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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tri-Met MAX video coverup: Why?

Tri-Met sure has created a stir about that video we showed yesterday of the Interstate MAX train crashing at the end of the line at the Expo Center. First the agency denied that the video existed, and then it hassled transit employees who presented it to the public. The agency says it was necessary to keep the footage secret pending an investigation, but for three weeks? And it's not as though there's any detail revealed in the video -- it's a train crash filmed from a moderate distance. It's also a public record.

The culture at Tri-Met seems to alternate between secrecy and falsehood. That doesn't create a lot of sympathy for an agency that's woefully insolvent and faces a major shakeout over the next decade or two.

Comments (16)

I can think of only two reasons they'd want to keep the story hidden, apart from standard bureaucratic paranoia: (1) there's some safety issue at play there that nobody has heard about, involving trains braking or something along those lines, or (2) the driver was drunk or otherwise incapacitated.

I had thought that there was an attempt at protecting the operator involved and the MAX itself (so they can shove more pointless expansions down our throat), but honestly, a defect in the trains actually seems very plausible as well. That appears to be a newer model MAX train . . . if there's brake issues with those things, that could be a pretty huge PR debacle for Tri-Met. Dave J., I think you're on to something.

The culture at Tri-Met seems to alternate between secrecy and falsehood. That doesn't create a lot of sympathy for an agency that's woefully insolvent and faces a major shakeout over the next decade or two.

They are accustomed to controlling the narrative and thereby creating their own reality about the overall viability of light rail. It percolates down to all they do. That, along with the fact that they aren't accountable to the citizenry except circuitously. We do get to vote with our feet though.

I liked the way the Tri-Met spokesman stated that an employee had released an "unapproved" video of the incident. Is there an approved version?

This could have been much worse an accident than it was. They were lucky this happened on the track it did (track 2). They primarily use tracks 1 & 2 at Expo. Rarely do they use the track nearest the Expo Center (track A, I believe.) If this had happened on track 1, there is no curb to stop the bumper like it did on track 2.

What's at the end of track 1? Power poles. That's right. The train would have hit the power poles @ the end of the yellow line. There likely would have been live wires brought down upon the train and would have caused a serious safety issue (as if running through the stop isn't enough of an issue.) If this had happened on track 1, I have no doubt the yellow line would still be out of commission. Perhaps that is why Trimet has kept this accident to itself.

Track 1, 2, and A????

Not only can these people not run a transit agency with any sort of professionalism, they can't even index properly.


I know, it's stupid. In three years of commuting from Expo Center, I've never figured that one out.

TriMet need not worry about anything.

Yes, Jack is correct that the agency's reaction to the crash won't garner a lot of public sympathy. But so what?

People in power have TriMet's back. There's too much money to be made on expansion and construction to do any sort of real investigation. If that video hadn't been leaked, the whole thing would have been little more than a rumor. Certainly it would not have received a fraction of the attention it has now.

The crime, of course, isn't that the incident occurred but that too many people found out about it.

One can't help but suspect that the conclusion drawn by TriMet's standard investigation will be something along the lines of "mistakes were made" and "we've taken steps to correct deficiencies."

Nothing specific. No names. No details. Trust us. We've taken care of it.

But that's "progressive" government as practiced around here. And when the next wave of corruption arrives at the next Election Day, you can expect more of the same.

Mechanical Failure is very slim to almost zero.

Why there? The train had to have used its brakes how many times leading up to this stop. Why didn't the brakes fail at Vanport? Or Denver? Or Killingsworth? Why here? Brakes don't just suddenly fail. Even if there was a power outage (in which case the camera probably would have failed to) the train should have gone into emergency. At such a low speed (20 MPH entering the station) that should have been enough time for an emergency stop prior to the bumper.

If the train had entered the station too fast it would have tripped an ATS magnet prior to entering the station, causing an emergency stop. That system has a fail-safe design so even with other control or power failures, it should have successfully stopped the train. (It's the exact same system used on high-speed rail lines like the ICE, TGV and Shinkansen.)

If the Operator was having a medical emergency - again, why right there, only in the few seconds that he/she had the episode? Could the Operator not have just slammed the controller into emergency even if it meant stopping short of the platform (at least there'd be no damage)...surely he didn't just "black out" - and if it were a medical emergency, surely it would have been on the news since local TV reporters would have heard it on their scanners.

Something is just very fishy. TriMet is clamming up, because something went wrong. And my guess is, judging from Mary Fetsch's past public statements of accusing bus Operators of fault before an investigation was started, that something REALLY bad happened that TriMet can't pin on the Operator. I almost wonder if it's a maintenance issue. And TriMet is stalling to find time to come up with a better story. Because if it were Operator error, it'd be public by now because TriMet wastes no time in blaming anyone else.

Jimbo, I'm with you up to the point where you label this as "progressive". I've lived in many locales with governments of all flavors and labels ant this tactic is a characteristic of many (most?) large unaccountable organizations (govt., corporate, universities, private organizations etc.) that think they are above scrutiny.

You can't tie this as anything unique with "Progressive Goverment" but your attempt is classic 'Guilt by Association' logical fallacy. Leave it out - your point is diminished by it.

Obviously they wanted to just sweep the whole thing under the rug. Is this video up on YouTube yet? It's the kind of thing that makes it on those shows where people do incredibly stupid stuff. In the end it is visual confirmation that Tri-Met and the
MAX in particular have serious safety concerns over and above the criminal element it attracts.

Every MAX train is equipped with sensors that record everything the train does. Acceleration, braking, horn blowing, doors opening/closing, etc. It should not take long at all for investigators to determine what happened.

On a side note, I wonder, is the guy who rushes out to look at the damage the driver or a passenger?

Watched the video again and now see there was a person standing on the platform when the train crashed.

There won't be a shake down of TRI-MET as long as the lap dogs in the local media think PR handouts are news.

This could have been much worse an accident than it was.

Or even worse, the "left" track at PDX. A train crashing through the bumper would crash through a wall and expose the sterile (security) area of the A/B Concourse of the airport terminal.

Not only would anyone inside the station being in danger without any warning, but you'd have a massive security breach resulting in a huge law enforcement response, and potentially much of the airport (at a minimum the A and B Concourses, which would include ALL Horizon flights) would have to be shut down as a result.

TriMet not only wouldn't be able to cover that one up, but the feds - including the FBI, the TSA, the FTA...what other three letter acronym agencies?...would all be investigating that one because of potential terrorist actions.

Erik H. ...

Might want to chek your sources of information about the TGV as they use a system called TVM and KVB. TVM uses audio signals sent through the rails while KVB uses the track mounted beacons, however they are not like the Siemens "Glesimagnets" used here on the MAX lines.


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