Thursday, August 19, 2010

Like Pulling Teeth

Reader Kathleen writes in with another story about a Metrobus driver chatting away with a passenger and being careless while behind the wheel. You can read her entire account below, but what we found particularly interesting about this was that Metro public affairs was so reticent with what seem to be relatively simple queries. More on this tendency in a coming post.

Here's an email transcript:

Unsuck: Understand there are at least two recording devices on buses, which seem to be primarily used to watch passengers. Understandable considering how badly many seem to behave, but is the driver visible on any of them? If so, is the camera footage used to enforce WMATA rules and regulations regarding the safe operation of a bus? Can it be used as evidence in a case against a driver accused of unsafe operation? For example, texting, talking to friends who are standing in front of the yellow line, leaving the bus for extended periods of time to get something to eat.

Metro: There are no cameras focused on the driver.

Unsuck: Ok. So to clarify, is the driver, while in their seat, visible in any of the recording devices?

Metro: No

Unsuck: Is there a reason why, or is it just an oversight?

Metro: (5 days later, which is probably a good sign you've touched a nerve) Most Metrobuses have cameras installed. It is a 5-camera system* that does not focus on the driver, but captures activity around the driver and fare box, in front of the bus, inside the bus from front to back and outside along the right side of the bus which is best practices in the public sector bus industry.

Unsuck: Best practices according to who? Do you have a link?

Metro: It was what the industry was doing, so we followed suit.

*It should be noted that even with a 5-camera system, there's no guarantee on WMATA that they're even on or working.

Here's Kathleen's story:

I saw a few weeks ago you had an entry about bus drivers talking with passengers and not paying attention. In case you choose to revisit that topic, I have a story for you from Aug. 9.

The 9A bus picked up a Target employee who stood at the yellow line and had a conversation with the bus driver the entire time (They also engaged the female passenger sitting closest to the driver at one point about her car, which apparently just died.). At 18th and Eads, someone accidentally pulled the cord but told the driver not to stop. Because of this, the “stop requested” wasn’t reset. I pulled the cord for my stop at 15th, but of course no announcement was made.

I’m not sure if he was intent on just going straight to the Pentagon because there are only two stops after mine, but he showed no signs of slowing even after I got up and moved into the aisle.

He was too engaged in the conversation he didn’t see it.

I had to yell for him to please stop, and he slammed on the breaks.

He got mad that I didn’t pull the cord, and I told him he didn’t reset it when the previous passenger pulled it a stop earlier.

Then he told me not to yell at him while he was driving the bus, and I yelled back for him to do his job and to obey the rules and not talk to passengers.

He was pissed at me.

I reported it as soon as I got home; can’t wait to get my form letter.

If I have him again tonight, you can be sure I’ll be ready to document anything he says to me or another passenger.

Other items:
Alleged recording of altercation allegedly between Metrobus driver and passenger (NSFW)
How WMATA could better use the arrival signs (GGW)
What to do when a moron, or worse, is on your Metro (TBD)
Impostor drive may plead guilty (WaPo)
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