Last year, after a horrific Metrolink crash in Chatsworth killed 25 people, federal investigators found that the engineer was busy text messaging instead of manning the train.
Last week Metrolink completed a $1 million project installing surveillance cameras in every one of its locomotives to monitor engineers' use of cell phones and any other dangerous activity.
Today the union representing those engineers filed a federal lawsuit to block the cameras, arguing it's an "invasion of privacy."
Which brings us to the $1 million question: Why did the union wait until after the cameras were installed to file its lawsuit?
"We don't know," says Angela Starr, a Metrolink spokesperson.
Calls to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which filed the suit, were not quickly returned. Paul T. Sorrow, acting president of the Brotherhood, has criticized the cameras as ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars. One wonders, then, why his union allowed $1 million to be spent before filing a legal objection.
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Sorrow told the L.A. Times today that instead of cameras, Metrolink should have installed jamming technology that blocks cell phone signals.
"That's not a technology we considered," says Starr. "It seems to me that would block passengers' use of their cell phones."
Metrolink, which is jointly operated by five county transportation agencies across Southern California, has not yet been served with the lawsuit. Metrolink currently plans to install more cameras in dozens of new "lead cars," which will be at the front of commuter trains whose locomotives are in the rear.
Will the union's lawsuit stop those cameras from being installed? Hard to say. One wishes the legal wrangling took place a year ago, when plans for the cameras were first announced.