Monthly Archives: March 2013

Corrosion? No, TriMet, I think you just spelled “corruption” wrong

We all remember that MAX train that went down the Banfield with a door open, right? Which is not how the train is supposed to work – if your doors are open and you try to take power to move the train forward, the doors will close. The interlock should prevent the train from moving if any doors remain open.

opendoorbanfieldDoor open, train still moving

For some reason, this door stayed open between the Hollywood and Lloyd Center platforms, but no cause had been identified until last Friday afternoon, when TriMet issued a press release that the cause of the door’s malfunction had been determined:

bridgeplate corrosion

That would be great except for one thing – that door doesn’t have a bridgeplate. The incident happened in a Type 2, and like all other low-floor cars in the fleet, bridgeplates are located at doors 3, 4, 5, and 6 near the middle of the train on both sides. The doors closest to the ends of the train (1, 2, 7, and 8) do not have bridgeplates. They aren’t missing or corroded, they are just not there by design. It’s impossible that there was excessive corrosion on a bridgeplate mechanism in that door because there is no mechanism there to corrode in the first place.

Type 2 with bridgeplates outType 2 with bridgeplates out. Notice the middle doors have them but the doors near the ends of the car do not

What does our executive director of safety have to say about this?

saporta is corroded

Yeah, the corrosion on that switch was apparently so severe that the switch and bridgeplate are just GONE. Let me give you an analogy for how mind-blowingly confusing TriMet’s official statement is:

bikeTriMet would tell you that this cat’s bicycle is showing the same advanced corrosion as the bridgeplate switch

Now while the major media sources I’ve seen so far are just parroting back that the issue was due to corrosion on that door’s bridgeplate switch, many people are realizing this doesn’t add up. You don’t need to be an expert in the trains to notice that the doors near the upper deck seating of the train don’t have bridgeplates. One of my astute blog readers picked right up on it, other bloggers and Twitter users caught it too. That explanation seems to just be made up.

door cutoutDID NO ONE THINK TO CHECK THE BRIDGEPLATE?? Actually that’s going to be my new excuse for everything. Signal went dark? Probably a corroded bridgeplate switch. TVM not working? Most likely due to bridgeplate corrosion. Fight on the train? Yeah, that pesky bridgeplate corrosion again. 

But hey! Let’s not miss an opportunity to blame the union! In other words, let’s look at this part at the end of the press release that has NOTHING to do with the door issue:

union blaming

Do you like how those goalposts have been moved? TriMet used to call the union benefits  “some of the most generous in the transit industry” – now that’s been bumped up to THE most generous benefits in the entire COUNTRY. Hoo-wee!

Once again, TriMet non-union benefits aren’t too shabby either. Will we mention those as a cost-cutting measure? Course not.

non union rates

Must be hard being an executive at TriMet, not getting a raise on some of the most generous salaries in the transit industry after three years? I’d say “no disrespect to office workers” here, but you know what? If you’re offended by my belief that people who work all hours of the day all days of the year in all weather conditions in hot/noisy/dirty/hostile environments should get health care that compensates for that, and that the people making 6-figure salaries working in climate controlled environments with weekends, evenings, and holidays off paying less than $100/month to insure their entire family don’t exactly have room to complain that the union health benefits (for which union employees pay higher premiums per month than the non-union employees) are “too generous”, you and I just aren’t going to see eye-to-eye.

And hey, ATU would be happy to negotiate when TriMet agrees to full transparency by letting the sessions be open to the public. Because funny enough, there’s been a lot of instances such as this explanation of a bridgeplate problem in a door that has no bridgeplate, last-minute fixes of long-standing alignment problems right before an inspection, and  stealth raises to executives while crying poverty and blaming the union that have us all kind of thinking that TriMet can’t exactly be trusted to be transparent.

Anyway, back to the door issue. I’m really stumped here. If whoever looked at the door was not able to replicate the problem, the correct response would be to just say so, and maybe dedicate more resources to monitoring the condition of the doors. I find it next to impossible to believe that a mechanic said the problem was because of a bridgeplate-related issue in that door (and even if a mechanic DID say that, that no one else involved in the process said “Hey guys? This door doesn’t have a bridgeplate.”)

