General Manager Richard S. Page is planning a major shakeup of Metro's transit management, which a new report has criticized as being heavily oriented in favor of the subway instead of the bus.
The report, from a West Coast management consultant, is particularly critical of bus management and its lack of responsiveness to the complaints and suggestions of passengers. Page will take the report and a reorganization proposal to a Metro board committee today.
"The support services throughout [Metro] tend to give highest priority to . . . the rail system with the consequence that the bus system does not receive the level or timeliness of service it requires . . . ," consultant Robert A. Crisera wrote.
He cited as one example the fact that it took six months to get Metro's engineering office to fix a major leak in the roof at the Northern Garage in Northwest Washington. The result for riders in Montgomery County and upper Northwest D.C. ws the maintenance for their buses was delayed or deferred. The Northern Garage has a higher than usual incidence of buses that break down in service.
What Page intends to do is decentralize control of bus operation the fourth largest in the United States. Everything from the disciplining of drivers to the ordering of parts is handled in Metro's downtown headquarters building, leaving the chiefs of Metro's nine garages with much responsibility and little authority.
Page intends to place those garages under three area superintendents and merge the maintenance and operational functions at the garage level. That wil be a revolution.
The rift between Metro's drivers and mechanics is legend Drivers complain that mechanics never fix reported problems on buses; mechanics complain that the problems come from overzealous driving. Metro's brand new director of bus services, Thomas Black, discovered how this translates into problems for riders.In the first two weeks he was on the job, three buses he was riding broke down in service.
Another major problem Crisera spotlighted was the maddening experience many riders have had of making complaints or suggestions to Metro's complaint service only to know, deep down inside, that nothing would ever happen. "Information from the public . . . does not find its way to operations as a mechanism for positive change," Crisera wrote.
Crisera also found severe shortcomings in Metro's handling of personnel matters and labor relations. The former, he said, is slow in meeting the needs of various offices; the latter inevitably is involved in "firefighting" instead of preventive labor relations work. He recommended their merger, and Page intends to go along.
Crisera's highest praise is for Metro's subway construction office, the glamorous shop that oversees the building of the area's $8 billion rail transit system. Rail construction is what Metro did first and is what it still does best. The problem is the Metro also has had responsibility for operating all public transit in the Washington area since 1973 and still is not well organized to do it.
"It think Page has a tremendous opportunity," Criesera said in an interview, because 17 senior management jobs will become vacant through retirement in the near future. Page recently filled two top posts from outside Metro: the office of bus service, which received the most criticism, and the chief transit operating office, which was a close second.
Cleatus Barnett, immediate past chairman of the Metro board, said he is pleased with the study. He disagreed, however, with Crisera's assertion that the board is too involved in the daily operations of the transit system. "There is no way to board can relieve itself of responsibility of managing that operation," Barnett said.
Crisera received about $600,000 for the study. He said that his firm specialized in management work for private industry, not government, and noted the differences.
"I was struck that there was this very centralized organization without a lot of goal orientation and no sense of accountability on the part of the managers," he said. "Everybody works but it's more like putting in time rather than trying to make specific things happen."