September 7, 2012

Douglas M. Duncan called on Metro to put its riders first . That’s a goal all of us who work for the system share. In fact, over the past two years, we have been steadily making many of the same safety and reliability improvements that Mr. Duncan advocated.

Beginning with board governance reform, and led by senior management together with frontline employees, Metro has put safety at the forefront of its policies, investments and daily practice. We have implemented recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Transit Administration, trained our workforce, bolstered safety management and regularly made detailed progress and incident reports to the full Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board, as well as to the board’s safety committee and the public at large.

On June 11, we announced a customer-service action plan comprising more than 50 initiatives that are underway to improve the customer experience, including many areas on which Mr. Duncan commented. Here are just a few examples of the projects we are delivering: customer-service training for frontline employees, online autoloading for SmarTrip customers, enhanced announcement systems, real-time alerts for train and bus riders, improved communications during incidents and emergencies, and the installation of electronic information boards.

Our regular riders know that we are using nearly every weekend and available overnight hour to improve system safety and reliability. After years of disinvestment and neglect, we are rebuilding the system from the ground up — by modernizing tracks, rail and bus equipment, escalators and elevators, and stations. Metro Forward is the largest capital construction program undertaken since the system opened.

Even in a rebuilding mode, however, we are adding services, including more peak-period trains this summer, and are preparing to add Silver Line service. Bus customers are benefiting from a $5 million investment in Better Bus service upgrades designed to improve reliability in priority corridors, including new limited-stop MetroExtra routes.

Our employees are Metro’s greatest asset in accomplishing these improvements. We make the results transparent through a scorecard called Vital Signs that is posted on our Web site. The annual Vital Signs report demonstrates that Metro has met or exceeded nine of 11 performance metrics.

Of course, we have more work to do to deliver the quality of service our customers expect and deserve. The continued commitment of our partners in Maryland, Virginia and the District to safety, strategic investment and sound public transit policy is helping us put riders first every day.

The writer is general manager and chief executive officer of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.