MBTA does something along the lines of what I suggested wrt WMATA, by splitting out "jobs"
In the ongoing discussion about WMATA's problems, I've discussed how MBTA in Greater Boston is undergoing simultaneously a similar kind of pileup of management and operational failiures--although there it was precipitated by six feet of snow and many years of underfunding of maintenance and equipment which all came to a head. (I've also discussed how in Greater Toronto and to some extent, Chicago, there are ongoing discussions about better ways of coordination and integration at the regional scale.)
I am leery about the WMATA transit system being successful at hiring "a savior" ("Virginia tells Metro to accelerate search for a general manager," Washington Post) because the new CEO will have to somehow fix all the planning, financing, and oversight issues that emanate from the jurisdictions (DC, MD, VA and to some extent, the Federal Government) that "own" the system, which are distinctly different problems from but also shape the operational failures of the WMATA system.
Independent of the operational failures, I don't those problems are easily fixed, but if they remain unfixed, WMATA stays broken.
In the intermediate run, I believe that WMATA needs to hire a great operator to take over the Metrorail system, and fix its rampant operational failures and broken organizational culture.
In the meantime, WMATA ought to "take its time" hiring a GM, and ideally, should focus on rebuilding the regional consensus on transit and all the components of such a consensus--planning, operations, network definition, financing, etc.
MBTA has done something along these lines, hiring three key people.
But all this has come about AFTER--granted, produced pretty quickly and politically--an analysis of the transit system's problems. We don't have that yet for WMATA, except for some reports from the Federal GTransit Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
-- Back on Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA |Submitted by the Governor’s Special Panel to Review the MBTA
From the Metro Magazine article, "MBTA leadership team divided into 2 positions":
MassDOT announced Brian Shortsleeve will serve as the Chief Administrator for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), working alongside the newly appointed Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB). Interim GM Frank DePaola will continue in his current role focusing solely on operations and Jeff Gonneville, a 14-year veteran of the MBTA, will serve as the permanent Chief Operating Officer.WMATA's current cash flow problems are the result of poor financial controls, which led the Federal Transit Administration to stop advancing funds to the agency before projects were finished. Now WMATA gets reimbursement only after work has been performed. From "Gov.'s MBTA legislation includes 3-year fiscal control board":
Given the immense reforms underway at the MBTA, Secretary Stephanie Pollack has divided the T’s leadership into two positions in accordance with the recommendations of the Governor’s MBTA Special Review Panel. The chief administrator will focus on the fiscal health of the organization, enabling the general manager to focus on improving service for customers.
The legislation, An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA, would establish a Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB) and Chief Administrator to oversee operations and finances through 2018, create capital plans, introduce reporting and audit requirements and lift procurement restrictions for the MBTA. Together the FMCB and Chief Administrator would be charged with establishing a safe, reliable, financially sound and sustainable customer-oriented public transit system.It's much harder to pull this off for WMATA, because unlike most transit systems, WMATA involves three separate "states" and the Federal Government, meaning Congress has to vote favorably, all must act in a coordinated fashion to take similar action.
By contrast, MBTA's service operate solely within the State of Massachusetts, and the state, not local jurisdictions in Greater Boston, run the service ("Operational apples and oranges: Comparing Boston, D.C. rail systems," Post).
And as I have written, the DC area jurisdictions aren't taking responsibility for their contributions to the crisis. The Massachusetts report identified nine main problems:
1. Unsustainable Operating Budget
2. Chronic Capital Underinvestment
3. Bottleneck Project Delivery
4. Ineffective Workplace Practices
5. Shortsighted Expansion Program
6. Organizational Instability
7. Lack of Customer Focus
8. Flawed Contracting Process
9. Lack of Accountability
In the DC context, I would add at least two others, (1) a failure to separate transit planning from transit operations and a failure in planning transit comprehensively at the metropolitan and regional scales and (2) failures in board/jurisdictional oversight and accountability, separate from the "Lack of Customer Focus" and "Lack of Accountability" to the Governor.
However, note that the MBTA analysis was commissioned by the Governor, who has his own agenda.
So the conclusions in the report likely are different in many respects from what independent, objective transportation analysts would have recommended. Not that they are objective, but among others, MassCommute, the state's association of transportation management associations and the Conservation Law Foundation identified many gaps in the report's analysis and recommendations, which includes budget cuts not increases.
Note that MBTA's problems aren't solely of its own making (and neither are WMATA's).
The state saddled MBTA with a lot of debt from the Big Dig. And the service footprint keeps getting expanded while the operating budget continues to shrink in real terms. And they haven't been able to get the money they need to invest in new equipment.
And the snows MBTA experienced last winter would have crippled most transit systems running most of their service above-ground--by contrast, because of winter snow conditions, Montreal's subway system was designed with no above-ground sections. Therefore, Montreal's subway service always runs regardless of weather conditions.