Mayer, who will earn $230,000 per year, is expected to start work June 4.
As he enters the position, Mayer will face a looming deadline: The commission is in a hurry to file an application to the Federal Transit Administration for its certification as a federally approved state safety oversight organization.
For the past two and a half years, the FTA has been in charge of safety oversight of the region’s rail system and has been eager to hand over that responsibility to a regional authority.
But the FTA can’t return authority to the local agency until it has been vetted and certified. Until then, the FTA will continue withholding millions of dollars in transit-related funding from the District, Maryland and Virginia. The commission want to submit a formal application for certification to the federal government by September because it likely will take months for the process to be completed.
If the commission earns certification by the federal government’s April 15, 2019, deadline, Mayer will earn a $30,000 bonus.
Mayer’s selection comes after a months-long search, during which nine candidates were vetted and four were interviewed, commission chairman Christopher A. Hart said. All of the finalists were people with operations experience at major transit agencies.
Part of what may have set Mayer apart is his up-close-and-personal experience with Metro. He previously served as managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board and helped lead the agency’s investigation into the 2009 Metro Red Line crash near Fort Totten.
“It helps to know the specifics of the Metro system,” Hart said. “And it also helps that some of the people who are working for Metro, he knows personally, as well, so that can help out ability to have a collaborative program with them because he knows the people.”
Mayer’s hiring means that the safety commission’s top tier of leadership is stacked with alumni of the NTSB, the nation’s top crash investigation and transportation safety agency. Hart and commission vice chair Mark Rosenker are former NTSB chairmen.
“We’ve seen it all,” Hart said of the shared professional experiences from the NTSB. “So, that’s very helpful — to see what’s gone wrong to decide what needs to be done to make it go right.”
In a statement about his hiring, Mayer mentioned his previous experience with Metro.
“Given my previous work at the NTSB and as a former resident of the Washington region and longtime Metrorail commuter, I am very familiar with Metro and understand the importance of ensuring a safe transit system,” Mayer said.
Mayer has been working as chief safety officer at MTA, the largest mass transit agency in the country, since 2014.
His hiring brings the Metrorail Safety Commission one step closer to fulfilling the requirements necessary for the oversight agency to become FTA-certified.
The commission is also seeking to hire three additional people by the beginning of September. Those individuals will likely be transit specialists with expertise in track and rail structures, signal systems and the operations of state safety oversight programs.
Ultimately, nine others will be hired to provide technical expertise as the agency conducts inspections of the Metro system, documents deficiencies and potentially fines the transit system if it fails to meet safety standards.
The rest of the intended staff will have expertise in the fields of accident investigation, communications, elevators and escalators, public safety, industrial hygiene, traction power, rail vehicle maintenance, and operating practices. In the short term, those roles will be filled by contractors.
The commission also has an office manager temporarily working on a contract basis, though that position will likely become permanent.