- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Metro General Manager Richard A. White, who has overseen the transit agency’s highs and lows since 1996, has reached a “mutual” agreement with the Board of Directors to step down, officials announced yesterday.

D.C. Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini, a Metro Board member, will become acting general manager Feb. 16.

Mr. Tangherlini will relinquish his post at the Department of Transportation and resign from the Metro Board.

“We needed to send a message to customers that ‘We’ve heard you, we understand the discontent, and we’re going to begin to address it in several different ways,’” Mr. Tangherlini said.

Mr. White was not available for comment.

Metro board Chairman T. Dana Kauffman stopped short of saying that Mr. White is being fired or is resigning, but said a change was needed. “This is, as clearly stated, a mutually agreed separation,” said Mr. Kauffman, a Democratic member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “This is not a termination. This is not a resignation.”

Board member Jim Graham said that Mr. White’s performance, though successful in many regards, had become stagnant and that the overall feeling of “sameness” made change necessary.

“No man is a man for all seasons,” said Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat on the D.C. Council. “Mr. White was a person for a season that has come and gone.”

Metro Board member Gladys W. Mack, who will become chairman next week, said the process was a matter of “building a consensus” in the past year.

“The work that Mr. White has done has certainly advanced the system in the last 10 years,” she said. “He was a leader for his time, and he brought lots of resources to us.

“But it’s a decade later and a different time now, time for a new vision and a new leader to lead us through the rest of this decade.”

Mr. White is the longest-serving general manager in the agency’s history. He arrived in 1996 after heading the Bay Area Rapid Transit rail system in San Francisco and working with the New Jersey Transit Corp. His contract runs till June 2009.

He oversaw many of Metro’s triumphs, including vastly increased ridership and the completion of the originally planned 103-mile Metrorail system. In February, an international review panel said the Metrorail system was the best in the nation.

However, many of the agency’s setbacks have made headlines during Mr. White’s tenure, including a 2004 scandal in which parking-lot cashiers at subway stations were accused of stealing millions of dollars in parking fees.

Customers also absorbed fare increases in 2003 and 2004. By then, broken elevators and escalators were the norm at subway stations.

In November 2004, two Red Line trains collided at a station, injuring 20 persons.

Mr. White assumed responsibility for much of the agency’s recent troubles and said he had tried diligently in recent months to improve its organizational performance and accountability.

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