Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS) – The commute to and from work is supposed to be one of least stressful parts of your workday, especially if you take the train.
That wasn’t the case for one CBS 2 viewer who was so shocked by what he saw on a CTA train he contacted 2 Investigator Pam Zekman.
“It took me a couple of stops where I watched her do this before I realized is this really what she is doing?” said the rider, who asked that his identity not be revealed.
The rush-hour crowd on a Blue Line train had pushed him to the door outside the compartment of the train’s operating engineer.
“I looked through the metal grate by the door and I saw the driver, she was texting on her cell phone,” he recalls.
After the passenger witnessed the CTA operator using her cell phone several times while the train was moving along the tracks, he decided to document the behavior using his own cell phone. The video he took shows the train operator texting with her left hand while the train was in motion.
“When a person is trying to do two things and they are not paying attention to what they are looking at, that’s an accident waiting to happen,” the passenger says.
He shared the video with CBS 2 in hopes that the incident wouldn’t be brushed under the carpet.
CBS 2 shared the video with CTA officials to review.
“The CTA is doing a very thorough investigation of this matter and we are pursuing discipline up to and including discharge,” CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
The CTA says it has a zero-tolerance policy for personal cell phone use on the job and that in 2011 seven operators were disciplined for violating that rule.
While there have been no texting-related rail accidents in the Chicago area yet, a Boston trolley conductor texting his girlfriend caused a crash injuring 49 people.
And 25 people were killed in a Los Angeles commuter rail accident. The operator of that train sent a text message moments before crashing into a freight train.
“The drivers have a lot of people riding their trains,” the CTA passenger says. “They need to be aware that there’s a lot of peoples’ lives on their trains. An accident won’t just hurt them; it could hurt a lot of people who ride the trains every day.”
A CTA spokeswoman says it is finalizing its investigation.
The CTA also stresses that there are more than 2,100 rail trips a day in Chicago with no incidents. Also, they say the trains have built in safeguards like alarms and automatic brakes in case an operator is not paying attention.