Station managers were not regularly inspecting emergency cabinets, which are loaded with supplies including flashlights, first aid kits and bullhorns; often, the heavy-duty cabinets were dusty and unorganized, and some employees were found to be using them for storage purposes, according to the report by Metro’s quality control team.
Some of the surveillance monitors inside the stations weren’t functioning “for an extended period of time,” according to the report, for reasons unbeknownst to station managers, compromising their ability to observe the stations from the glass-enclosed booths where they also monitor radios. The review concluded Metro did not properly inform station managers the equipment was being updated, although Metro noted the cameras remained operational and the footage could be viewed from other locations.
It was the 10th in a series of reviews of every facet of Metro’s operations by the transit agency’s Quality Assurance, Internal Compliance & Oversight unit, launched by General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld. The 165-page document was posted online earlier this month, but Metro has otherwise given little public notice to the internal reviews.
The “[quality control] process is voluntary, internal and meant to be self-evaluative,” Metro spokesman Richard L. Jordan said. “This is management policing itself.”
This latest report included a number of recommendations, namely ramping up the number of “spot-checks” to verify station managers are carrying out their job responsibilities. Metro also committed to ensuring stations are stocked with the proper documentation, employees are briefed on their record-keeping requirements and emergency equipment and supplies were available to them and customers, after the report found deficiencies in each of those areas.
Communications, a persistent complaint of Metro customers, was another point of concern.
While the report found the majority of stations managers were “courteous, pleasant and helpful” in their interactions with customers, inspectors noted multiple instances where the employees — often the public face of the system in day-to-day customer exchanges — did not have a visible presence inside stations.
“For example,” the quality control office noted in response to questions, “a Station Manager was observed inside their kiosk during a peak period, which affected the ability to assist customers in negotiating the Metrorail system and station equipment in a proactive manner.” The review also indicated peak periods were a source of stress for station managers: one manager noted performing station inspections for cleanliness and equipment hourly, but not during rush hour.
“The current Standard Operating Procedures require hourly checks regardless of time of day or other demand,” said Angel Peña, managing director of the quality control unit, before noting that Metro is reviewing the feasibility of requiring rush-hour checks.
It was one of a litany of issues turned up in the review of station managers, who number nearly 600 employees, covering 119 kiosks over the 117-mile system.
The report illustrates that station managers have an extensive list of duties, but insufficient oversight in their role. They are responsible for helping customers access the system and station equipment, issuing public announcements, and responding to emergencies and reporting them to the Rail Operations Control Center. They are to observe and monitor elevators and escalators, and test station equipment to make sure it is in proper working order. Their tasks span everything from listening to radios for rail disruptions to helping customers find lost items.
Many of the inadequacies found by the quality control unit centered on paperwork. For example, the report found station managers were using an outdated version of a station condition checklist, which omitted a Federal Transit Administration requirement to inspect the cover of a certain type of electrical outlet. Station managers weren’t consistently recording repairs to equipment such as escalators, elevators and fare gates in work logs, making it difficult for the agency to track follow-up needs. And they weren’t regularly testing elevator intercoms, with some employees positing the system is tested whenever a customer “wrongly presses the Emergency Button,” according to the review.
The Federal Transit Administration and Metro largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
Like past reports, the review included a number of striking conclusions:
At Medical Center, the site of frequent smoke and fire incidents compared to other stations, an inspector found an emergency cabinet was “full of dust,” a flash light lacked batteries and a first aid kit was past its expiration date.
At two stations in June, Prince George’s Plaza and Addison Road, inspectors noted the station managers on site were “not effective in communication,” though the quality control office noted this was only an issue at two of 19 stations.
Accessing safety cabinets was another problem. While the cabinets use a four-digit combination code, managers often struggled to come up with the correct combination on the first try, leading to potential delays during an emergency, according to the report. At Farragut North, a safety cabinet was affixed with a padlock, in violation of Metro standard operating procedure requiring the combination codes, the report said.
Often, emergency equipment checklists for the cabinets weren’t filled out weekly as required, indicating the contents of the cabinets had not been inspected. One employee suggested that because of his experience with the system, he didn’t require the assistance of the checklist, the review said.
“Metro does not consider individual experience and knowledge to be an acceptable substitute for instructions and checklists when completing inspection activities,” Peña said.