Thursday, September 18, 2008

Train Wreck Of ATopic

Train Wreck Of ATopic

Rush hour on Metrolink.

These days it's not too uncommon for those of us in Southern California to turn on the TV and see a couple of cars from our regional rail network toppled over on their sides and on fire.

In 2002 a freight train collided with a Metrolink commuter train in Placentia, killing two. The crash was caused by two BNSF engineers who were too busy chatting to notice a yellow signal. By the time they saw the red it was too late to avoid a collision. Judging by railroad hiring standards these days, that must have been some stimulating conversation.

Then in 2005 a man placed his SUV on the tracks in Glendale. The SUV was struck by a southbound Metrolink train which caused it to jackknife and hit a parked freight train on one side and a northbound Metrolink train on the other. 11 died. First responders from the nearby Costco were praised for their quick work in delivering first aid supplies to the victims of the crash, but drew criticism when they asked to see membership cards before administering help.

And now we have Chatsworth. Engineer runs a red and hits a freight train head on. 26 people are dead. Guinness arrives at the scene a short while later and declares a new winner.

When you see such a tragedy unfold live on television the first thing that usually comes to mind is how you can use this unfortunate event to further your own agenda and point fingers at high-ranking government officials. Before the bodies were cold the soulless vultures who follow mass transit in Southern California and elsewhere descended on the Internet with their "I told you so's" and armchair investigations. Suddenly everybody became an expert.

LA County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky may still be a jerkoff but Denise Tyrrell is all class.

Metrolink spokesperson Denise Tyrrell was criticized early on for stating the facts, that one of their engineers ran a red signal. She didn't say anything else. She simply told the truth, which was that the guy ran a red and who the hell knows why. She was accused of shifting the blame from the agency to a dead man. I say this woman is a goddamn hero. She's the first spokesperson for a public agency to not lie to our faces!

And you know how I know she was right? She quit. She left a seemingly cushy job that normally consisted of telling people, "We don't have any new information at this point in time (and by the time we do we're hoping you'll have forgotten about it)." The NTSB reports that have come out so far all support her initial announcement.

Metrolink itself was criticized for opposing Positive Train Control, a mechanism that would stop trains automatically should the engineer not comply with signals, because it's too costly. I know, I know, the big bad government agency doesn't care about safety. But have you seen how mass transit is funded these days? Jesus, even after this accident the only California budget proposal that has even come close to passing includes $89 million in budget cuts to the MTA and $13 million in cuts to transportation for the rest of Los Angeles County.

But you can't put a price on human lives! Well then, let's put a measure on the November ballot that would increase taxes to raise funds to install Positive Train Control systems on Metrolink and see if you want to pay for it. Apparently the price of 26 lives is $2.3 billion. But yeah, let's go ahead and vote no on every single transportation measure in California and vote for anti-mass transit representatives and then call Metrolink unsafe.

Then information about the engineer starts leaking out, each successive layer of detail causing you to mutter to yourself, "Jesus Christ..."

If you're wondering where the Metrolink locomotive is, well, it's in there somewhere.

It turns out, that this Metrolink engineer, charged with the task of keeping hundreds of people safe on their journey from Downtown Los Angeles to Ventura County, was text messaging while operating a 220 ton locomotive. And he wasn't just texting his ho like most of us do, he was exchanging messages with teenage railfans.

These are the same kind of railfans that consider the whole of Southern California's rail network to be their personal life-sized model train set. They go out every other day and shoot videos of the Amtrak and Metrolink trains and share them on YouTube. Hey, assholes, we're trying to commute here!

But they aren't passive observers. No, they have to bother the conductors and the engineers and apparently, befriend them! They don't want to talk to girls in their class. They want to talk to fat middle-aged men who work on the railroad!

Your opinion of the fact that this engineer was texting these kids while he was operating a commuter train puts you in one of two camps. If you thought that this guy was just a mentor to these boys, a kind of "train hero" that they looked up to, and that this whole thing was "just a mistake", then you are part of the pussy generation that doesn't keep score in Little League games anymore and should never reproduce.

But if the thought of a 44-year-old man texting young men about trains disturbs you, then you are a great American and should have some kids as soon as possible if you haven't already.

The mantra about this crash seems to be, "Don't be so quick to judge (anyone who isn't a high-ranking government official)." Whatever happened to judging? A man killed 26 people when he ran a red signal in Chatsworth that may or may not have been caused by him being distracted by his cell phone and we're the assholes if we suggest that he may have been vetting some train nerds in order to fuck them after his shift because he's a fat loser who is unable attract a mate who won't hang himself?

Really really creepy... I don't want him texting me.

His only other companionship besides four miniature greyhounds was a 77-year-old woman who blew him off last Christmas. Unlike teenage railfans, she apparently had better things to do with her time left on this planet than hang out with this winner. Hey, hey, hey, don't be so quick to judge!

Combine all that with a criminal record consisting of stealing Xbox consoles and you've got the kind of guy you'd want operating a train with 300 people onboard. Ditch the pain at the pump and take Metrolink, now with 33% more obese diabetic shut-ins!

Craig Williams, the father of the boy who was exchanging text messages with Sanchez before the crash, is trying to defend his son from criticism. Here's a guy who, when he first found out about this texting nonsense, should have given Robert Sanchez a knock on the door at his shack in La Crescenta and told him that if he didn't stop texting his son he would get an old fashioned ass kicking. No, his beef is with the media. WELL, PAUL MAGERS ISN'T TEXTING YOUR 'SPERGIN SON ALL DAY, CRAIG.

I guess now we know why his kid is into trains.

But whatever you do, don't post comments about the fucked up engineer! People want to make the dead out to be saints. No, this guy was a creep. He was a creep in life and a creep in death.

Whether the guy was distracted by his phone, went into diabetic shock, had a heart attack, or decided to end his miserable life, this whole thing is fucked up.


As a reminder for those of you who died in last Friday's Chatsworth accident, you are eligible for reimbursement under Metrolink's Quality Service Pledge. Under this program commuters who are delayed more than one hour from the published train schedule are entitled to a replacement ticket or a universal 4-trip ticket, depending on your type of pass.

Claims can be made to Metrolink Quality Service Pledge, Passenger Services Dept., 700 South Flower Street, 26th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

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