Train operator photographed looking at cell phone "no longer" wo - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Train operator photographed looking at cell phone "no longer" works at Metro

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PHOTO/Unsuck DC Metro PHOTO/Unsuck DC Metro
WASHINGTON, DC -

A photo posted Friday on the blog Unsuck DC Metro shows a Metro operator looking at his cell phone while at the controls. In July 2009 Metro instituted a zero tolerance policy for operator use of cell phones, texting devices.

Metro Spokesperson Dan Stessel tells FOX 5’s the operator “no longer” works at Metro as of March 27, 2013. Stessel says Metro had not seen the picture before Friday.  He would not say why the employee is no longer working for Metro because of privacy policies.  Stessel confirms nine Metro employees were fired due to the zero tolerance policy in 2012. Eight were bus drivers, one a track laborer.

The photo clearly shows the operator's face staring down at his phone with his hand on the controls. The car number, 6044, is also visible allowing Metro to quickly figure out who the operator is.  The Metro policy only allows train and bus operators to use personal cell phones during a Metro-defined emergency situation.

The woman who took the photo says it happened on March 3rd, on an inbound train heading from Silver Spring to the Takoma station.

And, while this photo appears to show the train at rest in a station, the passenger who took the shot, Leah Shansky , says the train operator was also using his cell phone while the train was rolling.

"And I see the operator on the phone texting. His thumbs moving. I see him looking, going down to the phone tothe track. Phone to the track. Was the train moving? The train was moving. I actually had enough time to sit there, look behind me, watch him on his phone, stand up, look at him watching his phone,and take time to pull out my phone, get the camera ready, take a few photos. A few were blurry because we were moving. And I finally got one clear one," said Shansky.

Metro's policy was enacted after local incidents, as well as, others across the country. 

“There is no excuse for anyone who is operating a Metrobus or Metrorail train to be using a cell phone or texting other than for an emergency situation, regardless of whether there are passengers on board,” then Metro General Manager John Catoe said on July 9, 2009. 

Before then Metro had a “three strikes” disciplinary policy. The older policy was a progressive disciplinary procedure that gave employees three strikes before termination. The first offense resulted in a five-day suspension without pay; the second a 10-day suspension without pay; the third offense resulted in termination.

In July 2011 Metro fired 20 bus operators for using their phones while driving a bus.

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