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BREAKING: Catoe resigns

WMATA General Manager John Catoe just announced that he will resign effective April 2nd.

The Washington Post reports that he cited the events of the last six months as an "unhealthy distraction". Metro's press release includes links to letters to the Board and employees.

Yesterday's blogger roundtable had been briefly canceled, and we were told Mr. Catoe was sick; he then recovered and the roundtable was back on. Metro public relations staff insist that they weren't making that up and in fact didn't know about his resignation. It's possible Catoe told his staff he was sick as he was making the decision (and feeling sick about it), or perhaps he really was sick.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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According to the Post he informed the board last Thursday.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/getthere/2010/01/dc_metro_system_general_manage.html

by Michael Perkins on Jan 14, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

Wmata (http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/news/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=4243) spins it as "retirement"

by Jean on Jan 14, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport

@Michael Perkins:
I was under the impression that the article meant Thursday - Today, not Thursday a week ago, but I could be wrong. The article is not exactly clear.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 14, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

hurray! now to make sure he doesn't get a dime of that irresponsibly awarded contract extension.

jim graham, you're next to go.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 2:04 pm • linkreport

I nominate Alpert for WMATA General Manager.

by Vik on Jan 14, 2010 2:06 pm • linkreport

@Michael Perkins:
I'm pretty sure "Thursday" means today.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

I nominate Zimmerman as GM with a side of putting Michael Perkins on track to take his board seat. Then it might actually be possible :)

@RedlineSOS I think the date was picked so the new contract doesn't kick in.

by Jason on Jan 14, 2010 2:15 pm • linkreport

He should have resigned on June 23rd last year, but better late than never. And I agree, Jim Graham should follow his lead.

by ontarioroader on Jan 14, 2010 2:19 pm • linkreport

Those who have been calling for his resignation should now remember the old adage of being careful what you wish for.

The problems are all still there, and I hope and pray that WMATA can find a strong and capable leader willing to take the job.

They can sell it as the Nation's Subway, but the fact is the overall structure is dysfunctional. Three jurisdictions constantly bickering and bargaining, no dedicated source of funding, and the need for any GM to please three masters. Add to that an aging infrastructure, the lack of a culture of safety, a traditional lack of outside oversight, and problems with courtesy and customer service.

And that's not even getting into service cuts and the lack of reliability - especially on the Red Line this past year -or the seeming inability to deal with youth violence.

This is NOT meant as a slam at Metro, but rather a sober look at what Metro faces in trying to recruit a world class GM, and what any new GM will face.

No one should be celebrating anything today. There is no guarantee Mr Catoe's replacement will be any better, or will do a better job.

by Mike Silverstein on Jan 14, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

I'm a Ward 1 resident and a frequent metro rider, and I don't want Graham to leave either position.

by jcm on Jan 14, 2010 2:28 pm • linkreport

It's about damn time! Now, if only we could convince The Grahamstander to follow Catoe's lead.

@Mike Silverstein,
"a strong and capable leader" is exactly what Metro needs, which is why I was calling for Catoe's head since he was neither.

by Jacob on Jan 14, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

@Mike Silverstein: Well put.

Any chance we can get DanTan back?

by Joey C on Jan 14, 2010 2:43 pm • linkreport

David Alpert for Metro Chair.

by JTS on Jan 14, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Mike Silverstein: Very well put.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jan 14, 2010 2:54 pm • linkreport

+1 to Mike Silverstein. Well put, indeed.

Catoe reached a point where questions about why he hasn't resigned or been fired dogged WMATA so much that the reality of his job performance didn't matter - the questions themselves were preventing the organization from moving forward.

It's important to note that Catoe's resignation doesn't automatically make moving forward easier for Metro, either. The problems don't go away.

by Alex B. on Jan 14, 2010 3:00 pm • linkreport

Much agreement with Mike Silverstein. That said, I'm kind of disappointed by Catoe retiring pretty much right when Metro needs leadership the most. Now WMATA has a CEO search to deal with on top of every thing else. The system is near in crisis,, and it looks like he's high-tailing it out of here.

by Wes on Jan 14, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

FINALLY! I've wanted him to step down from at least 2 years ago. Some of the stuff under his watch he had no control over (suicides, accidents), but many other things were brought about because of his poor management: worker/yard safety, extreme proposed service cuts, extreme fare hikes, not firing operators who can't count how many cars on their train, eliminating service to DCA on a holiday weekend etc. I wish Dan Tangherlini was still in charge, but he's working with Fenty now.

