Shutting Metrorail is a big pain in Uncle Sam’s …
Without the people who work in the federal government or are in some way related to the federal government or sightseers who visit government facilities there would be no Metro.
The decision to close the entire the subway system all day Wednesday for safety inspections has many of those folks outraged.
But is that enough for Congress to step in and say “Enough”?
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) hopes so, which is not the same as predicting so.
“The federal government is the biggest beneficiary of Metro every day,” he said.
Because of that he wants his Capitol Hill colleagues to be “more willing to be supportive of strategic investments Metro desperately needs to get back to a place of excellence and high performance.”
Money isn’t the only answer, but it is part of the solution, he said. Congress could help by contributing to Metro’s operating costs, currently borne by the local jurisdictions.
“Right now we do zero, which is not a fair share,” he added.
With additional funding, Metro could build capacity, such as another tunnel under the Potomac River, more quickly replace old cars and increase training.
“This rather stunning development that apparently necessitates the shutdown of the system will get everyone’s attention,” he said, hoping it leads to discussions about what steps Congress can take to avoid a similar debacle and generally upgrade Metro.
Before being elected to the House, Connolly was chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, where he worked closely with Metro to build the Silver Line.
Now that line is shutting like all the others. But despite Sam’s dependence on Metro, his staff won’t be completely shut out of work. The most recent available Office of Personnel Management data indicate nearly half of 2.1 million federal employees, 85 percent of whom are well beyond the metropolitan area, are eligible to telework. Almost 364,800 teleworked in fiscal year 2013, up from 301,400 the year before. Figures for the area Metro serves were not immediately available.
The Office of Personnel Management says federal offices will be open and “employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.”
Metro’s shutdown “underscores why telework is so important to continuity of operations,” said Connolly, who sponsored the law that advanced its use. “It’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s essential.”
Yet, Connolly said the advance of telework continues to meet “cultural barriers” from managers who think “‘if I can’t see you, you aren’t working.’”
Because of telework Sam will get more work done on Wednesday, even as Metro works not at all.
Telework, Connolly said, “saved a lot of productivity.”