersman said.

Developing non-punitive reporting systems, holding employees accountable, establishing sound policies and procedures and engaging the board of directors and general managers and learning from bad things are all steps members said WMATA can take toward becoming a culture of safety.

Board members said the process of cultivating a culture of safety will take months and years.