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Paul J. Wiedefeld, whom Metro’s board this morning appointed as the agency’s new general manager and CEO, will be making close to $400,000 a year in compensation (not including benefits and potential bonuses). But he says customers shouldn’t pay more than they already do to ride Metro until the system’s reliability improves: “I don’t think this is the time to be asking people for more money.”

In a half-hour session with reporters after Metro’s board of directors formally installed him, Wiedefeld delivered wide-ranging remarks on his professional experiences, priorities for the agency, and vision of making Metro a “world-class system.” He said his main concern is rendering Metro “the best product” possible, which he plans to do by enforcing higher operating standards for staff, getting a full-time safety officer (a slot that’s been filled on an interim basis since September), and figuring out the most-efficient way to implement track maintenance for Metrorail given that it’s a two-track system. Wiedefeld, 60, repeatedly described Metro’s current state as a “challenge.”

“I’m not going to be held captive up in this building,” Wiedefeld quipped, referring to Metro’s headquarters near the Gallery Place-Chinatown station, adding that he’ll regularly use Metrorail. “To me, [‘world-class’] starts off with a totally reliable system where you’re not thinking about some of the things you’re thinking about right now. We should never have to think about safety; it should be a given. We need to move in that direction, so when someone comes here to visit, they go back and say, ‘Hey, I saw this at that transit agency.'”

The former Baltimore-Washington International Airport executive said he has already met with the Federal Transit Administration’s Therese McMillan to discuss the safety and financial directives the FTA has issued as part of its increased oversight of the agency. Wiedefeld will confer with Metro’s staff about the 91 “corrective actions” the FTA promulgated in June once he starts in his new role on Monday, Nov. 30. “We are partners in this,” Wiedefeld said of Metro’s novel relationship with the feds. “This is not an outside-looking-in type of arrangement, and that’s how we’re going to get passed this.”

On a personal note, Wiedefeld shared a little about his family (he has a wife and a 16-year-old daughter) and said he’s looking to find a residence in D.C., likely along the eastern half of the Red Line and perhaps in NoMa.

“I’m not a nerd… period,” Wiedefeld said in response to one reporter’s question if he identifies as a “transit nerd” or “change agent.” “My background is running complex organizations that have lots and lots of moving parts, lots and lots of stakeholders, and trying to articulate where we’re trying to get to, and then putting things in place to get there, both internally and externally, and creating those relationships. That’s what I do.”

Photo by Andrew Giambrone