THE MOON AND THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION
CASA LOMA/RUSSELL HILL SUBWAY ACCIDENT AUGUST 11th 1995
INQUEST DAY THIRTEEN - Thursday January 25th 1996
Those of us who were wound up to hear further explosions from Mr. Edgar had to bide our time. Mr. Edgar was practically seated when Mr. Leck made an objection that he thought his expert witness was to be first up as he had an afternoon plane to catch. Dr. Huxter and Mr. Punter agreed that John LaForce would be allowed to take the stand out of turn.
For those attentive readers, this is the same John LaForce that assisted the internal Signal System Design Task Force that prepared a review dated 27th October 1995 which has already been entered into evidence.
After Mr. Leck read of a very impressive C.V., Mr. LaForce proceeded to explain how Philadelphia (where the cheese comes from) is similar to Toronto:- Toronto Route miles are about the same as Philadelphia. We have grade time signals, Philadelphia has grade time and progressive speed control (grade time is used under 20 miles per hour) We have a Lunar White, Philadelphia has Lunar Whites and Illuminated S signs. We have the outermost trip cocks activated, Philadelphia has all trip cocks (up to 12) on a train active. Toronto has Computerized Train despatching, Philadelphia is using a form of ATD. We have one form of Rapid Transit, Philadelphia mixes Rapid Transit, Light Transit and Long Distance Commuter Rail. We have Interlocking signals that prevent trains from reaching a contact point whatever the operators behaviour, Philadelphia has interlocking signals that, if passed and the operator winds up, the train will pass the foul point. We have had a Transit Control Centre since the late sixties, Philadelphia only got radios to the trains in the eighties. We have Communications based signaling (Scarborough RT), we are ahead of the rest of North America in Mr. LaForce's opinion. In Toronto, our motto is Safety and Service, in Philadelphia they are prepared to live with a fifteen minute delay while the motorman goes around resetting up to 6 trip cocks if he trips a signal. Although we have some constriction in our phone access to the TCC, Philadelphia has even less. And finally, Toronto has Train Stop Arm Detection, no one else does (in fact Mr. LaForce contributed one of Philadelphia's accidents directly to the fact that the signal was at danger but the arm was frozen in the clear position and with no cycle checking ..........).
With these similarities between the two systems explained, Mr. LaForce proceeded to be an expert on our signal system. The burden of Mr. LaForce's testimony was centred on Grade Timing and Training.
First off, Mr. LaForce described the 40 day (to be maybe reduced to 30 day) operator training course. A considerable part of this training is out in revenue service as the operator becomes familiar with the "Road Characteristics". The best way to describe Road Characteristics is to equate them with the "little marks on the wall" we have heard about at the inquest that our motormen use for their own braking and power indications. To be strictly fair to Mr. LaForce, he did describe most of this Road Characteristic learning on the Commuter lines (which do operate differently) although he did explain that in the case of a hill like Sheppard to York Mills, no particular effort is made in Philadelphia to assist the motorman with power and brake points, he has to learn the road.
With this background, Mr. LaForce attempted to explain to the jury why the system we have southbound between St. Clair West and Dupont is not a safe system because (here we go again) an operator is running full speed to a red light that he expects to change and this is not what they do in Philadelphia (though I wouldn't be surprised if they don't do it in New York from whom Mr. LaForce said we had totally copied our system).
Mr. LaForce described alarms in Transit Control as gimmicks. He at least got right the part of the script that says "If you want safety, you put it at track level where it works, not in Control Centres where there is human reaction time". Incidentally, to further demonstrate Mr. Punter's lack of knowledge of what a Transit System is supposed to do, he has hinted that the Transit Control Centre should be called the Transit Scheduling Centre because we don't have the ability to stop a train from Hillcrest. No doubt this man will take silk and become a politician he is so ignorant.
At 12:30 Mr. LaForce was through his examination in chief from Mr. Leck and cross from Mr. Punter. After one of those wondrous behind the scenes chats, Mr. LaForce was given until next Thursday to get his story straight and appear to be cross examined by the remaining lawyers. Mr. Falzone said that there was so much information given by Mr. LaForce that he would need at least an hour just for his questions and then Frank Gomberg has to have a go too!!!!
