Service on the train system in the nation’s capital is so poor and inconsistent that riders have taken it upon themselves to start a union.
Regular riders of the DC Metro system formed the “WMATA Riders’ Union” last week just before a meeeting at WMATA headquarters to discuss last month’s derailment.
So far, more than 500 people have signed up to be part of the union of frustrated riders. According to the union’s website, it is an independent organization meant to cooperate with WMATA to “ensure the concerns of the riding are heard and addressed.”
The union would go to WMATA board meetings and hopes to one day have a voting member on the board, The Washington Post reports. Though that may be difficult, because in order to do that it would require a change to the agency’s governing compact, which would need to be approved by the D.C. government, Maryland and Virginia, along with legislation in Congress.
In the mean time, though, a union representative told the Washington City Paper the organization will be very active on social media and will attempt to hold WMATA accountable.
“I foresee us doing web polls or getting feedback on Twitter and compiling that information,” Chris Barnes, the founder of the union, told the paper.
The push for a union comes after several safety incidents this year have brought increased scrutiny on the public transportation authority.
In January, a smoke incident in one of Metro’s tunnels left a woman dead and several other riders hospitalized.
Last month, an early morning derailment caused major delays on three different train lines. A report later found that WMATA officials had knowledge of a track defect that caused the derailment but didn’t act on it.
The derailment was caused by several rail fasteners that failed to keep the train rails in place. The defective rail fasteners were documented by a Metro employee a month before the derailment, but no one in the agency took action to fix them.
The broken track should have qualified as a “level black” track defect, which would immediately shutdown the track and require maintenance. Instead, the operator who noticed the track problem deleted the data in a report given to maintenance crews.
Last week, WMATA’s Chief Safety Officer, James Dougherty, stepped down from his position following uproar about the derailment debacle.
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