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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

U.S. Rep. Comstock introduces WMATA reform bill

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock
Photo – Comstock's Twitter account


U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) on Monday introduced legislation that calls for reforming the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) Metro system.

The "Metro Accountability and Reform Act" would substantially increase funding for WMATA, but on the condition of "making fundamental changes necessary to meet reasonable benchmarks of a functional mass transit system," said Comstock in a press release.

Comstock spent more than a year developing the legislation. She said she drafted the bill after consulting with regional political leaders and business groups, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former Virginia Transportation Secretary Jim Dyke, current U.S. Department of Transportation officials, WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld and others at WMATA, whistleblowers, and those affiliated with efforts to turn the Boston transit system around and others.

WMATA is a system in crisis, said Comstock.

"Years of deferred maintenance, increasing budget deficits and decreasing ridership on Metro threatens the safety and reliability of the system," she said. "Without significant reforms, the system will continue to decline and lose ridership and fail the nation's capital which needs this vital system for the vitality of our local and national economy."

Comstock's bill calls for reducing the use of overtime; shifting employees from a pension system to a 401k system; controlling contract increases; and improving service reliability.

Additionally, the bill would create a Metro Reform Board, which would serve as an interim control entity to govern WMATA to achieve changes in the near term. Moreover, the bill would establish a Metro Reform Commission, which would keep Congress and other stakeholders informed of the reform efforts.

The bill also calls for whistleblower protections for WMATA employees who fear retaliation from management.