Twice already, I have complained to the TTC about a subway conductor who does not open the guard’s window at station stops. (You have to do that to make sure nobody gets caught in the doors, which has caused fatalities in the past.) I’ve seen this guy on at least three occasions variously reading a magazine (apparently Esquire) or staring at his clamshell cellphone, perhaps playing a game. Twice I’ve actually knocked on the guard’s window to get his attention.

Last night (2008.01.14), this same guy was driving 72 run of the Bloor line westbound at Greenwood. I was at the west end of the station. I had just missed a train and the next train went out of service at Greenwood; a third train was stopped at the end of the platform. That prompted me to check the signals, which were practically adjacent to me, and they were red all the way down.

The train entered the station and was moving slowly before it came to a halt. I had all sorts of time to notice the route number and recognize the same conductor. He had his left hand on the dead man’s switch; his right hand held an open clamshell cellphone, which he was looking at. I got in the first car, but the train wasn’t going anywhere; we still had red signals (I leaned out and checked). Then I walked up to the side window of the driver’s compartment, knocked on it, and said “Put that away!” loudly.

The driver visibly recognized me and said, in effect, get lost. I took two noncommercial flash pictures. When he saw I was getting ready to take his picture, he hid his cellphone, stood up, turned to conceal his face, and pressed yellow (hit the panic button, which is yellow on the control console). He was on the TRUMP phone instantly. He opened the side window and said “Yeah, the cops are coming now, buddy.”

I calmly began walking out of the station. Halfway up the stairs, I heard door chimes and heard a train leave, presumably that same train. I phoned Transit Control Wayside but couldn’t reach anyone. I later called back and explained most of the foregoing, which the man on the line typed into his computer.

So let’s recap:

  • A conductor with a known record of inattentiveness is driving the subway inattentively. (I saw him looking at his cellphone while the train was in motion.)
  • This is my third complaint about this driver.
  • I have this man’s picture, his run number, and his description.
  • This man threatened to call the cops (presumably the TTC special constables) when he was at fault. I had committed no illegal act. He threatened retribution.

Here’s the most interesting part. Every time I sit in the front car of a train, I think of the Russell Hill accident. Superstitious, I know. But that accident was caused largely by a defective signalling system and a culture of drivers ignoring signals. Here we have a case where, through intentional inattentiveness, a driver might ignore well-functioning signals and cause a fatal accident.

How much more reporting of observed facts does TTC need before it takes action against this employee? At the very least, they could carry out a secret-shopper task and watch him in action. Just from following my normal routine, I’ve seen him acting this way at least four times.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.01.15 16:00. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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