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TriMet Safety and Service Excellence Task Force

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The TriMet Safety and Service Excellence Task Force was a citizens' committee organized to respond to the double TriMet bus fatality on April 24, 2010, which chair Tom Walsh said "unquestionably is the darkest night in this agency's history."

While summing up the task force's work in October 2010, Walsh said that bringing TriMet to zero fatalities was the "only acceptable" standard for the agency. He said the standard would be "attainable" but "not easy."


[edit] Vehicle safety recommendations

In October 2010, the task force made 19 recommendations for the agency to improve its vehicle safety. Among them, the group said TriMet "should":

  • Create an executive director of safety who would report directly to the TriMet general manager.
  • Eliminate the term "accident" from its vocabulary to the extent practicable, because it implies that collisions were unpreventable.
  • Identify safety 'hot spots' around the TriMet service area using collision data. "Based on employee comments to the Task Force, the Portland Transit Mall is a 'hot spot' in need of review," the task force wrote.
  • Create incentive programs to reward safe performance among workers.
  • Develop a 'dashboard' of key safety metrics, including the location and nature of minor collisions, summarizable on a sheet of paper, that would be regularly provided to the general manager.

The group also said TriMet should "consider," "evaluate," "review," or "reexamine":

  • Creating a general-purpose community advisory committee that would "provide an opportunity for customer engagement on the agency level beyond the limitations of current public tesitomony to the board."
  • Installing closed-circuit televisions to tape operators on the job. This was a repeated demand of David Sale, whose daughter Danielle had been killed April 24. Task force member Robert Burchfeld, who delivered the group's procedural recommendations, said Oct. 20 that the task force had stopped short of recommending cameras on the drivers because during nine meetings, it had only spent a total of 15 minutes discussing the issue.
  • Changing TriMet's policy to start all new bus operators on part-time schedules, which might limit the talent pool.
  • Changing systems for operator and customer feedback "to ensure that safety issues are addressed in a timely manner."

[edit] Criticism of committee

Darla Sturdy of Gresham, whose son Aaron was killed by a MAX in a 2003 collision, predicted at the final task force meeting in October 2010 that TriMet was "not going to follow through" on the recommendations.

"There's nobody to hold them accountable," she said. "I talk to them. (state Sen.) Metzger talks to them. Nothing changes ... because there's nobody out there in our area, like Metro, JPACT, our senators, that's going to follow it through."

David Sale, the father of Danielle Sale, called the committee "a joke" in a September 2010 meeting. He called on TriMet to install cameras in buses and put supervisors on buses to observe operator behavior.

"If I go into a bank, I'm recorded," Sale said. "If I go into a store I'm recorded. The minute I walk out my door, I'm recorded. ... We're all videotaped. We're all cameraed. It makes you think about what you're doing. And eventually you quit thinking about it, because you're used to doing it right."

[edit] Response by McFarlane

Neil McFarlane, whose first major action as general manager was to oversee the committee process, called its recommendations a "major milestone" and promised that TriMet would act on them.

"From here on out, we are in implementation," McFarlane said Oct. 20. "It needs to be felt by everyone ... that safety is as much a part of my being as honesty or being a happy person or a good person. Customer service. It has to be that fundamental."

[edit] Task force members

[edit] External links

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