Green Line Driver Asleep at the Wheel

1214320717While the MBTA struggles to recover from the media uproar and rider backlash surrounding the recent Green Line train crash, one would suppose the MBTA’s drivers would be scared straight. One would suppose the crash would serve as a, uh, wake-up call to the men and women behind the controls. But this was not the case on an outbound Green Line trolley last week.

Several people, including a Boston magazine staffer, witnessed a T driver repeatedly drifting off to sleep between Hynes and Coolidge Corner shortly after 6 p.m on June 17.

“He kept closing his eyes and dropping his head to his chest before jerking his whole body as if coming out of a light sleep,” says Jessica Lief, a special projects coordinator in Boston’s sales department. A woman near Lief actually tapped the driver on the arm to make sure he was awake after his eyes stayed closed and the trolley car remained motionless at a green light. At one point during the ride, Lief says the driver, “opened a window and stuck his head into the wind to keep himself awake.”

But the apparent lapse of acceptable service extends beyond the T driver.

When Lief lodged a complaint minutes after getting off the T in Brookline, the MBTA’s customer service rep pretty much dismissed her claim, telling her he’d look into it, but he failed to get the train’s number until Lief asked if he wanted it. The rep then failed to pass the report on to his superiors. How do we know that?

Because when we called MBTA Police Chief Paul McMillian last week, it was the first the agency had heard of the complaint. The MBTA has since found the complaint, and McMillian says the customer service rep will be dealt with in some capacity.

Back to the guy driving the Green Line trolley. Deborah Geis, Chief of the Green Line, says the driver “won’t be seated.” Which means, basically, that he won’t drive until a fitness of duty examination is completed, says Joe Pesaturo, the MBTA spokesman.

Maybe he shouldn’t be driving even if he passes it. Just thinking out loud here.

David Mashburn