Ex-general manager David Gunn to assess D.C. area Metro system

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Metro is contracting with David L. Gunn, a top transit guru and former Metro general manager, to provide an overarching assessment of what ails the system and how to fix it, agency officials said.

Gunn, a Harvard Business School graduate who led Metro from 1991 to 1994, among a string of key transit jobs, plans to arrive in Washington this month for a two-week appraisal of how Metro is run, they said.

"It's like calling in a specialist: 'Give the system a physical, and tell us what you think,' " said Metro board member Mortimer Downey, one of two new federal appointees to the board of directors.

Board Chairman Peter Benjamin said he called upon Gunn and asked him to help define Metro's problems. "If anyone understands the issues of transit and how to solve them, it is Dave," Benjamin said. "We want to get from him a problem statement: What do we need to fix now, and how do we need to fix it?"

Gunn, 72, reached by phone at his home in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, confirmed his appointment, saying he agreed to take on the job because, as he put it, "they need help."

Gunn explained how he will tackle the assessment.

"It's really a look at the management structure and what they are trying to accomplish with that structure and the resources," including the capital and operating budgets, he said.

In addition, he will look into what Metro reports to the board and "what tools are given to the board to perform its role of oversight."

Gunn will have an office in Metro's executive suite, and at the conclusion of his work, he will give an oral report to the board, he said.

Benjamin said he expects that Gunn's report will also help shape the search for a new permanent leader for Metro to replace General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., who announced last month that he will retire April 2.

The decision to bring in Gunn comes as the transit agency faces some of its greatest challenges ever, including a projected $189 million budget deficit for 2011, an $11 billion shortfall in capital funds, an unprecedented string of fatal safety lapses and a major leadership shake-up.

Metro board members spoke glowingly of Gunn's qualifications to provide crucial insights.

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