News & Politics

Metro Loses Its New General Manager Before He’s Even Hired

Photograph via iStock.

Former aerospace executive Neal S. Cohen, who was announced by many news organizations as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s next general manager, will, in fact, not be taking the job, the woebegone transportation agency announced Monday.

“WMATA and Neal Cohen have mutually agreed that Mr. Cohen is no longer under consideration to become WMATA’s General Manager,” Metro’s board chairman, Mort Downey, said in a news release. “The executive recruitment process to determine who will lead WMATA remains ongoing, and discussions with candidates are actively underway. For that reason, we will not comment further on the search, except to say that the Board remains committed to completing the process as quickly as possible.”

That’s the entirety of Downey’s statement, which does not specify where things broke down with Cohen. The 55-year-old Cohen, who was most recently the chief executive of Dulles-based spacecraft manufacturer Orbital ATK and previously held senior positions with Northwest Airlines and US Airways, had been billed as a “turnaround specialist.”

But without Cohen’s promised skills, WMATA remains just as rudderless as it was last week. The news about Cohen suggests Metro will have to lean even more on the consulting firms McKinsey & Company and Ernst & Young, which it just hired for nearly $3 million to review and overhaul its finances and management structure.

Cohen’s dropping out of consideration is also at least the second piece of grim news for Metro today. A draft of a budget-planning report set to be introduced at Thursday’s meeting suggests Metro officials expect rail ridership to keep dropping, and that the most of the options for stabilizing the agency’s finances involve either service cuts, fare increases, or steep hikes in the government subsidies it receives.

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.