Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Share Stories  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |  Get Gridlock:    Twitter |    Facebook  |     RSS   |  phone Alerts

Metro Chief Announces Tougher Texting Policy

The transit authority is toughening its policy against train or bus operators texting in the aftermath of a video showing a train operator apparently doing so while his train sped down the tracks.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said this morning: "The policy [against texting] will remain. What will change are the consequences. There will be no second chance. ... One strike, you will be out."

The use of a cell phone for texting in the operation of a Metro vehicle has always been prohibited, he said. Now, immediate termination will result from a violation. The one-strike policy is scheduled to take effect on Monday.

Catoe said he had no data on the number of times Metro employees violate the no-texting rule. He's asked for it, he said, but didn't want to wait for that to announce the change.

Under the old disciplinary system, an employee got three strikes before termination. The first offense resulted in a five-day suspension without pay; the second in a 10-day suspension without pay, before termination for a third offense.

Catoe's action was not related to the June 22 Red Line crash. The transit authority noted that the continuing investigation showed that Jeanice McMillan, the train operator who died in the crash, was not using her cell phone. Investigators found her phone in her knapsack.

-- James Hohmann

By Robert Thomson  |  July 9, 2009; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Traffic Alert: SB I-395 Lanes Cleared
Next: Metro Presents Red Line Makeover Plan

Comments

Closing the barn door after the horse has escaped . . .

This policy sounds tough, but without surveillance equipment in the operator's cab, it's toothless. I repeat my call for the use of video cameras in the operator's cab; it's a vital necessity for the safety of the tens of thousands of commuters that Metro transports every day.

And given that the operators are, in the words of their union head, Jackie Jeter, "afraid" to operate a Metro train, I'm sure that the union and the operators won't object. Right?

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 9, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Jackie Jeter also said that delays are inconsequential and the riders should be glad they are still alive. That was in yesterday's Examiner. Nothing like arrogance to win over the public. That's the new standard - just be lucky you are alive.

The Red Line once again was dysfunctional this morning. Just shut down the system entirely and stop the charade. It's unusable.

Posted by: Trout1 | July 9, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: cavalierauc | July 9, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I second WashingtonDame's camera proposal. I also think every second of video should be uploaded to youtube so the public can confirm compliance with the policy. Doing so will also free up the need for Metro to spend any money to hire someone to review those videos.

I don't think the union should mind this intrusion into their worklife... after all, they should just be glad they are still alive, right?

Posted by: prokaryote | July 9, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

No story on the sleeping Green Line Metro Operator?

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | July 9, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

On my way to work today, I was stopped at the light at M and 26th heading towards the key bridge. In my rear view mirror I saw a biker texting, weaving back and forth, he kept getting closer and closer, ran into the back of my car, fell down, and disappeared from view, I just had to laugh.

He was ok....

Posted by: johnindc | July 9, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I used to ride Metro all the time when I worked in DC. Now, it seems like every day there is something going wrong. It really does make me not want to hop on the Metro with my kids to go downtown. Texting, falling asleep...not good.

Posted by: Vienna8425 | July 9, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Another vote for the cameras; a great idea.

Author David Brin suggested a few years back that rather than try to fight the growing survelliance culture that technology has enabled, we use it to our benefit (i.e. use it to watch the watchers) and actually increase democratic control of government.

Love to see WMATA forced to stream survelliance videos on its website. Be a nice condition for that guaranteed funding it wants...

Posted by: JackTrade | July 9, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Metro SUCKS. Riding the Red line is pure torture. I curse this wretched system every day because every day there's a new or ongoing reason to hate METRO! Incompetence, Incompetence, Incompetence.

Posted by: dem4life1 | July 9, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Now it occurs to them. I'm sure the union will throw a fit, and we'll see if management has the guts to do it.

Posted by: jckdoors | July 9, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

What's the problem? If you're sleeping you can't text!

Posted by: dezlboy1 | July 9, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I've been taking the Metro to work every day since 2000, first on the Orange Line from Arlington and then on the Red Line from Rockville.

It's been great!

I read, relax, and arrive at home and work without the stress of driving. My car is still in great shape, and it's 12 years old.

Yes, there are bumps along the way (rashes of track fires, some annoying drivers who talk too much, track maintenance, not a great notification system), but overall, I wouldn't trade Metro for driving, any day of the week.

Rock on Metro! And I hope you get the funding you need SOON!

Posted by: Jessica150 | July 9, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Lots of talk here about installing cameras to watch the train operators. I think it is more economically sound, and would have better results, if cameras were turned on metro and union management.

Posted by: 123cartoon | July 9, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

In automatic mode the operators have one job .. look out and be prepared to stop. That's it.

Given the vital importance of this single job coupled with the long stopping distance of a train at speed (witness the Fort Totten crash where the operator engaged the brakes some 400 yards from the accident scene) .. it's a wonder, isn't it, that a one week suspension is all an operator gets for a violation.

What this operator is saying to everyone is I Don't Care. It's not like they forgot .. it's simply an acknowledgement that you can't touch me.

I hope Metro reconsiders their punishment protocol for any confirmed violation of this rule. They most certainly will have the public's support .. no room for the union to run on this one.

Not a union bashing rule. History shows that Metro has been a amazingly good service but this single accident and numerous recent sightings of operators violating the 'no texting, etc' rule .. demands a swift and convincing change to past procedure.

