The final report from TSB has been released.
The TSB isn't a body that assigns blame, or makes circumstantial conclusions. For this, I am glad.
For most people, reading this report will be a somewhat dry experience like reading a science textbook or the instructions to building a table. For many people who cross those tracks, or have crossed those tracks, it's something entirely different.
I can't comment much on what happened that day beyond what everyone else has already written. I have the same facts as anyone else.
What I can comment on is the changes that have taken place with an internet enabled transit industry.
We are inundated with screens behind the wheel of our buses now. Not just here at OC, I'm talking big picture, all across North America. On a double decker bus, I have a 7 inch screen to watch the upper deck. I have a 10 inch screen which shows GPS, fare, and messages from control. I have a 4 inch display for bus events (check engine, low fuel etc). I have a two inch display for route signage. I have a Presto display that flashes red when it goes out of service. I have a radio with a number display, that I have to punch a code to call control. Next to it is a phone that is exempt from Ontario's distracted driving laws. I have a rearview mirror to watch the inside of the bus. Above that mirror is the next stop display. Some days, I have a bike in front of me with a milk crate obstructing my view.
And people talk to me. And I talk back.
The report states that a 2 second glance at the screen above the driver's head could have made the difference between being able to stop, and not being able to stop.
I have caught myself looking at that screen for much longer than two seconds. I have heard the thump of a coffee mug hit the floor above me, and I have stared at that screen for long periods trying to determine if someone has fallen down or if I'm required to stop.
This happens often.
Teens getting rowdy? I look. A loud bang? I look. Someone asks me if there's space? I look.
There are so many distractions while driving a bus these days. We used to have a CB radio, and a button we pushed to print a transfer. Before that, there wasn't even a button to push, we had a notebook full of transfers we had to rip off as people paid.
Have we come too far to get all of this junk out of our line of sight? Distracted driving goes beyond the cell phone. How many screens are too many? At what point do we realize that we have normalized the process of being meaningfully distracted?
I think this report, and the media coverage of it has been a little distracted too.
There were two engineers on that train that have not returned to work. There were passengers on that train that had to make same horrific exit from their train as our passengers did. I feel for them. I feel for their families.
What changes could be made for these engineers? How could their vehicles be changed to increase their safety? Rail accidents happen all the time. Why doesn't this report seem to address the factors within the rail cab? I'm not trying to assign blame to these people, I'm concerned that VIA engineers are just supposed to carry on without a second thought.
We debate stopping thousands of buses per week (blowing thousands of liters of fuel up the stack in the process) at level crossings as a knee jerk response to this terrible accident, when requiring the stoppage the 16 four-to-six car trains that pass this crossing each day before this crossing would make much more sense.
It really has been an emotional day.
I honestly cannot believe how these pictures still affect me. I cannot imagine piecing together this horrible picture, one piece at a time, putting together a jigsaw puzzle that will always be missing six of its most important pieces.
We miss all of you terribly, and we are thinking of you.