Today, I rode the DC Metro for the first time since the shutdown. I can’t say that the experience was uniquely different from before the Metro’s management decided to stop all train service for more than 24 hours. My colleagues were, of course, interested in my experience since the shutdown was another opportunity to share common experiences (or perhaps misery).
Public reaction has been all over the map. Some responses were a mixture of willing acceptance in a system that emails out easily a dozen service advisories per day on a single line. In this case, at least they knew they couldn’t get to work on time. Others recognized that this was an excellent test of the Office of Personal Management’s drive to make telework acceptable within the federal government (and lots of other workplaces).
As I noted in an earlier post, Metro needed to position itself as the vindicator, not the villain, as explained by crisis communication experts. And, they might be doing it. News story after news story highlighted the need to address the safety concerns. One story even headlined with the general manager’s willingness to resign over his safety concerns and the need for a shutdown. One commentator went as far as to praise Metro’s manager’s decision as a “smart move,” hoping that it would draw attention to Metro’s needs and get it the support that it needs from the three regional governments and the federal government which support it. Even the head of Metro’s largest union had praise for the prioritization of safety.
It looks like, at least for right now, the verdict is vindicator. The challenge for Metro will be following through on its role as the vindicator. Otherwise, it could just be another safety accident away from being the villain.