Friday, July 10, 2009

Metro - Videos Show Slackers Operating Trains

I've been complaining about the Metro lately, as has everybody else. This week at Union Station, not only did neither escalator on the First Street exit work, they had one blocked off, so one of the busiest transit stations in the world had its customers climbing a single escalator as if it were stairs, going both up and down on the same one, bumping shoulders, tripping over baggage, thousands of people backed up in lines hundreds of feet long.

After the big wreck last month I was glad that they didn't try to blame the little guy, especially the operators. Turned out Metro had screwed up in every way, brakes hadn't been inspected, trains were obsolete and unsafe, sensors along the track weren't sensing. Now everybody seems to think Metro needs more money. Uh, maybe.

The last couple of days have seen two examples of citizen journalism that do blame the little guy. You've probably seen these...

Somebody posted a video on YouTube of a Metro operator texting while his train is speeding down the track. He's got his phone down under the dashboard, if you call it that, he's looking at it, clicking the keyboard, and he has no idea what's out there in the world he's hurtling through. See that one HERE.

Then a kid got video of an operator sleeping while he was driving the train. Check out the Fox News report HERE.

If you work in an office, you'll see somebody snoozing in their cube, or somebody closing their door and catching some z's. But man, when you've got a train full of people, watch where you're going, okay? Nap on a break.

A little news came out yesterday on this. From Bloomberg:
Washington Metro train and bus operators caught texting while operating a vehicle will be fired immediately in a “zero tolerance” policy started after one of the workers was caught in the act.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority previously had a “three-strikes” policy on sending text messages in which the first offense resulted in a five-day suspension, the second a 10-day suspension and the third termination. The new policy takes effect July 13, the authority said in a statement. Washington Metro Train Operators Caught Texting Will Be Fired

I'm not big on "zero tolerance" rules, it seems to me they usually backfire. But the pilot who shows up drunk, the pill-popping surgeon, the Metro operator speeding down the tracks with several hundred people trusting him or her with their lives, these are people with a lot of responsibility, I don't think there needs to be a second chance. You watch that video of the guy texting, when they pan the camera out the window and you see that the train is speeding down the track -- there's nobody in control, you don't trust a computer to see something on the track, you trust a person.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't there needs to be a second chance. You


July 10, 2009 10:11 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Hey good eye, Anon, I fixed it, thanks.


July 11, 2009 12:30 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Like Jim, I am suspicious of "zero tolerance" rules as they tend to be inflexible. However, in this instance it does appear warranted.

Does anyone remember the instance of texting was a primary cause of a Southern California Metrolink passenger train with a cargo train?

Really now, what should be done is this: set up brief training sessions, with an appropriate safety video. Have a couple of speakers stress to transit workers that when they are ON THE CLOCK their cell phones, and any other NON-work related electronic devices are turned off and stored away. Finally, have each transit worker sign a brief advise and consent form; this form would in a brief yet clear manner that if they are caught violating this rule their employment will be terminated. They are ADVISED of the consequences and they give CONSENT to their own immediate firing should they be caught violating this rule.

Also, it should be made clear that it does not matter what has been done in the past: what matters NOW and into the FUTURE is that they do the job they were hired to do. A big part of that job is being the first line of defense in making certain everyone in their care is safe.

My father worked as a Flight Engineer for TWA for over 30 years. He once told me that he always made a point of getting his final approach list done early so he could turn his chair around and keep watch as the Captain and Co-Pilot went thru their check lists. With so many functions being automated, it was easy for those in the front flying the plane to be looking at their check lists and not looking out in front of where they were heading.

July 11, 2009 2:19 PM  

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