I think the entire board should be dismissed and new members appointed by the mayor and governor. All except one, continued to fully back Catoe even though he was incompotent. The only time they actually stepped in was when he wanted to implement extreme rail cuts.

by King Terrapin on Jan 14, 2010 3:34 pm • linkreport

ditto KT! catoe should have left years ago.

create a transit jurisdiction from the three. one sales tax to fund it all.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 3:49 pm • linkreport

Jim Graham is an embarrasment and should stack his resignation on top of Catoe's. In fact, I would have preferred Graham resign, and Catoe stay.

Political grandstanding in the "20 cents is too much" nonsense is only the latest disappointment from JG.

by Glenn on Jan 14, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

@Redline: NO! Sales tax would be horrible compared to the current setup. Have you seen what happens to transit agencies funded by sales taxes during recessions? 20% fare increases combined with 20% service cuts.

NO! NO! NO!

by Michael Perkins on Jan 14, 2010 3:53 pm • linkreport

@Michael Perkins:
Good point. MARTA in Atlanta was looking at cutting ALL transit service on the bus and rail system on Fridays last year due to the crisis. A one-time bailout using stimulus funding staved that off, but next FY is not looking any better. MARTA has been funded by a penny sales tax in Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb Counties since 1971.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 14, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

I'm still bitter about the way he squashed NextBus on the fallacious assertion that it may be slightly inaccurate. I'd like to say that I am sad it came to this, but I still remember that year and a half of needless frustration.

Screw you John. Get the hell out of here.

by Reid on Jan 14, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

@Redline SOS

Are you joking with the sales tax thing? The fact that WMATA ISN'T funded by a sales tax is one of the reasons its actually been able to do as well as it has compared to other agencies. Other agencies are seeing their funding disappear during the recession as people buy less crap from China and pay less in sales taxes as a result.

Comments like that just reinforce my opinion that those who constantly rail on metro and Catoe generally have no f-ing clue what they're talking about.

by MLD on Jan 14, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

I agree with the sales tax thing. It's like hwy maintenance funded by auto sales and gas taxes here in MD. It looks like a constant stream of cash until a recession comes, or people stop buying cars or gas.

Then again, who the hell rides MARTA anyway? 90% of people living in Atlanta probably wouldn't realize service was cut on Friday. It's like all the other cities in the South (except S.Fla.): low-density and car-dependent. In DC, where everybody rides the Metro into the city, a tax may make more sense.

by King Terrapin on Jan 14, 2010 4:07 pm • linkreport

Graham needs to go.

It's an embarassment to have as the WMATA Board chairman a guy who readily acknowledges to rarely using Metro buses or trains.

by Fritz on Jan 14, 2010 4:59 pm • linkreport

yes, it was a bad LoR/Metro joke. I know better then a sales tax. Have VA cede NoVa and MD cede MoCo and PG and create a new state.

by Redline SOS on Jan 14, 2010 5:04 pm • linkreport

If you guys really want Dave to take that position, then take the next step. Nobody will listen to you on here.

by Zac on Jan 15, 2010 4:58 am • linkreport

A dedicated tax would be an acceptable way to fund Metro's capital needs. Metro's spending needs can be a little more flexible on the capital side, as long as we fund the right level over the long term.

But for operating costs, it makes no sense. It's too cyclical and would create all kinds of problems.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 15, 2010 6:48 am • linkreport

@Michael- A dedicated tax is no panacea. Just look to California or Atlanta GA for evidence. Local cooperation can work as it has in Wash. region for 35+years. Things could be much worse.

by Interested on Jan 15, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport

@Interested, Michael Perkins,
Actually, MARTA is a really good example for Michael Perkins to have used. In reality, MARTA has *two* sales taxes.

A 1/2 penny for operations and a 1/2 penny for capital. While MARTA is running out of money to maintain current service levels, their capital coffers are basically full. They have no major expansion projects underway, and have plenty of money to keep the system in a state of good repair.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 15, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

Unfortunately, Georgia law prohibits MARTA from transferring capital money to the operating budget.

Or perhaps it's not unfortunate. Because of the mandated split, the system isn't falling apart.

Still, as systems age, they're budgets need to shift around. MARTA is no longer expanding, and while maintenance and debt service are still major expenditures, ridership is growing and operations needs more money.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 15, 2010 11:23 am • linkreport

It's hard to legislate those kinds of things in stone. You want a definitive capital fund, but the very nature of capital expenses is an ebb and flow - big expenses at one time, then a lull, followed by more big expenses. That's the nature of building stuff.

So, if MARTA were able to raid their capital fund, that's not a huge problem because they're not shortchanging capital needs - just so long as they've got a long term plan for future capital projects. WMATA, on the other hand, has a ton of capital needs, and pulling capital funds for operations at this point is a bad idea - but it's not like they have any good options left.

by Alex B. on Jan 15, 2010 11:35 am • linkreport

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