The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

A Perfect Picture of Government Efficiency: The Washington D.C. Metro

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On June 24, 2010, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced a $5 billion overhaul of the Metrorail and Metrobus system.  However, the results of this retrofit have been underwhelming.  The problems have persisted to such an extreme degree that on May 6, 2016 WMATA announced a further improvement program, the $60 million SafeTrack, to fix the lines.

WMATA calls its prior mistakes “lessons” for the future.  Unfortunately, given its track record, taxpayers remain unconvinced that it will learn from these past lessons and rectify its long standing problems.  WMATA is fortunate that it receives public funding because if a private company made mistakes that cost billions of dollars, it would be forced to file bankruptcy and pay back that money—not be given billions more.

On March 15, 2016, Rep. John Delaney (D- Md.) described the metro as “...a stark demonstration of a total agency failure; now is the time for every stakeholder in WMATA to demand better performance and improved safety.

WMATA's fiscal year 2016 budget disclosed that its inaction over the past five years was due to inefficiency in the system and a lack of leadership and oversight.  These factors combined to cause numerous delays, poor performance, and even fatal accidents.  

WMATA also admitted that it was not able to spend its bloated $1 billion improvement budget because it could not meet deadlines.  WMATA only spent 65 to 79 percent of its budget each year because it did not finish projects on time.  Tasks continually rolled over into the next year. 

Allegedly, SafeTrack is an effort to increase efficiency and safety after acknowledging the mistakes and waste of the past.  By consolidating work that should have been spread over the past few years into 2016, the work will further inconvenience riders by instituting single tracking and shutting down entire sections of Metro lines.  One can only hope that WMATA has successfully learned from its previous mistakes, and will implement a plan that addresses the obvious issues without unnecessarily taking taxpayers for a ride.

  -- Leah Lagoudis

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