Thursday, August 12, 2010


Looked like the full committee in attendance

Jim Tucci spoke first - he's the J of K&J Consulting that did the safety report.  K&J is splitting their time between TriMet & DC Metro.  He gave an overview of Phase 1 of the report
- spoke highly of bus & rail training
- He had done onsite assessments of TriMet over the last month

Then he went over Phase 2, which they had hard copies of available at the meeting
- recommended 8 weeks of rail operating training, something "both the training department and operators have been requesting"

Spoke for a while on improving the ability to identify hazards AND mitigate them - not just enough to be aware you have a problem if you don't do something about it

Applauded the check-ride procedures at rail; says he's unaware of other agencies that do check rides for safety instead of just things like spy rides for stop calling, customer service, etc.

Regarding drug testing, current practice is to put an operator back on the job while waiting for the results of a drug test - he recommends against that

Regarding communications - says there's a need for encouraging communication from the organization to operators to improve morale.

Said the safety department is understaffed - currently 7 people though 4 are dedicated to other tasks, so effectively only 3 people.  Federal guidelines suggests for an agency the size of TriMet, no fewer than 12 people in a safety dept.

Tom Walsh - "What's the relationship between safety & training departments?"
Tucci - "strong interface between the two at TriMet.  TriMet has excellent accident investigators, but they're good because they've dealt with many accidents.  Would like to see that level of strength in hazard/accident prevention"

Someone else asked  how a hazard committee works
Tucci - "Track, analyze, find trends in data - focus on the patterns that you see coming up the most, whether it be due to left turns, bad lighting, etc"

The end goal is a strong safety culture from management down to operators, hiring in operators who carry on that culture and provide management with ability to refine safety practices

Committee member Pringle asked - "What is it that causes accidents?"
Tucci - "98% human error" - both operators & pedestrians/drivers

Tucci - problem of some employees knowing *what* they are doing but without knowing *why* - link this back to hazard analysis.  Says the "why do we do this" is more defined for operators than maintenance

Someone else asked - "Regarding expertise & safety culture - will there be a loss with the retirement of people with high seniority?" (not just operators but also trainers, managers, etc)
Tucci - feels that even lower-seniority ops/mgmt carry out safety culture, but yes, there would be a loss of expertise when experienced trainers retire

Tucci - Safety department should be viewed as internal safety consultants
- recommended recruiting from within, though cautioned that not every operator or maintenance would make a good safety consultant

Committee bus operator Shirley Carter  - frustrated by lack of response to yellow cards - e.g. on line 70, island put in roadway across street from tavern, tavern has "no parking" sign but people park illegally, and now with the new design of the street, a bus can't fit through and their only option is to lean on the horn and hope someone inside the tavern comes out to move their car.  Issue has been repeatedly yellow-carded, no response from TriMet.  
Tucci - appreciates the intent behind the yellow card program, but acknowledges a "disjoint" - says trainers are frustrated by it too

Committee member Burchfield - "can hazards be identified by using incident data, if so, how?"
Tucci - would rather see pre-incident data (e.g. use near-miss data instead of actual incidents)

Pringle - the whole process - selecting & developing employees, inspiring them, enabling them to do their work - are there "thought leaders" at other agencies to use as examples for TriMet?  Asked what the top 5 agencies are
Tucci - Charlotte, NC (lowest incidents per miles of any agency); BART (in Oakland) - best safety record for rail

Committee member Steph Routh - question about bus stop discrepancies and other issues - is this a one-time audit, or an ongoing process?
Tucci - should be continuous - the riding public in Portland is very eclectic and very unique (lots of cyclists, pedestrians, etc)

Tom Walsh - definition of success would be if in 5 years, Tucci's answer to the best agency in the country would include TriMet

Moving on.....

Committee member Tony (works with UPS) - spoke on the issue of pedestrians assuming that a crosswalk will protect them - people need to know that a bus operator is there - risk if no eye contact or other communication.  Suggested talking buses/blowing horn before turns.  
- defensive driving - recognizing accidents before they happen
Someone else (might have been Shirley) - said eye contact isn't enough - need understanding of who has the right of way

Committee member Rob (the cyclist) - asked if TriMet will be removing left turns from routes, similar to UPS
Tucci - "That's a reaction" - altering routes like that should be based on hazard analysis on a turn-by-turn basis.  Not all left turns are hazardous.  Additionally UPS did it for saving fuel so not idling at red lights to turn left, not for safety reasons.  Boise & Cincinnati had left turn reductions, but found a 2x increase in the number of right turn incidents.  Rob asked for the severity of those right turn incidents - Tucci said a recent fatality happened where a mother with her 6 month old baby walked against the light with her head down into a right-turning bus.  Operator completely blameless.  Talking buses and no left turns do not help that type of event.

Steph Routh - said she saw that mid-block crossings would be a last resort, but why?
Tucci - high rate of incidents with mid-block crossings at other agencies, even those that use the Smith system

Pringle - any analysis of who is at fault for accidents?  (he apologized for asking such a blunt question)
Tucci - yes, but not at the national level - something like the woman walking with her baby into a turning bus would be classified as just a fatality - no cause or fault given.

Someone else asked if other agencies have measurable success in public safety education
Tucci - Yes - had a program with the DMV (didn't catch where this was) to add questions about railroad crossings to their driver license written test

Tucci discussed the role of a public information officer - mentioned the blogging community as a way to get safety information out.  Said that the riding public doesn't know all of the positives and safety information because TriMet is not telling them.

Tucci - recommended a systems approach to safety in everything - even run cuts need to take safety into account (e.g. more crowded buses, accommodating passengers with mobility needs allowing operator recovery time)

Innovative crossings - are there things we're not thinking about?

Break to let Ryan Hammel speak, even though we weren't at the public forum part yet but he had to leave so they let him say his piece early.  Ryan & his wife Jamie were both there...  extremely sad - Ryan could barely get the words out from crying, but basically said that he wishes there had been some sort of audible warning on Sandi Day's bus to have made them aware that it was there, though he said that since she made an illegal left, she probably wouldn't have used the warning anyway.


Next Pam & Chris from Marketing/Capital projects.They do safety outreach, had a slide show on WES & Green Line safety education highlights.  Chris talked about safety initiatives on new lines; Pam talked about how the safety message is woven into ongoing communications.  They do safety outreach in local schools.

There will be new channel cards featuring operators saying stuff like "James W. from light rail wants you to look both ways"  

Someone asked about benchmarks of the budget allocated to safety versus other transit agencies.  Unknown, but about 40-50% of TriMet budget is for outreach

They also mentioned Operation Lifesaver, which Tom Walsh questioned what it is.  So here's the website -  

Pringle - can we objectively measure the impact of your safety outreach?
Chris - it's hard to quantify

Public commentary time:

Matt from Operation Lifesaver - compared WES against a commuter rail in the southwest that averages 1 severe incident per day, stresses importance of safety outreach

Robert Butler - came up, gave his name and address, said he thought he was probably the only civilian in the room, requested 5 minutes to say his piece.
He pointed to Shirley - said he applauded her for being the only one to have the courage to speak the truth - that TriMet does not follow up on its employee's concerns.  Or anyone else's concerns. He has been trying to get a problem solved for the last 18 months at TriMet.
He gave his phone number, and said he was going to issue a challenge - that challenge was for the safety committee to find out what he was trying to accomplish, and how it got resolved (or rather, how it did NOT get resolved.)  Because he does not believe that TriMet actually cares about safety issues since they don't respond to their employees and they don't respond to the public.

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