- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A pilot program could be on the way for Metro’s Red Line to have its own manager — an effort by the transit agency to improve service reliability by having stricter oversight of the rail lines.

At a press briefing yesterday, Richard A. White, Metro’s chief executive officer, said the manager would be responsible for customer and train service. Instead of 12 departments reporting directly to him, Mr. White would have eight.

Pending the full board’s approval at today’s weekly board meeting, two other managers — one for the Orange and Blue lines and one for the Green and Yellow lines — would be in place later this year.

The management changes will show more clearly who is accountable.

“This is not a minor moving around of boxes,” Mr. White said. “It’s a pretty fundamental shift to ensure we’re better equipped to perform as an organization.”

The changes “stay in step with the focus on accountability,” said Steven A. Feil, chief operating officer for rail service.

Mr. Feil said he also plans to increase the number of rail inspections. Next year’s budget calls for the number of track maintenance and inspection workers to increase from 31 to 55.

Mr. White said the agency also is working with its para-transit contractor to eliminate fraud and missed trips.

Last fall, Metro officials placed a manager on leave and removed two contract managers after a preliminary audit showed discrepancies in the agency’s transportation service for riders with disabilities.

Mr. White said in October that the internal audit showed that contracted employees for Atlanta-based LogistiCare Inc. possibly bilked the system out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The audit showed that performance records may have been altered to earn as much as $110,000 per month in performance-based incentives, Mr. White said.

Auditors became concerned about LogistiCare’s reports on how frequently buses arrived on time despite an increasing number of complaints, officials said.

Metro has taken over handling customer complaints for LogistiCare to eliminate the possible conflict of interest, Mr. White said yesterday. The most-recent data shows LogistiCare’s on-time performance rate for the company is at 93 percent, he said.

Metro has improved efforts to show when trips are late or missed altogether. The audit revealed that when drivers did not show up, it was not documented on the performance reports. The records just accounted for late arrivals.

Mr. White commended LogistiCare officials for cooperating with Metro to “completely ferret out” any fraud and inaccurate data. “LogistiCare has been as focused as us to make sure the data is as accurate as can be. The number of complaints has leveled off, largely because of the work that we and LogistiCare have done over the past few months.”

The Metro manager — who was put on paid leave while the investigation is under way — has since filed for retirement, Mr. White said yesterday.

The agency’s para-transit contract comes up for bid this summer. The full board is expected to vote today on extending LogistiCare’s deal until Jan. 14, until another contractor can be found.

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