“I truly believe Metro is a safe system.”
—John Catoe, Metro general manager, June 22
Forget Marion Barry. Forget Jim Graham. Did any public official in this town have a worse year than Catoe? When one Red Line train rammed into another near Fort Totten during the evening rush hour on June 22, Metro’s chief executive was thrust into maintaining public confidence in an aging transit system that had just killed eight of its riders, plus a train operator. In the hours after the tragedy, he uttered the line above, but headlines over subsequent months exposed it as PR masquerading as an expert assessment. Three workers were killed while on the job during 2009. Metro executives barred safety inspectors from a little known oversight body for months. A November yard crash caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. Meanwhile, a record number of suicides plagued Metro tracks. By year’s end, Catoe responded by ditching five members of his senior management team. Calls for his own head persist, but Catoe retains the confidence of WMATA board members, who are damn well convinced they couldn’t find anyone better who’d be willing to take the job.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery