“The views expressed on this website are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of TriMet.”
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
ANOTHER ANTI TRIMET ARTICLE
Aiden Bailey learned a painful lesson about buttons last week. TriMet should have learned it, too.
Since Aiden is only 3, his moral of the story may not entirely square with everyone else's version of what happened. But Aiden does know he became separated from his father while getting off a MAX train, when he gave an irresistible button -- for a disabled access ramp -- an exploratory push.
Aiden then darted out a train door and lost his father's hand. The door shut and the train pulled away, with his dad still on board. Neither his frantic father, inside the train, nor a woman outside, were able to open that door.
Luckily for Aiden, his dad and the whole TriMet system, that woman came to Aiden's rescue and waited with him for seven minutes until his father could get back to him.
Afterward, Aiden promised his dad this wouldn't happen again. Nope, because he wouldn't be pushing any more buttons.
The moral of the story for the rest of us is that pushing buttons on a TriMet train may not do you any good. As the train pulled out, Aiden's father again and again pressed the button to activate the emergency intercom and talk to the operator of that train, but never got any response.
On Monday, TriMet ruled out mechanical failure as the cause of what happened, and blamed the train operator for the Bailey family's separation. The operator has been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation.
That's exactly the right call, but TriMet needs to go further. It needs to re-examine its policies and training and make sure train operators understand that intercoms are not just for decor.
It would be nice to think that what happened to Aiden is an isolated incident. But another father reported a similar incident in September, when he, too, became separated from his children.
Train riders almost never enjoy the friendly give-and-take with their drivers that so many bus riders experience. Yet MAX passengers do trust that an authority figure is close at hand -- a captain of the ship, even if rarely glimpsed.
True, you can ride the train for years without verifying that such a person is on board. But each car does come equipped with four emergency intercoms to communicate -- in theory -- with your operator.
You may never need to push one of those buttons, which are stationed near the car's doors. But when you do push one, because of a rowdy crowd, threatening behavior, medical emergency or other problem, there's no excuse for a driver to tune you out.
For this remote captain to fail to respond in a moment of crisis is terrifying, even if you're not 3 or the parent of a 3-year-old -- even if you're, say, 83.
Vicki Hersen, executive director of Elders in Action, works with transit riders on that end of the age spectrum, sometimes in frail condition. And when they or their caregivers require help on board a MAX train, they're counting on those buttons to work. "It's not used very often," Hersen repeated Monday -- but when it is, the call is urgent.
Aiden Bailey is absolutely correct. This is a button-pushing problem, all right.