Who knows what actually caused it? Maybe whoever grabbed the door bumped it in such a way that the interlock registered it as closed. Maybe some connection in there was loose anyway and the person trying to get in just broke it all the way. Even if the cause were a problem with a bridgeplate in another door of that car that might have affected the interlock system for the whole car (I don’t even know if that’s possible), then the press release should have stated THAT. Because if what the press release said is the complete and final answer, and TriMet is going to say it was a bridgeplate problem in that specific door, then we still don’t know what actually did it and we’re not going to be able to prevent it from happening again as long as the explanation is to technobabble an answer that has no basis in the mechanical reality of that door.

I can’t tell if this is intentional deception and assuming the public is too dumb to question why the explanation involves a component that isn’t part of that door, or just plain old-fashioned incompetence. Either way, it’s incredibly disappointing of TriMet, and it’s also disappointing that they take a safety issue as an opportunity to throw slurs at the union.

(and if someone wants to provide pictures of the corroded bridgeplate switch in the mechanisms of that particular door, please do so! All the other rail personnel that I batted this one around with don’t see how TriMet’s official explanation makes any sense given what we know about the construction and operation of the trains, so if you want to use this opportunity to give us all a learning experience, we’re open to it.)

Transparency, trust, and TriMet

We’re sorry we didn’t outright tell the public that as we were cutting service and raising fares, we were going to give ourselves raises.

But we’re not at all sorry that we now make more money.

I think OPAL gets original credit for spotting this one first in April of last year. In a readthrough of the proposed 2013 budget, they noticed that TriMet doubled the contingency budget, from $10 million up to $20 million. No apparent reason was given, though there seemed to be some suggestion that it was needed in the event TriMet lost the arbitration with the union. OPAL members testified at board meetings, questioning the contingency and stating that both doubling that and raising fares was a too-conservative approach to the budget at the expense of bus riders, and suggested if it were to be increased at all, it should at most go from $10 million to $15 million.

Now we find out that at least part of the purpose of increasing the contingency was to give raises to the top execs at TriMet. As the PortlandAfoot story points out, the raises didn’t show up in the budget as raises given for merit. There’s no mention of these raises in TriMet’s anti-union webpages, which still state that there’s been a non-union pay freeze for four years. Okay, fine, maybe there was a freeze for four years, but if my pay didn’t change for four years and then you gave me a $7000 raise on top of my $130k salary? (an actual “merit increase” from the list) You know, I don’t think my feelings would be hurt too much.

General manager Neil McFarlane is now issuing the non-apology of “We’re sorry we weren’t more transparent.” Actually Neil, I believe when you falsify the budget with a salary that is out of date, and the board knowingly passes that even though it intentionally had incorrect information, and salary raises are hidden in a contingency fund and not listed for what they are, that’s what we call “outright lying”, not just “not being transparent enough.”

The story was also covered by the Oregonian, which includes other gems, such as “We had to give Shelly Lomax a $14,000 raise because as the only woman on staff, we were paying her a lot less than the men” and that union president Bruce Hansen actually took a pay cut when he became president of the union. And of course, general manager Neil McFarlane defending the move, saying it was done to retain these executives and managers (worked out real well for ya with former Director of Finance Beth Dehamel, a $20,000 raise and then she left a few months later.)

But Why bother retaining talent when we outsource work that could be done in-house anyway?

Back during Neil’s Twitter town hall chat, a lot of folks (myself included) questioned some of TriMet’s spending decisions, such as marketing. Now I’m not opposed to a marketing department, I realize that theoretically they fulfill an important role in keeping riders informed. But what I don’t understand is why TriMet has a marketing department, yet we outsource marketing work. Quoting myself from an older post:

But for the last ten years, the now-defunct external company ID Branding has been doing TriMet’s marketing and design work rather than TriMet’s own internal Marketing department.

That means the 5 Dirty Words poems on buses and trains, the Green Means Go campaign surrounding the opening of the Green Line, the recent What Makes This Place Great? promotion (which, conveniently has been used to cover up the aforementioned failed #1 Transit ads on the trains – I suppose the fact that ID Branding is now out of business explains why the WMTPG website remains un-updated with several sections still “coming soon.” Hope we didn’t pay for that!), the Rider’s Voice book aimed at helping people switch from paratransit to fixed route – all of these were outsourced to ID Branding.

This really makes me wonder what our Marketing department is doing if we’re outsourcing marketing work to another company. Are these all things we can’t do in-house? How much money was spent on the ID Branding contract, and were we planning on spending more with any other marketing firms now that they’re gone? Can we maybe pick one or the other, either outsource all marketing or do everything in-house, but not both?

