Light rail operator fired over slowdown

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The Port Authority has fired an unidentified Light Rail Transit operator in connection with an investigation into possible deliberate service slowdowns that occurred on the Red Line from Jan. 3-6.

The slow service was believed to be in retaliation for closer monitoring of train speeds by the Port Authority, which followed a state audit that raised concerns about how fast the cars were moving through crossings. At least two employees were disciplined for speeding.

Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said today that he would not confirm or deny that a rail operator was fired. "Our investigation into the delays on the T system lately has not ended and is an ongoing matter for us," he said.

Patrick McMahon, president of Local 85, Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents rail and bus operators, said the firing was unjustified and that the union has filed a grievance.

Mr. McMahon said the operator, who he declined to identify, was called to a hearing last week and accused of willful interference with service.

He said the authority presented evidence from data recorders that monitor the speed and whereabouts of the vehicles. The trip in question was 15 minutes late reaching Downtown and the operator followed procedures by calling the operations control center at South Hills Village and reporting the delay.

"He did absolutely nothing wrong," Mr. McMahon said. "It was a normal operation. They got their scapegoat. That's how they do business."

He said the driver was a veteran of at least 15 years' service and had a good work record. He predicted the grievance and possible arbitration process "will cost the Port Authority a lot of money and be wasteful" and will conclude with the driver reinstated with back pay.

For four nights earlier this month, riders reported delays of as much as an hour on the Red Line, which serves Beechview, Dormont and Mt. Lebanon.

Mr. McMahon has denied that union members deliberately slowed service and blamed the Port Authority for bus and rail schedules that are impossible to meet under the posted speed limits.


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