MBTA toughens phone policy; will fire any worker found in possession of one

The T announced today a change in employee rules under which any employee found merely possessing a cell phone on the job will be cashiered.

Previously, the T had only fired workers found using a phone and meted out a ten-day suspension for on-the-job suspension. But then came last month's crash that left a T bus dangling over the turnpike in Newton, caused the T says, by the driver being on the phone at the time.

In a statement, T General Manager Beverly Scott says:

As the nation’s fifth busiest public transit system, the MBTA moves millions of people around Greater Boston every week. Their safety is, and always will be, our top priority. I’m very proud of our employees’ dedication to providing excellent public service, but it’s also important to reinforce our commitment to safety through the implementation of clear and strict regulations. It’s absolutely essential that we do everything we can to help ensure that each customer’s trip is a safe one.

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      Comments

      Need to compensate

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      I can appreciate the need to assure riders that drivers have zero chance of distraction. However, these days, our phones are becoming more and more integrated into our ability to live outside of our jobs (and often work while living our lives, too).

      I know they have breaks when staff can retrieve their phones from their lockers, but I hope they also have some sort of support system where their calls/texts of importance can be forwarded to them via dispatch in case of an emergency. I'd hate to be a driver spending 6 hours on the road before my first chance to get to my phone and finding out my kid went to the hospital 5 hours ago.

      Or maybe a simple pager for forwarding from their own phone. It would have no response capability but could be used to know they have calls/texts waiting and could deal with it when they got through the current route.

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      Isn't this where the concept

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      Isn't this where the concept of a work phone number comes into play? We've done this for decades where you provide a phone number you can be contacted at in emergencies when you're at work. The MBTA surely has a phone number their bus drivers can put down where dispatch will contact them if their kid goes to the hospital.

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      617-722-5000

      Way back in pre-cell phone days, when I was young, my dad who worked out of Cabot and Albany, told me in an emergency, Call 617-722-5000 (it's now 222-5000) and any T employee may be located in an emergency by the dispatchers and / or the T police within minutes.

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      Once upon a time

      Long long ago, in a city called Boston, T employees drove buses and trains all over the city, and there were ways to get ahold of drivers before portable phones were a glimmer in Q's eye.

      As long as the T makes sure to keep this service alive, as it was in the days of yore, then there is no reason that this will be a problem.

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      Have an employee phone number to dispatch

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      Instead of drivers having cells, give the employees back the dispatch phone number for family emergencies, and actually have the phone be answered. Quite simple. The message is relayed through radio for the driver to call at the next station or terminal. That's how we got a hold of my Dad when my Mom got sick. Also gave managers a chance to dispatch a replacement driver to not slow down service.

      Of course, this all depends on MBTA management giving a damn about the family lives of their drivers and motormen.

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      Read the policy

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      It reminds employees that there is indeed an emergency number people can call to get a message to them.

      This isn't a preemptive policy; at least two serious accidents have been attributed to distracted driving by an operator using a cell phone. The previous policy clearly wasn't enough to impress on all of them the seriousness of the issue. At that is left now is a over/under on how long before the first dismissal under the new policy happens.

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      Good call

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      I opened the policy and it said it was To: All Operational Personnel, so I stopped reading because that wasn't me.

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      What a false dichotomy you've presented here.

      By on

      The T has dispatchers and supervisors who can be trained to notify employees who have family emergencies. You need to be better than this argument you just floated.

      But will only

      By on

      suspend drivers omitting their lack of license and/or GED.

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      Any Employee?

      By on

      Or just lowly bus drivers and train drivers? Ten park plaza employees who stand outside on their phones smoking are they exempt? Is there a cop not just transit cops who do a great job on traffic details who is not on a cell phone are they exempt?

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      The rule only applies to bus,

      By on

      The rule only applies to bus, train, and trolley drivers.

      In fact, employees like station attendants are required to carry MBTA-issued cell phones.

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      Any Employee? Reply

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      I totally agree. I get on the Blue Line at State St. when I'm done for the day at 3. It amazes me that this station is a highly traffic area and high tourist area that you find inspectors and the customer agent on the platform talking to each other or checking their phones. Or a Customer Agent so engrossed on their phone they fail to see people jumping fares.

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      A good example

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      of pandering and over-reaction. Some manager will get pponts for claiming he/she did something about bus and train crashes. They'll even stick on their resume. Pathetic.

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      Got any better ideas?

      How many tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars in totaled equipment, hospital bills, and settlement payments should the T lose because some driver couldn't wait to answer a text or phone call?

      I do freelance work for a employer that has the same policy -- the first time you are caught with a phone it gets locked up until the end of your shift. The second time you are caught with a phone you are fired on the spot. Period. The company is reasonable and will pull someone off the floor to answer a call if it's important and they will give people time off to deal with emergencies. But they won't tolerate with people who can't manage to go three hours without looking at a phone.

      So what's your solution for distracted drivers? Hire two people to drive the train/bus and hope that both aren't texting at the same time?

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      Someone Should Start A Phone Sharing Service ...

      By on

      ... install them in little kiosks at convenient places around the city; on the street, and inside the lobbies of public buildings including Ⓣ stations. That way, bus and train operators (or any member of the public) could use one of the shared telephones to make a call. They could be set up like a vending machine, so you'd just deposit a few coins before making a call. (but in an emergency you'd be able to dial "911" for free)
      IMAGE(https://i1.sndcdn.com/artworks-000037682162-f87dgk-t200x200.jpg)

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      This needs to be regulated,

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      This needs to be regulated, for safety. You know you can trust the cell phone companies but any strange phone share could be dangerous, you never know. It would have to be more than a few coins, maybe bills, to pay for all that safety.

