The new chief safety officer for Washington, D.C.’s beleaguered Metrorail system has promised an aggressive revamp of the agency’s safety culture, correcting deficiencies that have resulted in deaths and injuries to passengers and workers and significantly compromised the 40-year-old network’s infrastructure.


Patrick Lavin, a 33-year veteran of New York City Transit who was second in command of its system safety office, joined the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in May. He unveiled on June 9 elements of a 14-part program to the agency’s board. Media reports say Lavin will ask the American Public Transit Association to do a peer review of Metro’s 117-mile power-traction system, the source of numerous smoke and fire incidents in the past two years. A January 2015 incident, which killed one passenger and injured several others, occurred near the wrap-up of a promised $5.1-billion rebuilding program, launched after a deadly 2009 crash that was blamed on an automated train-management system failure. A subsequent audit revealed that more than 25% of the funds allocated to that program were not spent.

Lavin also promised a more “holistic approach” to probing Metro safety issues, including determining if the recent uptick in arcing insulators and similar problems stem from poor maintenance work or are equipment-related. Other goals include rectifying systemwide worker-protection lapses and ensuring full compliance with U.S. construction-zone safety mandates. Metro also began the first of 15 “safety surges” planned for the next year as part of a $60-million accelerated infrastructure maintenance program, called SafeTrack. It targets specific areas for 24/7 repair that also require major service reductions.