Posted by: tslats | July 9, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Metro should also remove the curtain in the operator compartment. That way they won't think that they are able to hide from the public and still text.

Posted by: nubeldorf1 | July 9, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I totally endorse Jessica150's point about being quite happy overall with Metro. If you compare it to driving, riding Metro is WAY safer. Over 30 years they've provided billions (hundreds of millions?) of safe trips, with only a handful of deaths. The fatality and injury rates for driving are no where near that low.

I will continue to ride metro and for your own safety, I encourage you to do so too.

That said, texting should result in immediate termination. There are too many lives on the line (pun intended).

Here's what Jessica150 had to say:
I've been taking the Metro to work every day since 2000, first on the Orange Line from Arlington and then on the Red Line from Rockville.

It's been great!

I read, relax, and arrive at home and work without the stress of driving. My car is still in great shape, and it's 12 years old.

Yes, there are bumps along the way (rashes of track fires, some annoying drivers who talk too much, track maintenance, not a great notification system), but overall, I wouldn't trade Metro for driving, any day of the week.

Rock on Metro! And I hope you get the funding you need SOON!

Posted by: Jessica150 | July 9, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: WorldCup | July 9, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

And everyone in riding in the front car that is seated near the cab should keep an eye on the cab and the driver in the cab. I always ride in the front car near the cab and have countless times over the 10 years I have ridden Metro seen drivers talking on the phone, texting, or even sitting in the seat reading and not in the cab seat. I didn't used to think anything of it, but now after the accident, anytime I see it happen I go over and knock on the window and they go right back over to the cab. Perhaps I should start taking video or camera pics each time it happens ... we'd have much more evidence of the problem than Metro or the Union would acknowledge exists.

Posted by: jon76indc | July 9, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I've been riding the metro pretty regularly for 11 years, and rarely do I ever have an issue. If you ride in your car there will be accidents and construction. If you ride on Metro there's gonna be the same thing. I vote for more surveillance on these train operators. I also vote that the surrounding jurisdictions pitch in more money and become more active in metro affairs. There should be more of a cooperative effort to make sure Metro runs smoothly. DC is already ranked 2nd in terms of the worst traffic in the nation, could you imagine it without METRO?? I've taken the MARC train, MTA Light Rail, and have driven into work downtown, believe me METRO beats them ALL by a long shot!

Posted by: RobAnthony | July 9, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I love riding Metro. The Yellow Line is one of the best routes in the system. Even with it's problems, Metro still has one of the best Rail Systems the country.

Posted by: curious_resident | July 9, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry. The authoritarian "homeland security" types will use this as one more excuse to install cell-phone jammers on Metro trains, and the problem will go away.

Oppression. It's always "for your own safety."

Posted by: DupontJay | July 9, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

S/he should be fired immediately for texting, but not necessarily for using the phone. If the call is an emergency call from a family member, s/he should not be fired for anwering the call and having a short conversation. The policy should prohibit causal use of the phone for conversations and be a cause for termination if the policy is violated.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | July 9, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

To Metro ---- Don't forget about punishing train operators who fall asleep on the job.

Posted by: AlbyVA | July 9, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

S/he should be fired immediately for texting, but not necessarily for using the phone. If the call is an emergency call from a family member, s/he should not be fired for anwering the call and having a short conversation. The policy should prohibit causal use of the phone for conversations and be a cause for termination if the policy is violated.

That's fair. Funny, I don't really have a problem with the train operators. The problem lies with management, their choices, the central control operators stopping trains for god knows what reasons, shoddy rush hour service, etc, etc. None of that is the operators fault.

Posted by: Trout1 | July 9, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

While I read all these "off with their heads!" comments, I can't help looking at this from the driver's point of view. You're sitting in a computer-run vehicle while going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth... all day long, repeating the same set of stops and the boarding and deboarding speeches. The job seems designed to put you to sleep -- except that if you *do* nod off, once in a million times there'll be an accident in which hundreds of people (including you!) might die.

Think about how routinely we do things that are foolish or even criminal, but *almost* never result in an accident -- speeding, driving home after "just a couple of drinks", blasting your horn repeatedly at an idiot driver (who *almost* never has a gun they're happy to end arguments with). One need not be a Metro driver to see how "there but for the grace of God go I".

Sleeping, phoning, texting, reading (which I bet some do)... they all seem like expected (if unwise) reactions utter boredom. Banning phone calls (except in an emergency) and all texting (not to mention sleeping!) is clearly necessary. But can anything be done by Metro management to help its drivers stay attentive? Can we come up with positive things for drivers to keep their edge for that one-in-a-million occurrence?

Posted by: jeffq | July 9, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Anyone driving a bus or conducting a train should NEVER have their phone on at ANY time they're behind the controls. A true professional driver or conductor values the safety of their passengers above all while on duty at ANY time--they'd turn it off and leave it off while on duty, without question or exception!

They should give their family the number for Dispatch--in an emergency, they could call and dispatch could reach them via radio if need be to inform them of the situation.

Any so called "professional" who thinks it's ok to text or talk on the phone while behind the controls deserves to be fired. In light of how serious these accidents can be, they should just be grateful that they don't get charged in some way for endagering the public or the like.

Posted by: Cubby_Michael | July 9, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company