EDIT: Numbers acquired. ID Branding contract was $1,862,437.00 budgeted, $1,497,547.95 billed, contract numbers ra020310ktx and rc070408dgx. Assuming we don’t outsource more marketing at the conclusion of the ID Branding contract, that’d be nearly $2 million saved.

The ID Branding thing was a while ago, but you might have noticed TriMet hosting a bunch of contests lately – “Be Seen Be Safe“, “Drive Less Save More“, and a current one for teens to make a safety video, just to name a few. But here’s the interesting part of the fine print at the bottom of these contests:

offerpopPowered by Offerpop you say?

Turns out Offerpop is an online marketing promotional tool. Pricing is based on how many Facebook and Twitter followers you have. So let’s see, TriMet’s Facebook has about 8400 followers, and TriMet’s Twitter has about 9100. So that’s about 17,500 followers, and depending on whether or not this is pay-by-month or an annual subscription, TriMet is paying $360-$400 a month for contests. And because someone is bound to say it, yes I know that that’s just a drop in the budget bucket. BUT once again, why is this being outsourced at all? Is there seriously no one in the marketing department who could organize contests like this  as part of their regular job duties?

But okay, let’s aim a little bit higher. We know that TriMet’s got a handsomely compensated legal team, several of whom were on the stealth payraise list. And we know that TriMet has recently filed suit against Clackamas county. Here’s the part I don’t understand – take a look at the lawsuit file itself. Specifically, the footnote:

ater wynne

Now I’m no legal expert, but maybe there’s a reader here who is and can provide a logical explanation why TriMet hired an external lawfirm for this lawsuit and didn’t make use of the lawyers on staff. Because I’m really perplexed by this.

Edit: And in the comments, Engineer Scotty delivers – this is apparently standard procedure.

Once again, I find myself wondering – why bother making a big deal about retaining these highly paid managers & lawyers & executives if you pay other companies to do work that could be done by them?

Fix the ship? Blow it up? Whatever.

A while back, a friend of mine did a guest post on the contract negotiations and the union’s health care costs, and that post includes what is probably my favorite quote summing up the situation:

another perspective

Well. That pretty much accurately describes what ended up happening. Before the news about the executive raises, Joseph Rose at the Oregonian was the only one covering this story of Neil’s decision to expand the executive ranks, which I think is a shame because, like the executive raises, it’s something the public has the right to be aware of, and protest if necessary.

So former director of operations Bob Nelson (currently receiving a pension of about $48k/year from TriMet; had left the agency in 2007 making just shy of $160k/year) is coming back as “Interim Deputy General Manager” and I’m sorry, all I can think of when I hear that is this:

jr crimefighter

But wait, it gets better. The purpose of his job will be to assess the position of Deputy General Manager and determine if it should be permanent. Man, I wish someone would give me a 6-figure salary, and then at the end of a year ask me if they should keep paying me that (on top of the pension I’m getting that’s already more than many people make in a year). Do we really think he’s going to say, “No, this isn’t the best use of TriMet’s resources”? Anyone who would say that, well, here’s your sign.

Next up is Barbara Ramirez Spencer who will be hired as a consultant, and I had posted this in response on Twitter but I know I’ve got blog readers who don’t follow me there so here it is again. From the Oregonian article, this a quote from Mary Fetsch on why Ramirez Spencer is being sought out:

Ok, that’s a lot of syllables to tell us… what, exactly? Strip out the buzzwords and management lingo and what value is she going to add to TriMet? How is this going to help riders? What is this going to do for the benefit of the general public? Was there seriously not a better use for the oodles of money TriMet apparently has laying around?

Bonus: she serves on the super-secret budget task force (I believe the same one that greenlighted the executive raises) which has meetings that the public is not allowed to attend. Clearly no conflict of interests there…

Oh, that Rascally Union..

But as far as TriMet is concerned, there’s no problem paying out raises to executives while slashing service, and threatening to cut 70% of service. No, the expenses are all the union’s fault because of the cost of union health care benefits. (By the way, that 70% service cut is the projection for 2025. I find it doubtful that the powers that be will choose to forgo their raises during that time, so why is the union the only side expected to concede?)

You might’ve seen in the news that a bus driver was punched in the face the other day. And a supervisor was assaulted at Rose Quarter last week (neither the supervisor nor the operator who stepped in to assist were injured. This didn’t make the news, and neither do countless instances of drivers being spit on or threatened). But come on now, Neil keeps repeating that the union benefits need to be brought in line with non-union benefits, and asking “Are we a healthcare provider or a transit agency“?

