News & Politics

Man With Washington’s Most Thankless Job to Step Down in January

Metro CEO Richard Sarles plans to leave after four years.

Sarles at the opening ceremony for the Silver line. Photograph by Flickr user BeyondDC.

As the head of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Richard Sarles probably takes more public criticism than any other high-ranking Washington official But he’ll be able to tune out the critics in January when he leaves his post as Metro’s general manager and CEO.

Sarles made his decision public today at a WMATA board meeting, the Washington Post reports, ending a four-year run that saw big changes for Metro. (And a lot of out-of-service escalators.) Sarles, 69, joined Metro as an interim director in early 2010 after a stint running New Jersey Transit, and was made the permanent chief executive in January 2011.

Sarles oversaw Metro through one of the more turbulent phases in the transit agency’s history. He arrived when Metro was still reeling from the 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine passengers, oversaw a long list of federally mandated upgrades to the 117-mile rail network, and presided over the opening of the first phase of the Silver Line. For his efforts, Sarles earned between $350,000 and $366,000, and until recently, had said he planned to stay on the job through 2016.

Chuck Bean, the head of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, says in a press release that Sarles brought Metro “back to a state of good repair” and gave it a “a well-conceived vision.” But Sarles isn’t riding off unscathed. The anonymous transit critic known as Unsuck DC Metro and other frequent Sarles-bashers were quick to stomp on his impending departure:

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.