Train Operator Caught Using Phone; No Longer Works at Metro

According to records, nine Metro employees were fired last year for violating the cell phone policy while on the job

Metro says a train operator who was caught using a cell phone while behind the controls is no longer employed with the transit agency.

"We identified the person in the photo. His employment with WMATA ended on March 27, 2013," Metro chief spokesperson Dan Stessel tells News4. "As you know, Metro has a zero-tolerance policy on the use of electronic devices by train operators that calls for termination on the first offense."

The photo was posted on the blog Unsuck DC Metro.

Stessel could not directly say the operator was fired because it is a personnel matter. But, he added, "I can say that he no longer works here."

According to a public access to records request filed by News4, nine Metro employees were fired last year for violating the cell phone policy while on the job.

The terminations were spread throughout the year, from Jan. 12 to Dec. 3. According to the records, two employees were fired for an "electronic device violation" within a three-day span in February.

Metro said Friday eight of those employees were bus drivers; one was a laborer.

Metro has had a zero tolerance policy in place since 2009.

"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," previous Metro General Manager John Catoe said at the time the policy was put in place.

"We've seen the tragic consequences of what happened in Boston and Los Angeles when a transit operator was texting instead of paying attention to the operation of a vehicle," Catoe said at the time.

Nearly 50 people were injured in the 2009 Boston crash, which was said to have occurred because a trolley driver was texting his girlfriend. The 2008 Southern California collision killed 25 and injured more than 130. Records indicated that the engineer, who was among those killed, had been sending text messages while on duty.

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