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MBTA Revamps Cell Phone Policy After Green Line Crash

This article is more than 10 years old.

By Martha Bebinger and Meghna Chakrabarti (The Third Rail)

Local and federal officials continue to investigate Friday's crash of a Green line trolley near Government Center T Station. One trolley rear-ended another trolley that was stopped injuring 49 people, four of them seriously.

Aiden Quinn, the 24-year-old operator of the moving train, told authorities he was text messaging his girlfriend when he missed a red signal and rear-ended another trolley.

MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas announced Saturday that he would draft the nation's toughest cellphone policy for a transit agency. All train and trolley operators will be forbidden to carry cellphones while operating an MBTA vehicle.

Representatives of the Boston Carmen's Union Local 598 have said they agree to the policy in principal, but want to see "nuances" addressed before fully endorsing the policy.

The MBTA had stepped up enforcement of the rule against cell phone use by operators following a trolley crash in Newton last May that killed the driver of a trolley that collided with another. Although there were reports the driver was using a cell phone just before the crash, an investigation ultimately determined there was no evidence she was using her phone.

The Boston Globe reports Quinn's driving history includes three speeding tickets between 2003 and 2007 and an accident in 2008, none of which would disqualify him. He also used a bad check to pay a $50 fine on one ticket, which he later resolved, according to records. Quinn joined the MBTA 22 months ago after attempting for three years to get a job through the transit agency's lottery, a random system designed to prevent bias in hiring.

Quinn, who could be fired and faces possible criminal charges, missed a scheduled meeting with investigators on Sunday. T spokesman Joe Pesaturo says the driver called to say he wasn't feeling well.

Pesaturo also told the Boston Globe that three part-time trolley operators, out of 458 part-time and full-time drivers, are under 21. Pesaturo said the T's training program is longer and more thorough than many other transit agencies' programs.

On Monday, the Long Island Rail Road announced it would review its cell phone policy. Currently, LIRR engineers operating trains can carry cell phones while on duty, but they must be shut off an in a bag. Engineers are allowed to use the phones only in an emergency. LIRR officials have not said if they will ban cell phones altogether.

Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday that the point of the MBTA collision was 80 feet past a red signal. NTSB officials found no mechanical problems with the train and no problems with the track or signals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on May 12, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.

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