After lunch, Mr. Edgar was back on the stand. Mr. Punter advised his witness that he could now bring up any points he would like to bring up. In order not to bore my readers with incidents and operating environments that are likely to be brought up by others by all accounts, I will draw a veil over most of Mr. Edgar's rambling discourses and draw some conclusions below. Mr. Edgar claimed that he had been working very hard to get his evidence in order and he was too tired to continue. Mr. Punter allowed him to make a timely submission in writing which could be presented to the jury. Two points worth noting. In describing what he wanted for better communications (after what can only be called the most leading of leading questions by Mr. Punter), Mr. Edgar became hopelessly lost in his thoughts and by now I'm sure Mr. Punter was regretting having given Mr. Edgar a pulpit. Mr. Edgar's crowning comment of the day was drawn out in describing the exams that operators have to pass ("Some guys are not very good with pencil and paper."). In Mr. Edgar's opinion it is much better to have people working with you in the subway who don't have the common sense to fill out an exam because they are more likely to be of assistance in an emergency where they don't have to think, only react!!! For further examples of this convoluted testimony, please see the official record!!
1) Today we had the opposite poles of an inquiry of this sort. The expert who is an expert because he carries a briefcase and is fifty miles from home and the concerned individual . The expert was no expert. I realize that in our own kingdom we are ignored, but I can point to at least four or five individuals in the TTC who could do a much better job of giving such testimony. However, it's home grown and therefore not to be believed. Mr. LaForce gave the jury a reasonable background of a signal system, not ours. Unfortunately he has contributed to Mr. Punter's sorry list of recommendations (see 3 below).
2) As the days proceed from the actual cause of the accident, which even Mr. Leck admits was a design fault in the Train Stop, we are getting into the Corporate Culture Of The TTC phase. Mr. Edgar was put on the stand, I believe, to open up the corpus of the Commission so that others can get a better view. It wasn't his lot to provide all the information. He can't. He's too buried in the day to day operation. But having inserted the knife and made a good incision, other surgeons can go to work on the delicate innards. Mr. Punter has already made some disparaging remarks about what politicians can and cannot be expected to do.
3) I am becoming concerned that Mr. Punter and this jury are going to feel that they won't have done their job well unless they produce an absolutely outstanding list of recommendations that will cost the taxpayers at least 50 million dollars. If anyone knows anything about risk analysis, I think they will find that the cost of operation against the loss of life ratio at the TTC is excellent. After all we have operated billions of miles, trillions of relay contacts have safely made and broken, tens of thousands of trains have been stopped by properly operating train stops and we have only killed three people in 41 years. Leaving aside compassion which has no part in reviews of this type, this is probably the best record in the world, or very close to it. We should resist with all the power at our means any tampering with a system that has been judged the safest in North America many times out of the last twenty years. This is not to say that an improved Car to Wayside system, some continuing attention to the Dynamic profile and the removal of the idiocy of having to get 100% at a school of instruction exam wouldn't come amiss.
4) The idea of training our operators to Road Characteristics instead of to a rule-book might produce more rounded personnel.
5) Mr. Punter will be making a recommendation that all new operators, having passed their school exams and appearing for their first day of duty by themselves, will be met by the Divisional Superintendent and many supporting supervisory staff, all carrying cakes, candles and balloons to wish Bon Voyage to our new operator as he sets forth on the sea of boredom known as subway operation!!!!!!
6) Some of Mr. Punter's questions to Mr. LaForce were in the area of Drug and Alcohol testing. NO evidence has yet been presented that Drugs and Alcohol are a problem on our system (despite yours truly's past!!). Mr. LaForce said that he has been tested for Drug and Alcohol abuse twice in the last year and he is Senior Management. This all stems from the US Federal Government regulations.
7) One section of Mr. Edgar's testimony today came across to me as follows:- "Now that I have been nobbled, I don't think the signal system is as bad as I said it was even though the police constable has my interview written down that way!!"
8) Once in a while, it is a good idea to keep our eyes on the direction we are heading. For those of you who may not have diligently kept all these notes, I quote from the first day's epistle:-
Before you read any further, I should declare my biases. Joining the Commission in Nov. 1964 in the Signal Design section of Subway Construction, I was involved with signal design of various parts of the subway. I left this section to get involved with computers full time just before the detailed design work for the Spadina Subway.
My involvement with the subway was rekindled by the Computerized Train Despatch and Information System (CTDIS or CTD) which is in use today to help the tower keep track of individual run numbers on the subway. It was also the precursor of the Intermediate Point Headway Control computer system which was added in the last few years. This record is going to be filled with my own personal biases and comments. It is designed for TTC employees and others who might like a slightly different insight into the proceedings than that offered by the Fourth Estate. If you want accuracy, see the court record !!!!!!!!
Day 14 Commences at 9:30 tomorrow
Dave Irwin - 25 January 1996