7.16.2009

Metro operators union demands respect from public

Last week, Jackie Jeter, the head of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 told Metro riders we should calm down and remember that "at least you're alive."

Now, she swings for the fences as she demands respect for train and bus operators. Jeter is upset that train and bus operators are now under the microscope from riders.
"Being watched 24/7 is a problem. I don't think any of us would like that. And I ask (riders) to respect the operators and the jobs that they do."
First off, joke's on you Jeter, train operators certainly aren't being watched 24/7. You know, how the system is closed at night and all of that? Yeah. But I'll give you a point, people are now paying more attention to the person who is driving a vehicle filled with lots of people.

Trains are being run on manual mode, on a system that has problems. Operators have to be vigilant. There are no signals in the tunnels, drivers have to keep their eyes peeled for a stopped train. It's absolutely imperative that they pay attention. Reporting operators who are sleeping or not paying attention has nothing to do with respect. A train operator has absolutely no expectation of privacy in that booth. And after all, listen to the damn announcements, "remember, safety is everyone's responsibility."

And really, I mean, let's look back at an incident in 2006 where an operator who wasn't paying attention struck and killed two track workers on the Yellow Line. Maybe those workers killed were from a different union. Of course it's likely a minority of operators who 'zone out' at the controls, but it happens. The lives of many are in the hands of these people. There's no 'co-pilot' on a train or bus to provide a 'backup system.' Perhaps Metro should add a dead man's switch to their trains.

I understand that when most operators began driving trains, they were expecting a system that was nearly 100% automated. I'm absolutely sure the job has gotten 200%+ more stressful in the last three weeks. It's going to remain that way. It's also more stressful to drive the train than it is for us to ride on it. I get that. But understand this: your life as well as ours depends on your ability to operate that train. You are a professional who is expected to do a job and do it correctly. When you accepted the job of Metrorail Operator you accept those responsibilities. If you don't like it, you can quit.

In somewhat-related Metro news, there's controversy over recent changes to the bus management system. Employees and managers are complaining that a recent restructuring has resulted in managers having less time to respond to problems in the field.

Managers say paperwork has made it harder to respond to customers. On Tuesday, a bus operator was assaulted in Northeast Washington, and a supervisor responsible for Southeast was sent to handle the incident, said the supervisor who did not want to be identified. When an accident happened in Southeast, a supervisor was pulled from downtown, he said. As a result, no one was available to follow up on a rider complaint about smelling alcohol on a bus driver's breath on the 96 line, the source said.
The wheels are coming off the bus, and the train. Unless something changes soon, Metro is in for a hell of a time this fall. And the transit union is alienating customers with this horrible public relations campaign. Ms. Jeter, you'd likely be more successful in advocating for your cause by simplying bashing management. Stop bringing the customers into this. All you need to do is say this: "The system is broken. Metro needs more money, more managerial accountability, and more oversight. Our operators and staff are doing all they can, but they can't do it alone."

How hard was that?

1 comment:

  1. I think more disturbing is the part in the WaPo article that states someone is claiming a operator covered his windows with newspaper as not to be seen. Holy crap! I'm betting if this shit keeps up we will see a huge spike in bus and rail operator assaults.

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