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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Misplaced priorities

There have been two accidents involving Green Line trolley operators in less than one year where the common theme was running a red light.

And while there appears to be a simple solution to prevent trolley cars ramming each other, injuring dozens and costing millions, there has been no movement in that direction by MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas, who prefers to focus on one incident and not the broader picture.

And no movement on Grabauskas, because firing him would cost too much.

Is there something wrong with this picture of "fiscal responsibility?"

While Smilin' Dan is correct to ban cell phones from the cab or driver's seat of any MBTA vehicle as a distraction to operators, talking about a solution to a recurring problem is definitely not a distraction in the pursuit of a safe Green Line ride.

The solution is automatic fail-safe sensors -- installed on the Red and Orange lines -- that would stop a train that runs a red light.

Smilin' Dan says he'd love to have them, but there are already three "fail-safe" devices on a Green Line trolley: a deadman switch, a pedal held down by the operator that pops up if he’s suddenly stricken; a button called a “plunger” they can push that will halt the trolley; and finally, the train’s brakes.

None of them work too well if the operator is speeding or simply not paying attention, as has been proven conclusively twice in a year.
“They should have learned their lesson,” said Rene Nardones, a member of the T Rider’s Union. “This is a safety issue. It needs to be a priority for the authority to provide that system because people’s lives are in their hands.”
Then there's the matter of fiscal priorities. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steven Baddour of Methuen seems more concerned with the cost of buying out Grabauskas than the poor record for T service on Smilin' Dan's watch.
“One thing we don’t have is two nickels to rub together,” Baddour said.
But we do have the money to pay the costs of a full emergency service response and a hypothetical $10 million for the replacement of the cars damaged in this crash?

It's time to put rider safety first. And Smilin' Dan has got to go.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both Green Line accidents were teh result of human error. Why is it asking too much for them to just pay attention to their duties while on the job?? Bus drivers are able to drive safely all around Boston everyday without 'fail safe' systems in place.

May 14, 2009 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

The point of technology is to reduce the chances that human error can harm us. It's best not to plan on humans never making errors.

You're absolutely right about everything in this post, OL. And I'm relieved to learn the Red Line (my line) has that safety feature.

May 15, 2009 10:19 PM  

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