Well, when was the last time Neil had an angry customer punch him in the face or spit on him? When was the last time he had to step in to assist Mary Fetsch because an angry drunk was shoving her around? Heck, when’s the last time Neil got a kidney or bladder infection from driving a 100+degree bus for 9 hours with inadequate breaks? Tell you what Neil, when your health risks on the job are the same as the front line union workers’, then we can talk all you want about how the health compensation should be the same. When non-union employees and retirees pass away as frequently as union workers, then we can have this discussion about the same health care for everyone. Remember that the reason why the union health plan is different is that because of the detrimental health aspects of the jobs (especially when compared to office workers), the union has historically negotiated compensation in the form of benefits rather than pay raises, and now TriMet wants the union to yield both.

Look, I really do understand the perspective of the general public in this fight. A friend of mine and his wife (neither of them are TriMet employees) together pay about $700 a month in healthcare premiums, just for the two of them. Yeah, that sucks, and absolutely, the union health insurance premium costs are much more palatable in comparison:

union rates

But to be fair and in the interest of transparency (for real, not TriMet’s definition of transparency), here are the non-union employee premiums – in other words, what Neil and his merry band of executives pay. Again in fairness, I will note that the part-time non-union employees are really getting wrung over…

non union rates

So you figure Neil is probably paying about $75/month to insure himself and his wife, while TriMet picks up $1170 of the tab? Not too shabby for a guy pulling in almost a quarter million per year. Funny how we don’t hear the word “Cadillac” applied to this side of things. And no one mentions the non-union retirement trust (maybe because info on it is so hard to find), worth over $80 million and into which TriMet pays $4.5 million annually. The source document for that has been removed from TriMet’s webpage, but I saved  a copy for you guys so you don’t have to fork out public records request fees in case you wanted to read it. Did I mention that transparency is how we roll here at MAX FAQs? But no, none of this is considered a problem or a bloated cost… that criticism is reserved for what the union is compensated.

Fun fact: Starbucks spends more on employee health benefits than coffee, yet unlike Neil, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz does not seem confused as to what the purpose of his company is. In fact, he refused to cut benefits for part time employees.

What’s coming next

We’re still waiting to hear the result of a ruling on whether or not the contract negotiations will be open to the public. TriMet is strongly opposed to public negotiations, and the union is strongly in favor of public negotiations. From the union’s perspective, TriMet has not demonstrated that they can be trusted to be transparent (golly gee, imagine that), and TriMet’s demand that only “unaffiliated members of the press” be permitted to attend is unacceptable.

I’ve heard some rumors going around (let me repeat, unsubstantiated rumors) that money for that contingency fund will be used to pay scabs if TriMet management is able to overturn the ruling that the transit union cannot strike and disputes will be settled with binding arbitration. Pretty much every news source I found for that proposed bill talks about “allowing the union to strike” but ignores the flipside – such a bill would also allow TriMet to lock the union out. Personally I don’t know of any current employees who are interested in striking – it’s not good for the workers, it’s not good for the public, and generally speaking the operators are genuinely interested in serving the public. But would TriMet take the action of locking the union out until the contract is resolved? Hate to say it, but the hostility in the environment makes me think yes, they would.

Let me pull this one back up:

another perspective

I think there are a lot of TriMet union employees with this mindset. Yes, there’s an awareness that the health plan at TriMet is better than a lot of people get elsewhere. Yes, if EVERYONE in the company needs to pitch in and sacrifice and do their part and all to keep things moving, people will generally be agreeable to that. But as long as the union is painted as the bad guys while the executive elites give themselves raises on the sly, downplay their own pensions and benefits, and try to pit riders against workers, those executives are not going to get an ounce of compromise or cooperation. Nor should they expect any.

Au contraire..

And the results are in….

The previously mentioned ODOT inspection (full report courtesy of the Oregonian) was released late last week, and ODOT found no concerns for public safety. Some say now that this undermines the union’s credibility; on the contrary I think it strengthens it.

I didn’t personally take any of the damage photos that the union had circulated, but y’all may have noticed I take a lot of pictures for the blog. Before ATU even circulated those track damage photos and any kind of ODOT inspection was on the radar, I had independently taken photos of some of the trouble areas.

