Jan 19, 2022 - News

WMATA general manager Paul Wiedefeld announces retirement

WMATA chief
Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Getty Images

WMATA general manager Paul Wiedefeld unexpectedly announced Tuesday that he will retire — after six years on the job and coming at a difficult moment for the agency as it tries to get sidelined 7000-series trains back on track.

Flashback: Wiedefeld, former chief executive of BWI Airport, took the job in late 2015 after the board’s first pick dropped out. The agency was at another difficult moment: Ridership was low and trust in the agency had fallen, NBC4 reported at the time.

  • Just months into Wiedefeld’s tenure, smoke filled a Yellow Line train at L’Enfant Plaza, killing a passenger.
  • Wiedefeld led the creation of SafeTrack, which the Washington Post called a “maintenance blitz,” to improve safety and reliability in the Metro. He also launched Back2Good in 2016, aimed at improving the customer experience through new amenities such as free WiFi in all stations.
  • Prior to the pandemic, ridership was steadily growing.
  • Last October, when 7000-series trains were pulled after a derailment, a federal transit authority investigation revealed that WMATA was aware since 2017 of issues with the wheel axles on the 7000-series trains.

What they’re saying: Metro’s largest union, ATU local 689, said Tuesday in a statement that their relationship with Wiedefeld has been productive over the past two years, coming a long way since calling for his resignation during his early years and voting to authorize a strike in 2018.

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) also released a statement, saying he appreciated Wiedefeld’s service and dedication to improving Metro.

What’s next: Wiedefeld will leave his position in six months and the WMATA board of directors will search for a replacement.

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