Mass Transit:

WMATA Is Addressing Many Challenges, but Capital Planning Could Be Improved

GAO-01-1161T: Published: Sep 21, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 2001.

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In recent years, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) public transit system has experienced safety and reliability problems, including equipment breakdowns, delays in scheduled service, unprecedented crowding on trains, and accidents and tunnel fires. WMATA is examining ways to ease crowding on the systems rail cars and determining whether and how to expand Metrorail maintenance and repair shop capacity as WMATA acquires nearly 200 new rail cars. WMATA has also undertaken a comprehensive program for infrastructure renewal, and it is now studying improvements or modifications to accommodate the goal of doubling ridership by the year 2025. WMATA's safety program has evolved since the mid-1990s, when a series of accidents and incidents led to several independent reviews citing the need for program improvements. WMATA monitors safety and crime statistics and has several ongoing targeted efforts to reduce safety incidents and deter crime on its transit systems. WMATA has adopted several of the best capital investment practices used by leading public and private sector organizations, but it could benefit by establishing a more formal, disciplined framework for its capital decision-making process. WMATA has used a wide variety of innovative financing techniques for capital projects, but it has not developed plans to address large anticipated shortfalls in capital programs. This testimony summarized the July report (GAO-01-744).

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