Lloyd Ctr 1 Lloyd Ctr 2

These are both just west of the Lloyd Center platform, where switches 17A,  17B, and 17C allow trains to diverge into the Doubletree Siding. I took both of these pictures on January 26, 2013. The damage here necessitated a slow order (that’s what the yellow cone is for), and the damage to the rail and surrounding pavement is pretty obvious.

How long was that track in this state of disrepair? Well here’s the same spot, July 30, 2012. At that time, I’d taken these partially to show the damage, and partially just as an example of wayside flags in case I ever needed it for the blog. You can also see how the pavement around the rail in the above picture from January is visibly worse than it had been in July, indicating that little to no repair work was done on this during that time period.

Now these switches in particular weren’t shown in the ODOT report, but nearby switches  (15A and 15B) west of Lloyd closer to 9th Ave were pictured in the ODOT report from March 5, 2013:


There had been a flurry of activity of repair work on the rails once the inspection was announced. ODOT was even able to tell that the welding in the 15 A switch had been done recently.

While the 17A switch that I took photos of in July 2012 and January 2013 wasn’t pictured in the ODOT report, here’s how it looked as of March 10, 2013:

March 10 17A

You can see that the holes in the pavement around the rails have been filled in, again clearly showing that this problem had been there for months and only was addressed when the inspection was announced.

The only other pic I got recently was this at 11th Avenue on February 12, 2013.

11thAve WB

I took this facing north and looking down on the westbound track at 11th & Morrison.

And what the inspectors saw:


This picture is taken facing west – my photo of the same area was taken on the left side of the first switch you see (you can see where the brick/cement/cobblestone pavement meet). Similar to the switch on Holladay, the holes in the area surrounding this switch have been repaved as well.

So I’m really struggling to see how this is supposed to undermine the union’s credibility. Apparently TriMet thought these issues were enough of a concern to patch these areas up before the inspectors came. I mean, the above pictures show the Holladay track damage going back as far as last July and still an issue at the end of January (and yes it was like that later than the end of January, but in fairness that’s the most recent I’d been there to take a photo) – if this was just “routine maintenance” and not last minute patching, wouldn’t it have been addressed sometime in the last 8 months and not immediately prior to the inspection?

Doesn’t the fact that these areas were in disrepair for months, and that TriMet saw fit to make last minute repairs right before the inspection just serve to strengthen the union’s concern that the alignment was not properly maintained?

When values become buzzwords

I’m not sure who came up with this whole “Safety at TriMet is not just a priority, it’s a value” thing, but it’s really turning into more of a slogan than an actual practice. Like if we cram the word “safety” into a speech as many times as we can, SUCCESS! That means we have a safe system!

opendoorbanfieldOpen door on the MAX

Except, you know, in practice it doesn’t really work out like that, such as the recent failed door interlock on a MAX train. Or the not as publicized but still recent failed door interlock on a bus. Or all the track damage out there on the alignment that passengers might not notice unless they spot some of the wayside cones/flags denoting a slow order, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of areas of the alignment that are in need of repair.

Is everything at TriMet as safe as it could be? The official answer would have you believe yes, that’s the case. The rest of us aren’t convinced.

safety core valueI know that the Ruby Yard is safe. Why? Because the sign says so!

For those of you playing along from home, KOIN Local 6 has had the most thorough coverage. It began when Bruce Hansen, the president of ATU 757 called TriMet “a series of disasters waiting to happen.” He brought up numerous safety concerns about rail (this is not to say that there aren’t at bus as well, but that rail was the focus of this particular statement, mainly because of the recent door issue), including track damage, equipment failures, and Type 4 visibility issues.

TriMet’s response? Spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt issued a statement that MAX is perfectly safe and these safety concerns are just an attempt to discredit TriMet and draw attention away from the contract negotiations of the union’s excessive healthcare benefits.

How dare you, Roberta? Is it really the hallmark of an organization that values safety like TriMet claims to dismiss broken track and equipment problems as “attempts to discredit TriMet?” I don’t even want to dignify your jab at the union with a response.

KOIN’s latest step in the investigation (no story, just video) looks at some more photos of track damage and briefly goes over a letter from the union in October 2010 detailing in particular the visibility issues with the Type 4s. You read that right, a letter from the union in 2010. So much for Roberta’s claim that the union is only now bringing up safety issues now to try to detract attention from contract negotiations.

