Calls council not 'credible' voice
A member of Metro's riders advisory group has resigned in protest, saying the transit agency failed to give information to the council and the group didn't stand up for itself enough.
Christopher Schmitt, a rider representing Virginia, submitted his resignation Monday after he tried for more than eight months to get data from Metro about the rail system's timeliness and its return to automatic train service from manual operations. He said Metro's denial of the data represented a lack of independent access by the Riders' Advisory Council to crucial Metro information and means the 21-person council is not a credible voice for the riding public.
"It's a double shame," he told The Washington Examiner on Tuesday. "It's a shame that Metro as an organization isn't more transparent and it's a shame that the RAC isn't willing to stand up for itself."
Schmitt, who works as an analyst for the Government Accountability Office, said he wanted to see what on-time rail performance actually showed and whether there was a better way of measuring trains' timeliness from the rider's perspective.
"Many riders, myself included, do not understand how Metro's official, upbeat reports of its on-time performance match the reality of the poor performance we see daily on the platform," he wrote in his resignation letter, first reported on the Unsuck DC Metro blog.
"We did make a good-faith effort to provide the information he requested in a format that would be informative and would meet the stated request without mining 29 million data points," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
Riders Advisory Council Chairman Frank DeBernardo said some council members didn't see the relevance of Schmitt's request, while others thought it was too broad. "The entire RAC felt the request was not one that the RAC wanted to pursue," he said.
D.C. Vice Chairman David Alpert, who runs the blog Greater Greater Washington, said Schmitt viewed the council more as an investigative group like an inspector general. "That's not the way the RAC is set up," he said.
Alpert said there has been tension whether the council functions as a focus group for Metro and its board of directors to gauge riders' opinions, or more of an activist group. He welcomes a more activist approach but said he felt the group "requires a number of different strategies and approaches."
He and DeBernardo said the council has accomplished valuable work on behalf of riders, such as pushing for other options besides service cuts during a 2010 budget crunch, calling for reforms of the board and encouraging the agency to respond to riders through social media.
The all-volunteer council was formed in 2005 after a push by riders concerned about the agency's unresponsiveness.