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BART Cell Phone and Computer Network Scandal: Transit Union Wants PUC Inquiry
by ATU 1555
Friday Aug 19th, 2011 11:09 AM
Updated On: Aug 18, 2011 (14:14:00)

BART Cell Phone and Computer Network Scandal: Transit Union Wants PUC Inquiry

Last week will probably go down as one of the worst in BART's history. But the assumption is that it was bad for BART's riders and management - forgotten in all of this controversy were BART's workers.

The people who make BART work every day, running the trains and helping passengers, picked Monday to add to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announcement of an investigation into the cell phone system shut down, calling for an inquiry of their own, but for much a wider set of reasons.

According to a press release from The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 (the organization that consists of BART train operators and station agents) their working conditions were negatively impacted by the still as of this writing unexplained failure of BART's Automatic Train Control System last Tuesday.

And while it's not specifically stated in this press release, it's not an unfair assertion to believe that train operators and station agents were also impacted by the cell phone service shut down of last Thursday.

Here's the full press release:

BART's Station Agents & Train Operators call for Independent Inquiry into BART Management's Safety Protocol, Operating Procedures & Decision - making.

ATU 1555 calls upon the California Public Utilities Commission, BART's regulator, to investigate software glitches, public and employee safety and working conditions

San Francisco, CA - Today, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 called for an independent investigation into recent security and system lapses by BART Executive management. In the past three months, BART's computer system has crashed, a former General Manager accused of mismanagement was paid over $1m to leave, and station agents and transit operators have been repeatedly put at risk during security emergencies.

'We don't have the solutions, but we definitely know something is wrong right now," said Antonette Bryant, President and Business Agent, ATU 1555. 'The people who run BART have lost our confidence and are putting rider and employee safety at risk. We need a thorough investigation by an outside, independent regulatory agency to find answers.'

Bryant described scenes of her frontline employees under siege during recent BART failures. Riders rely on the agents and operators to have up to date information during these crises, yet BART failed repeatedly to timely inform the station agents and transit operators. Examples include:

- Recent heroic efforts of transit operators during the software crash who managed to move BART cars along the routes in spite of a total electronic system failure. In addition, station agents handled the evening crush of concerned riders with no information for over three hours.

- In 2009, BART Chief Communications Officer Linton Johnson encouraged riders to confront station agents and train operators during labor discussions. This recklessness endangered the safety of BART workers.

- A decision - making process in which BART's spokesperson makes public safety decisions without consulting BART management or its front-line workers

"Our members have operated with great grace under total failure by BART executive management," added Bryant. "Its time for the California Public Utilities Commission, BART's regulators, to take a long, hard look at what is going on with BART's management and their decision-making process."