Metro News Release

For immediate release: February 24, 2011

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Metro Board Chair Catherine Hudgins Outlines Vision for the Year
Incoming Chair's remarks focus on a changing Metro

Below are the remarks that Metro Board Chair Catherine Hudgins gave during the Metro Board of Directors meeting on Feb. 24, 2011.

Good afternoon. As I begin this first meeting as Chair of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority's Board of the Directors, I am struck by the fact that public transportation has been an integral part in my getting around most of my life. Growing up in a small town in Arkansas, public transportation carried my mother to and from work, gave my siblings, friends and me the opportunity to venture from home to shop or go to the park across town. And for four years the bus was my transportation across town to the campus where I completed my college education. Upon graduation, I landed in Washington, DC, for my first job as a public school teacher, and yes, at least for the first six months, I rode the bus to work. I think I can say, while not a transit professional, I am not unfamiliar with the mission of public transportation.

Having lived and worked in this region for more than four decades, I have seen the birth and completion of the 106 miles of the Metro system and expect to see the completion of the more than 25 percent expansion of Metro as it passes just over a mile from my own backyard.

It seemed as though it was just a few years ago that the Metro system that I came to know was the system with the new shiny, clean trains where I could always find a seat. That is not the Metro of today. While the ride into a Metro meeting or a trip to Verizon Center or a visit to Maryland is still one to marvel as the best transportation alternative, the face of Metro has changed.

In acknowledging that Metro has changed, I believe we have turned the corner by the hiring of new CEO, Richard Sarles. His focus on rebuilding the infrastructure while instilling in the organization a culture of safety and strong customer service reflects the requirements needed for leading in the new Metro environment, centered on the operation of the system. Mr. Sarles will be supported in these efforts by a partnership with the Board that sets performance goals and measurements that will hold him accountable.

Now the question is: Can the Board of Directors bring the same commitment to the changed face of Metro that was seen through the early decades in building out the system? I am confident that Board members are prepared to do just that. Establishing a standing Governance Committee where policy-making and goal-setting can be given the necessary attention is a first step. The Board will set its performance goals and measurements to assure that we are clearly working to improve safety, can rebuild our infrastructure, enhance service and improve communications.

Neither the CEO nor the Board can be successful without supporting our workforce, establishing meaningful input channels with our customers and building stronger relationships with our external stakeholders.

Strong partnerships are important as is a keen focus on governance, but demonstrated transparency and accountability must be met with the understanding that adequate funding for Metro is as essential in a changed Metro as it was in funding the construction of the 106-mile
system. The ability to serve over 1.3 million bus, rail and paratransit riders each day cannot go unnoticed as a major contribution to the economy and the quality of life of all the citizens of the region.

Lastly, the Dulles extension will be operational in three years with the final portions bringing on additional service in five or six years. Our region is projected to grow. It is not too soon to begin planning to address the transit needs of our growing region. The lessons learned from not planning for the changes that occurred as our new system aged can serve as an opportunity for a policy-focused Board to be the leaders in the discussion of how to plan for the transit needs to meet the future growth of the region.

I see challenges ahead, but challenges also present opportunities. I look forward to the opportunities to work with the Metro Board and the CEO to improve safety, provide better service and rebuild our infrastructure.

News release issued at 4:28 pm, February 24, 2011.

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