(Washington Post staff photograph)

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld began his first day on the job Monday with something that’s familiar to all new hires –a stop at an employee orientation. His first day also included a trip to the transit agency’s rail operations control center and a report from his new staff that showed customer satisfaction with the rail system has dropped precipitously.

Wiedefeld said he arrived at Metro’s headquarters just after 7 a.m. and stumbled into a new employee orientation session on his way to his office. He stopped, said a few words before moving on. He said he plans to include a stop at those sessions, which happen every two weeks, on his regular calendar. Later in the day, he met with Jack Requa, who has served as Metro’s interim general manager since January, and attended a town hall at Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center in Hyattsville.

And there were briefings, many, many briefings, including one on preparations for severe weather.

“It’s been good,” he said late Monday. “It’s been exciting.”

Wiedefeld said in these early days he will focus on three top issues: safety, reliability and Metro’s fiscal health.

Safety and reliability will likely take center stage Thursday as board members review the most recent results of a customer satisfaction survey, which found a sharp drop in satisfaction among rail riders, from 82 percent to 67 percent. (Bus rider satisfaction was up slightly to 82 percent.)

Wiedefeld said he knows one of the early tasks he faces is winning back customers who have turned away from the system.

He said he’s sought advice on that and other issues from a variety of individuals. He said he spoke by phone last week with former Metro general manager Richard Sarles, who retired in January. The pair chatted for about 90 minutes.

“He’s fantastic — a wealth of information,” Wiedefeld said, adding that he also has reached out to other general managers from systems across the country, including another former Metro general manager, Richard White.