Paul Jacob

It is an anniversary one does not celebrate, but mourn. The pain is still fresh — piercing and overwhelming for the loved ones of the nine Washington, D.C.-area residents killed in the crash of two red-line Metro trains near the border of D.C. and Maryland on June 22, 2009.

In our grief, we realize that accidents do happen, that even terrible mishaps, which snatch away lives and devastate those of us left behind, cannot always be prevented.

But out of love of life — for both those departed and those remaining, including the 70 who were injured — we ought to seek a transit system, an economic system and a political order that will render such tragedies as unlikely as possible.

Yet, on the one-year anniversary of the worst train accident in the Washington-area Metro transit system’s 34-year history, the Washington Post headline reads: “Few gains in safety since Metro crash.” In fact, the headline is only too optimistic. The story informs that since the crash “the transit authority’s safety record has worsened.”

“We don’t want death by Metro any longer,” states U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland). But after a year, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority seems no closer to (and perhaps even further away from) solving their safety problems.

Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, argues that there are “significant deficiencies in their safety culture,” and points out that, “The most disappointing . . . is when we issue recommendations and those issues do not get corrected. For us, that is a big concern about Metro.”

Since the D.C.-area transit system doesn’t appear to be taking any advice from the NTSB or others, the Obama Administration favors a federal takeover of regulatory and oversight functions for local transit systems — something now under consideration by Congress. On paper, that might sound like a more protective approach on paper. But isn’t it really passing the buck to the same federal regulatory regime that is now impressing the entire planet with its oversight of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

Might not local transit systems get the same winks and nods historically reserved for certain deep-water drillers?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.