Our local transit-blog muscle man, Al Margulies, recently posted a video on this subject. (See TriMet Refuses...) A retiree, he is well-known for blasting Portland's transit agency, TriMet, for its blunders and shenanigans. It's good to keep grinding the agency for dragging its feet, especially where the word "safety" is concerned. Also, while he's correct in lambasting the agency for its lack of action in lieu of a passel of fancy words and finger-pointing, my blog's mantra is "Safety is a Two-Way Street".
I've stated many times that bus (and MAX) operators SAVE lives every trip, every line, every single damn day. You won't hear about that in the media, because "safety" doesn't sell. Unless, of course, something bad happens. Then you hear about how TriMet needs to "train its operators more" or "study safety solutions" and blah blah blah.
Oh sure, once in a while you get the "Operator Good Guy" feel good story, but most of us don't tell the Public Information Office (PIO) about all the good things we do. Why? Because it's all part of our job. The "news" would most likely not be interested if it were inundated with "OGG" stories, and most of us are just simply... well, too modest to talk about it. After a shift is over, we just want to go home and be with our loved ones, putting that day's work behind us (if we can) when we walk out of the garage. The next day, we often forget what happened the day before. This is also how we deal with the shit thrown at us by rude and abusive passengers every day. In order to drive safely, we have to let it all just roll off our shoulders, good and bad.
So when you hear about tragedy in our fair city, such as Lady Doesn't Look, Loses Her Leg, people are quick to point at the operator, especially our local media. Do you think my "headline" for the link in the last sentence is what the media would say? Of course not! That would be putting the blame on the poor lady who lost her leg because some bonehead operator ran her over! Now wait a minute, we operators say, what about the lady's responsibility in this matter? If you read the quote by a police officer, it speaks volumes about "blame".
"Witnesses stated (she) had a hoodie on, and looked to be wearing earbuds as she crossed the tracks", directly in front of an oncoming train. A train that sounded its horn in warning, a signal everyone else but the victim, seemed to hear.
We see this type of behavior every day. Downtown. On Division. In Beaverton, Gresham, Oregon City, St. John's, Gladstone, Tigard, Tualatin; everywhere we operate buses or trains. People just act as if the world around them is responsible for their safety, and if they wear earbuds it's up to someone else to watch out for them. Bicyclists especially are guilty of taking foolish chances around transit vehicles. However, when we alert them of our presence with a firm "beep beep" of our horn, their idea of thanks is often an extended middle finger. Oh, how I'd love to bend those fingers back until I hear a "snap", just to teach them a lesson! But no. Can't do that. We're not allowed to respond. At all.
Yes, I get a bit testy when the public, or the media, questions our "safety training". It's quite adequate, thank you. The public's, however, is severely lacking. There are no media spots on How to Ride a Bus (for Dummies). I never see any Public Service Announcements on how to BE SAFE. People won't even read Signs on the Bus! I get it. It's a personal responsibility thing. But wait... whatever happened to that? It blew away with the advent of the smart phone, I'll betcha. Plugged in and tuned out. That's what we are, as a society.
When something bad happens with a transit vehicle, BAM... blame it on the operator. They're overpaid monkeys anyway, right? I mean anybody can drive a bus! Well evidently not everybody can walk down the street without doing something stupid, but that's beside the point, I reckon.
Yeah, I had a Recert Class recently. The trainer was very informative, as usual. He was a veteran with many years behind the wheel, someone I respect and admire greatly. I learned some things that can truly help me become even safer. Bus operators are human. We develop bad habits that need correction. We need to be kept informed about different safety procedures. This class is really a good idea, even though the district probably wouldn't have done it if not for a fatal incident a few years ago. Yes, we get regular training. But does the public?
One thing about the class that bothered me was a demonstration by someone who works in the "Safety" division. We were subjected to a terribly patronizing video outlining such things as what constitutes a "fall", or a "trip" and other such things we all learned as children. We listened politely as this chap told us how "safety is our culture", yet the talk of the town was how this lady had lost her leg when she was hit by a train when she didn't look before crossing. We all had the same reaction to this corporate double-speak: bullshit. Show this tripe to the riding public, and I'll bet their response wouldn't be nearly as politely restrained as ours.
The only people at TM truly concerned with "safety" are the operators. Management seems to just like the sound of it. It's a pretty word to them, but when they're slapped in the face with obvious safety-related fixes, they "study" this word. Sometimes they study really hard, for a long time. But then they fail the test.
Even though this post seems a bit hard-hearted toward the dear lady who lost her leg recently, I can safely say that all operators feel terrible this happened. Especially me. Whenever we hear about an injury, or a fatality, you can be assured that at least a thousand operator voices are raised in prayer for the victim and family. We're human, we truly care about our riding public.
Pay attention folks. We sure do.