- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld fired 20 managers Friday and reduced the number of people who report directly to him in an effort to streamline the transit agency ahead of a yearlong overhaul of the subway system prompted by decades of lax safety management.

“I began management restructuring by reducing my direct reports from 21 to 9, and departments are currently being realigned under the new structure. This includes streamlining management to improve effectiveness and accountability,” Mr. Wiedefeld said in an internal memo obtained by The Washington Times.

The realignment, which was prompted by a March Customer Accountability Report, affected managers in several areas of Metro, including the system’s procurement shop, where John Shackelford was laid off.

Mr. Shackelford was widely criticized last year when Metro was forced to keep some railcars out of service because mechanics had run out of spare parts to fix them. That caused a shortage of trains on the nation’s second busiest subway system and led to much more crowded cars.

More than a one-third of those fired were part of rail operations and seven were senior managers. Mr. Wiedefeld said he would not comment on individual employees or their performance.

The layoffs could continue. The March report also calls for Mr. Wiedefeld to eliminate redundant positions within Metro, and he said in the memo that a review is underway.

Mr. Wiedefeld received praise from Rep. Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat, who had called for the firing of Metro managers during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing last month.

“People have to be held accountable. The Metro General Manager has been urged to do that. I hope this sends a signal across the entire Metro organization that safety and customer service must come first,” Mr. Connolly said Friday in a statement.

The firings come just weeks before the system will start a nearly yearlong overhaul that will include shutting down portions of certain subway lines for up to three weeks.

In June, Metro will start its “SafeTrack” program to repair the broken system and work is expected to last until March.

“Please stay focused on safety first and foremost, particularly as we advance the new SafeTrack plan,” Mr. Wiedefeld said in the memo.

The first leg of the reconstruction will last from June 4-16 and will affected the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. During that time, the Orange and Silver lines will be single-tracking from the Ballston to East Falls Church stations in Virginia.

In August, the Blue, Orange and Silver lines from Eastern Market to the Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue stations will shut down completely, meaning the Blue line will only operate in Virginia and the other two lines will have disrupted service with Metro busses trying to make up the difference.

Federal workers could get some reprieve from the delayed commutes this summer. The Office of Personnel Management said it’s finalizing the guidance meant to help agency managers deal with the transportation delays. During significant weather events agencies often direct their employees to telework if at all possible. The same happened in March during Metro’s 29-hour system-wide shutdown to inspect power cables in the subway.

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