WMATA says nearly half of its Metrorail operators have lapsed recertification

May 16, 2022
The agency estimates it will take two to three months to recertify more than 250 rail operators and warns riders to expect delays in service through the end of May.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is warning riders to expect delays to Green and Yellow Metrorail lines through at least the end of May after it pulled operators who had lapsed recertification prior to May 2021.

WMATA says Executive Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Theresa M. Impastato investigated the issue of lapsed recertifications following a review by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) that identified these lapses.

“The WMATA Board of Directors received a safety briefing on Thursday that included learning that nearly half of all rail operators had lagging recertifications,” said WMATA Board Chair Paul C. Smedberg. “The board finds this unacceptable and extremely disappointing. We support Metro management’s decision to immediately remove from service operators who became out of compliance more than a year ago as a first step. The board directed Metro management to provide a full accounting of how and why this occurred and develop a plan to ensure it is remedied as fast as possible.”

In all, nearly half of WMATA’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification and the authority has removed 72 operators from service with who were out of compliance prior to May 2021. WMATA estimates it will take two to three months to recertify more than 250 rail operators.

Smedberg added, “The board is deeply concerned about the impact this operator shortage may have on our customers and the region. However, the board made it clear safety is the top priority and while Metro has made strides in recent years, this issue demonstrates that more work must be done to ensure an organizational-wide safety culture.”

Metrorail operator recertification requires a written test and practical certification observation and is valid for two years. WMATA explains recertification is important because it gives every train operator time to refresh on the rules, reinforce their knowledge and benefit from evaluation. It also allows WMATA to stay in compliance with safety policies.

The WMSC audit of WMATA’s rail operations that found refresher training and recertification requirements were not being met noted WMATA has three waivers meant “to assist WMATA personnel during the COVID-19 virus response and to allow social-distancing strategies/policies to be developed by WMATA that allows safe continuation of front-line employee working conditions, to include, the biennial certification of qualification process.” The audit also notes Metrorail lacks a procedure to remove individuals with lapsed recertification from service.

In a Twitter thread following the announcement from WMATA, WMSC offered its support of the actions and added “we are pleased that the #WMATA Chief Safety Officer and Metro Board are now aggressively addressing the matter.”

Bus operators follow a different process than rail and WMATA says its safety department is reviewing the refresher training for its bus operators.

“Our bus operators must carry a valid commercial driver’s license, as well as take two-day refresher classes,” said Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader. “We are identifying bus operators who have lapsed refresher training and will take steps to ensure compliance with Metro’s rules.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

Background: WMATA; inset: CapMetro
Randy Clarke, inset, was selected by the WMATA Board of Directors to be the agency's next general manager and CEO. He will succeed Paul Wiedefeld who is retiring at the end of June.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro)
Newmlogo 10988011