Operator Safety, ADA and "Zero Tolerance"

The last week has been a busy one for news and information for the members of SMART GCA 875.

Expo Line Train Collision and Derailment

On Saturday March 28, A SMART Transportation Division member and LACMTA train operator was released from the hospital a few hours following a collision his train had with a car on LA Metro's Expo Line. Local 1565 Chairman Marco Gudino had been at the hospital since the incident was reported along with a Blue Line manager and the operators wife. The incident has increased the debate on greater safety measures needed on the expanding rail system.

Protective Barriers

Last week a new protective barriers was introduced to the public in front of MTA headquarters. Juan Navarro from Local 1607 and Cherian Brown from Local 1563 were on hand to help demonstrate the new barrier system for the media. Both operators shared their thoughts to the media and Metro engineers who were taking notes on that instant feedback. In addition to the barriers, other safety initiatives were also introduced including an educational campaign and new state legislation to increase the penalties for assaults on public transportation operators.

Sexual Harassment

On the agenda for last weeks MTA Board Meeting were a couple of items that would be of interest to the members of SMART. The issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault hit the newspapers last month, which sent the board of directors into a frenzy of action and speeches. Some of the board members wanted to ensure that any new policies and programs designed to limit sexual harassment and assaults also extended to protect the operators as well.

Fare Adjustments

An APTA pier review was conducted to ensure that Metro was maximizing revenue opportunities while still providing good value to the customers. A significant amount of focus was spent on ensuring that any changing fare structures would not lead to customer disputes with operators and finding ways to limit the operators responsibility for fare enforcement.

Zero Tolerance

Last month Supervisors Antonovich and Solis put forward a motion requesting a review of red light violation on the bus and the rail, as well as recommendation for a “Zero Tolerance” policy when dealing with red light violations. As you know, a great deal of effort was put into crafting Article 27 and Progressive Discipline in the latest contract. Before the motion was introduced last month, we reminded MTA Operations, Labor Relations and Staff of the hard work that was put in to crafting the rules in Article 27. In yesterdays meeting, MTA Staff reported back to the board where Progressive Discipline was stated as the MTA's discipline policy for these issues. There report was accepted and filed without objection by the MTA Board. The new contract and the unions work with MTA staff was able to defend the operators from a potential MTA Board overreach on discipline.

Gaddy's Settlement

An agenda item that was not taken up by the entire board at yesterdays MTA Board Meeting was a renewal of the Gaddy's Settlement. The Gaddy's Settlement was the result of a lawsuit by disabled bus passengers that claimed that the MTA was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not providing adequate services to the disabled. A number of settlement arrangements, including Mystery Riders and additional service duties for operators, were agreed to by the MTA which effected our members. In the last contract negotiations, Mystery Riders were included in Article 27 to ensure that operators would benefit from the protections offered in the article for any alleged ADA violations.

Since the Gaddy's Settlement in 2011, many of the provisions of the settlement have become obsolete and inadequate to satisfy the ever increasing rules in the ADA. Just last week, the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) expanded the scope of ADA for transit providers to ensure access for the disabled. Since the LACMTA receives federal funding, they are required by federal law to satisfy the rules and regulations of the ADA. The MTA's renewal of the Gaddy's Settlement in part ensures that the MTA continues to stay in compliance with the federally mandated ADA. Most of the changes being proposed are technological and mechanical and will not change anything for the operators.