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      T stations are a great place

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      T stations are a great place to find pay phones.

      If you know of any T station that doesn't have one, please ask the T to put one in.

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      haha you're funny

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      Have you noticed that pay phones are being REMOVED from T Stations?

      Yeah, ever since Verizon sold its pay phone business to some other company, they have slowly but surely disappearing everywhere. Why? Who the hell uses a pay phone anymore.. what is this? 1983?

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      No I haven't. What stations

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      No I haven't. What stations are you thinking of?

      Who uses them? Well, I've seen T employees use them. And a few other people.

      Helpful hint: The T has an underpublicized toll-free customer service number: 800-392-6100. If you can't find a customer service intercom, you can call this number from a station pay phone.

      Meanwhile...

      The rest of the road operators can continue to drive with their faces completely fixated on the little screen in their hands.

      Oh but we banned texting and driving so that should make the road safer? Of course even answering a smartphone is a different task compared to the old fliphones/bricks that didn't require you to take your eyes off the road. Hell if you were good enough with T9, you didn't need to see the phone in order to text.

      Do we think Beacon Hill will ever wake up and resolve this? Doubt it, considering they most likely relish the right to use their phones while driving to work.

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      The no texting ban isn't

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      The no texting ban isn't working at all. There is zero enforcement. On my walk to work every day 1/2 the people are yapping on their phone and 1/4 are texting, occasionally looking up to see if they are about to kill anyone. The rest, only 25%, are actually paying attention while they are driving.

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      Its getting ridiculous

      Had an SUV swerve into the bike lane on A Street a few weeks back and almost nail me. I was luckly a little behind him, so I was able to brake quickly enough to avoid contact. But as I'm passing him, what do I see? Not only does he have the phone pressed between his face and shoulder, he decided to use his free hands to have a pen and paper that he was writing something down on....while driving.....in traffic.

      People seem to think they have a right to drive. You don't have a right to drive, you have privilege to drive and if you drive recklessly/irresponsibly, I'm told you should lose that privilege but we can't even keep people with multiple DUIs from keeping licenses so yeah.

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      Huh?

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      Why are radios legal? Why are passengers? Why are kids sitting in the back seat legal? What about cupholders? All can be distracting to a bad driver.

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      I still haven't heard a clear

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      I still haven't heard a clear reason why a motorman/driver/etc... can't carry a phone with them (turned off while working in a T vehicle) that they can turn on and use when they have layover breaks between runs. Those layovers aren't always at the same location an operator started a shift - so it's not as if "they can go get their phone out of their locker".

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      bad apples

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      Simple.. rules are there to PREVENT anyone from doing so.

      You know, the T *HAD* a 'cell phones must be off' policy while on duty" before the first crash at Gov't Center a few years ago. Well that person thought they were exempt to the rules and text'd anyways and look what happened.

      Its always about the 'few bad apples that ruin it for the rest', not the other way around. If MBTA employees were not dumb to think they could txt and drive at the same time and didn't cause accidents, maybe there would be no rule today.

      I have a few friends who drive.. they all say the same thing. They can be contacted if there's an emergency (as others have stated above), and most just don't miss the phone at all. My close driver friend loves that he's forced to leave it behind, driving the bus and the breaks in between without a phone very relaxing. Many read books or the paper.

      Also, even though many routes may not begin/end at the garage, most drivers known well in advance where their routes are, so they coordinate with other drivers out of the same garage for rides and such. (My close driver friend does this because his routes switch off at Dudley, even tho his car is at the garage)

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      loves being forced, eh?

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      My close driver friend loves that he's forced to leave it behind, driving the bus and the breaks in between without a phone very relaxing.

      the weirdly authoritarian/parental/collective guilt & punishment tone of your entire comment really hit the crescendo with this line. congrats on really creepin me out.

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      Sometimes you need to remember what it's like

      By on

      Sure it's "forced", but think about it. Sometimes new technology can overwhelm. People pay good money to be "forced" to go without modern amenities.

      I gave up the internet for 1 day a week during Lent. Sometimes it was tough, but it wasn't bad. You get to remember what you did before you had mobile devices and whatnot.

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      uh

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      Uh ok. Not sure where you got this from.

      But yes its forced. Its apart of their employment. If you don't like the policies, you can go find a job. But in short, its forced. You do it, or else..

      Not to sure how else to explain that.

      Edit: fine, maybe "required" would be a better word. whateves..

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      Why?

      Because a bunch of accidents have happened by drivers who ignored the clear policy to not use a phone while driving, that's why. Driving a bus/train for the T might not be the best job in the world but it pays a reasonable middle class wage and has good benefits. One of the requirements for that job is that you are able to go though your shift without using your phone. If you can't meet that requirement, find another line of work.

      If safety is the operator's concern give them a cell phone that is programmed to only call the T internal numbers and 911.

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      Not necessary

      By on

      All bus and train operations, and most station personnel, have two way radios. Emergency contact problem solved.

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      Experience

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      Experience has shown that the phones don't stay off and stored.

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      It's not impossible to go without a cellphone.

      It's also not impossible to get by without being connected 24/7. It is also impossible to uncrash a train full or a buss full of people. I find it extremely hard to believe workers needing to have a cell phone with them at all times.

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      It's too bad

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      Some drivers ruined it for all the rest. All they had to do was contain their cell phone use to lunch or other break times.

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      Dispatch Radios

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      I suppose it's also time the T fix and expand their dispatch radios. They don't cover the full distance of some of the commuter bus routes.

      I've seen a bus breakdown outside of radio range, where after trying the radio the driver had to ask a passenger to call dispatch for him because he hadn't brought a phone with him and even while broken down didn't want to use one lest someone snap a photo and report him.