The KOIN report didn’t cover this other safety issue, but here is a video from the January 2011 board meeting where union representatives attempted (again, without any resolution) to address the Type 4 visibility problems with the TriMet board, several months after a lack of response from the October 2010 letter:

In short, the union has been trying, without success, to do something about these safety issues for a long time. Addressing this now has nothing to do with the contract.

But if piggybacking off the recent media attention given to the train with the broken door is finally going to get something done about this? Well okay then.

If you haven’t yet, take a look at that October 2010 letter, it’s an interesting read. Here are some of the highlights (and background): In July 2010, ATU gave TriMet formal notice that there were visibility issues with the Type 4s that required immediate attention, including the lack of mirrors, cab design, and external cameras. The “response” from TriMet in August 2010 was essentially “There’s no problem with the trains, they are safe.” The October 2010 letter that is now available on the union website was ATU’s response to TriMet’s refusal to address the problems, and it provides photograph evidence of some of the issues to further support the concerns about safety:

123 field of visionThe field of vision you get from the cab in a Type 2/3 on the left and a Type 1 on the right, given the position of the side windows and size of the window pillar

4 field of visionAnd the view you get in a Type 4, which is substantially more obstructed

what was actually thereThis photo was taken from the same train cab as the above pic – you can hide multiple trains in adjacent tracks in the blind spot of a Type 4

4 camera

And what the cameras in the 4s are like sometimes – remember, Type 4s don’t have mirrors to rely on when the cameras go screwy. Technically there are detachable ones, as seen below in the Clackamas break room, but those are only used by supervisors to get Type 4s with defective cameras out of service. You won’t see a 4 running in service with those on.

t4 mirror case

But back to the KOIN investigation – what was Safety Director Harry Saporta’s response to the union’s evidence?  “I didn’t see anything that was unsafe.”  Clearly Harry has never played the “Gee, I hope everyone on the platform got on my Type 4 because the way the sun is hitting the camera I can’t see a flipping thing, gonna close my doors and hope for the best” game. He should sometime, it’s great fun. And I guess he’s pretty mellow about cracked rails too, since he said those are just routine maintenance problems. (By the way, there have been attempts to call attention to track damage problems as well, long before the contract negotiation mess. THIS ISN’T NEW, ROBERTA.)

My favorite part of the KOIN investigation is that they asked a member of the National Association of Railroad Safety Consultants who has no affiliation with TriMet or ATU to comment on the union’s safety concerns. The response? “This does not look like a routine maintenance issue and could be a bigger issue. If they have proper maintenance they would not have situations like these.”

Well, you know maybe this is a sign that TriMet needs a more capable safety guy if the one we’ve got doesn’t see any of this as a problem while assuring the public that “the system is absolutely safe and there is no need to worry.”

wizard_of_oz_wizard_headIs anyone else thinking of this or is it just me?

Then the plot thickens when ODOT orders an immediate inspection of the rail lines. This was covered by the Oregonian as well, which of course has the outcome of bringing out anti-union trolls in the comments (seriously, there are folks there saying that the union has zero concern for safety, people need to turn against all unions, and that ATU has been hiding these safety issues from TriMet managers as an “ace in the hole”. Hmm, speaking of ace holes…)

The problem is that TriMet is not a welcoming environment in which to escalate safety-related issues to try to get them fixed. Sure, you can find supervisors (who are also union) that will agree with your safety concerns, and even some of the lower levels of management do as well, though neither of these groups will necessarily have the teeth to do something about it. But when several tiers of upper management and the public information officers so vehemently deny any safety issues (as seen in this very instance), operators are often unwilling to try to buck the party line and speak out against them to try to address safety problems – the nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered and all. Or we see what happens when an attempt is made: sometimes there’s just no response, like the union reps at the 2011 board meeting. Or we are told that our concerns are “an acceptable risk” or like the public is now getting, “there is no safety concern! Everything is just fine!”

I mean, look at the way this incident has been handled. The public already knew about the open  MAX doors on the Banfield, so clearly something wasn’t right. The union then brings up other safety issues that have been going on for years. And what is TriMet’s response? Not even a cursory “We’re glad this has come to our attention and are working hard to fix it.” No, it’s “Everything is safe and this is all just a smear campaign by the union.”

Yeah, way to show that safety is a value.

Look, the union negotiations are a messy issue, but that’s not what’s going on here. The public has a right to know if equipment or other issues are putting their safety at risk. Simply saying “Everything is safe” does not make it so. If safety is a value, it’s time to start acting like it.