Op-Ed

Metrorail fleet is aging, but it’s safe

Thousands of Miami-Dade residents climb aboard Metrorail trains daily.
Thousands of Miami-Dade residents climb aboard Metrorail trains daily. MIAMI HERALD

Public safety is — and always has been — the top priority for Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW).

The Metrorail fleet is over 30 years old and some parts are obsolete, and this has understandably contributed to the recent increase in delays.

However, no train or equipment is ever placed into service that is a threat to the safety of transit riders or staff.

To ensure safety, every train released for passenger service receives a daily inspection and pre-departure check.

The allegations in Fabiola Santiago’s recent column, made by Clarence Washington, president of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 291 of the AFL-CIO union, are not only false, they’re an irresponsible attempt to damage the reputation of the county’s transit system, probably because of stalled union negotiations.

Part of these negotiations include the county pushing for a stricter absenteeism policy and the removal of obsolete work rules, while the union favors keeping the current policies and rules.

Absenteeism is bordering at 22 percent. The TWU Collective Bargaining Agreement exacerbates the absenteeism issue because employees who are scheduled for shifts that exceed more than eight hours will still receive overtime pay, even if out sick or on vacation.

Moreover, the Positive Attendance Control and Evaluation Program limits how employees are disciplined for attendance issues.

Employees with available sick time must be out on eight separate occasions, and those without sick time must be out on six occasions, before any administrative action is imposed. Each time an employee is out, it’s considered one incident.

For example, an employee can be out for 30 consecutive days and that would be considered one incident.

As far as other allegations, these are the facts:

▪ The photograph displaying the “Do Not Operate” tag was meant to alert the operator to not touch the switch or change the setting, not signify a safety violation.

▪ The train in the video referenced in the article did not derail or experience other unsafe conditions.

▪ Metrorail service was not shortened because there aren’t enough trains available but because there was not enough demand during those hours. The decision was made based on data and realized savings.

We assure you that before trains leave for service in the morning, they’re cleaned.

We ask for the public’s help in keeping them that way.

The $300 million train replacement is much needed.

We are working with Hitachi Rail USA to expedite delivery of the new Metrorail fleet.

Our goal is to see the first of the new trains in service ahead of schedule.

We are continuously working on ways to improve maintenance on our vehicles to help minimize breakdowns and enhance the reliability of our rail cars.

We know that our transit system isn’t perfect.

The issues we’re facing were set in motion long ago, but we’re working to improve them and provide clean, safe and reliable transit service.

Alice N. Bravo is the director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works.

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