THE MOON AND THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION
CASA LOMA/RUSSELL HILL SUBWAY ACCIDENT AUGUST 11th 1995
INQUEST DAY TEN -† Friday 19 January 1996
†††††††† Today, we heard solely from Mr. Gord Webb as he described the accident period and Transit Control's reaction to it. There was a lady (sorry, I didn't get her name) on the Wayside console who spoke to runs 34 and 35 with a very calm voice. Dr. Huxter made special mention of the way she conducted herself and asked Gord to convey his appreciation for her help in keeping the situation under control. Stress was a big factor today and we heard a lot about how stressful it is working in Transit Control. Mr. Webb described, and I'm sure any of us who know Transit Control will believe this, the complete incredulity that was felt by the staff when the situation became clear. How could something like this happen on OUR subway??? By this time the volume of calls was increasing exponentially as the 286 people on site all started clamouring for information. By this time, communications were becoming a problem. Dr. McCallum had described how runners had to be sent from the site of the crash to the telephone and people at the emergency exit. Mr. Webb indicated the emergency agencies donít seem to be aware of where their radios and stuff will work. No doubt we'll hear more about this when they take the stand.
†††††††† The politician who has demonstrated that brains, intelligence, courtesy, tact and consideration for others are not necessary requirements to be a Metro Councilor, Howard Moscoe, was identified as the commissioner most in opposition to plans for the improvement of Transit Control in the next phase of Mr. Webb's testimony. Mr. Punter had him describe in detail the development process of a new Control Centre and how, when the proposal got to the Commission, the Commissioners more or less laughed it out of the room as being the requirements of the Battlestar Gallactica, Mr. Moscoe demonstrating yet again that he hasn't any respect for the TTC. (As this is being posted to the Internet Ė July 2000 Ė Mr. Moscoe has been installed as Chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission and another Provincial Government hack Ė Mr. Rick Ducharme Ė has been installed as Chief General Manager. God help the TTC!!!)
†††††††† Before we got to this stage, Mr. Punter had lead Mr. Webb through the restrictive operations of Transit Control and how it was necessary to improve the layout, training, sound levels, lighting levels, proximity problems and break difficulties etc. (though he did describe TCC staff as so dedicated to their work, they eat their meals at the consoles so they donít miss developments!!). After taking from Feb 1992 to Nov 1993 to get a proposal past the commission, Mr. Webb described the continuing process to get funding for a new Control Centre and that it would be 1999 or 2000 before we see such a structure. That's only three years away - donít count your chickens - this is the TTC !!!!!
†††††††† A good portion of the day was spent in trying to determine whether the Transit Control Centre is a "safety" factor. The Regina/Hill reports (Dec 94 and May 95) were quoted as to this point saying that TCC had a safety component. Mr. Webb denied this stating that the TCC's role is in monitoring and communication.
†††††††† All counsel seem to be reading forward to expected testimony on collision avoidance systems and Mr. Webb said that the reaction time required for collision avoidance is not within the scope of human beings operating remotely as Transit Control does. When Mr. Punter suggested that the Regina/Hill report should have been "rushed to the Commission" because it had predicted catastrophes as a result of gangs of terrorists dropping bombs in all our toilets, Mr. Webb said that as funding wasn't required, their was no need to inform the Commission.
†††††††† Mr. Webb, in questioning by Mr. Falzone, got into the problems of the short period of time he has to train a TCC despatcher due to the trainee having to be taken on staff in 6 months or he looses his Union Seniority. Mr. Webb would like to see this period extended. Mr. Falzone also got into the harassment of operators being asked to keep up to schedule - oh how tough!!!
†††††††† Dr. Huxter, in summing up the various wish lists we have heard over the last few days with Mr. Webb, suggested that there didn't seem to be many general information announcements. Dr. Huxter started designing the subway problem of location by suggesting that the signal block a train is in be repeated on the walls throughout the block. Mr. Webb, no doubt trying to be Mr. Nice Guy, agreed. It is a banal suggestion demonstrating a complete miscomprehension of the operating environment.
1)††††† The location of an individual in the subway has been demonstrated to be a situation that is not under control. To tie location to the peculiarities of a particular subway system, like the signal system, is not the answer. We might just as well say that we use the number of the nearest blue light location, after all there are more of them than signals. We have provided, at great expense no doubt, chainage markers every 100 feet. The chainage is used by many subway systems and is a common factor. I have noticed that since it was installed it has been allowed to decline, especially in the open cut where it is subject to weather and vandalism. If this system were beefed up and made to be maintained by the 72 hour track patrol, we would have a location system that would work in all cases. It just needs imaginative management, a commodity one sees little of at the TTC unfortunately.
2)††††† For the second day we have heard dark hints about the prioritization of calls. What is more disturbing are TTC employees and the media calling emergency numbers for information. The passage of information from Transit Control is definitely an issue that's going to get an airing, if not at the inquest, I'm sure internally.
3)††††† This inquest has heard the word "Safety" used like a tired horse being constantly beaten to produce an effect. The word is now used like motherhood and apple pie and has lost it's meaning. In describing safety as it refers to the signal system, witnesses have discussed how the signal system will prevent accidents. We have yet to hear definitely what caused this accident and when we do, there will no doubt be further sphincter tightening. Till then it would be nice if people didn't use the word safety, like government officials use "national security", as a means to stifle discussion. There seems to be a feeling that, because we have the word safety on our shield, we donít need to do anything else. Just paper SAFETY over anything and it's done. Don't worry about that anymore. We need to have a very tight definition as to what the TTC means by SAFETY every time it is used so that when it is used it has meaning. Regina/Hill, Mr. Falzone, Mr. Leck, Mr. Punter, the TTC report are all contributing to this demise.
4)††††† There was discussion about the value of emergency simulations with other Metro agencies on site. It was pointed out that although there may be some value in getting a few small situations resolved, the numbers of people who can be involved and the very limited frequency with which these exercises can be performed, doesn't provide too much in the way of a training experience. There is no doubt that the only way we really learn is with on the job training. It is unfortunate that accidents occur, but accidents and mistakes are one of the best ways of learning (except on the roads of course and at the TTC where we donít make mistakes!!).
†††††††† At it again at 10:00 a.m. Monday.
†††††††††††††††† Dave Irwin†† -†† 19 January 1996