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BTS Releases WMATA Close Call Program Report

Release Number: 
BTS 48-19
Date: Monday, October 28, 2019

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) today released WMATA Close Call Program Report 2013-2018, which details the six-year results of the close call program that encourages employees to confidentially and voluntarily report unsafe conditions or events – close calls – that could result in illness, injury, damage, or loss.

A close call is an event or condition that had the possibility for serious consequences but did not progress to an adverse safety event.

During the six-year period covered in the report, BTS received reports from Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) employees who experienced, observed, or became aware of a close call.  BTS’ root cause analysis resulted in the development of 118 preventive safety actions.  WMATA has implemented 99 of the actions aimed at reducing or eliminating potential safety risks covering a wide range of areas, from rule modification to signage updates.  The remaining 19 preventive safety actions are being addressed by other programs within WMATA.

About the Program

BTS has operated the WMATA close call program for Metrorail since 2013 and for Metrobus since 2016 with funding from WMATA.  The program objectives are to identify safety risks and mitigate their impact through the development of preventive safety actions.  As a principal federal statistical agency, BTS can provide confidentiality for the reports under the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA).

Close Call Reporting and Safety

Close call programs, which identify and address accident precursors, are widely recognized to enhance worker safety and an organization’s safety culture.  Similar programs exist in various industries, but WMATA is the only public transit authority with an established program of this type.

Types of Close Calls Reported in Metrorail

The Metrorail Close Call Program includes WMATA’s six metro lines, 91 stations, and 118 miles of mainline track.  The top three safety concerns reported for Metrorail were:

  1. Unsafe Work Practice
  2. Roadway Worker Protection
  3. Defective Equipment/Infrastructure
MetroRail Incident Categories#%
Improper Flagging98%
Defective Equipment/Infrastructure1413%
Roadway Worker Protection1514%
Unsafe Work Practice1816%

Types of Close Calls Reported in Metrobus

The Metrobus Close Call Program includes WMATA’s nine bus divisions, which have nearly 1,600 buses in the fleet (slightly more than 1,200 buses deployed in peak service) and 159 lines of service in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia network.  The top three safety concerns reported for Metrobus were:

  1. Bus Route Concern
  2. Bus Design Issue
  3. Unsafe Work Practice
MetroBus Incident Categories#%
Boarding/Alighting Location Concern25%
Procedures/Policies Not Followed410%
Unsafe Work Practice718%
Bus Design Issue820%
Bus Route Concern1128%

Program Details

BTS operates the close call program through a Memorandum of Understanding with WMATA, the Amalgamated Transit Union – Local 689 (L-689), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters – Local 922 (L-922).


Updated: Monday, October 28, 2019