Sunday, January 12, 2014

Shutting Lane Up

Congratulations, TriMet. You have succeeded in shutting down Lane Jensen. Hope you're proud of yourselves.

We all know he's had it out for you since the beginning. We all know how much of a racket he makes when he senses a problem or disconnect somewhere in the agency. And we know he's never afraid to speak what his heart feels.

But he has also proven to be one of the most influential naysayers in this little story. While other people are comfortable sitting on their derrières and writing about things they have no intention of doing anything about (with all due respect, I have been you sometimes), Lane has been out in the field trying to make a positive impact. He's been looking out for your future during times when some of you have been making that future look pretty bleak.

Now, it's been almost a month since Lane's second arrest, one that had no valid reason, one in which Lane was not even read his Miranda rights. Fortunately for Mr. Jensen, he has people around him who support him and who are not afraid to tell him to his face when he needs to make changes. These changes, if you haven't noticed, have included the deletion of his Portland Transit Lane blog (see here if you don't believe me), the changing of his Twitter handle to no longer reflect his TriMet connection, and the deletion of his podcast. While he still is involved with TriMet-related things (considering, like me, it's a hobby of his), his web presence is all but gone.

I know I may sound a bit extreme here, but I have valid reasons. First, Lane is one of my best friends, and I get really, really miffed when people mess with my friends. Second, TriMet top management has given me no good reason to trust them. It's hard thinking that there are no alterior motives when everything you have ever done screams alterior motives. Third, my friends on the blogging side are in agreement on the injustice here. I even had one bus operator tell me all about the injustices here before I even had the opportunity to give my opinion. Finally, there are so many details that just don't make sense if one is trying to explain that these actions have been just. Below is a partial list:
  • Lane was arrested by both Portland Police and Transit Police officers on both arrests.
  • On the first arrest, they seized his phone and his laptop. The text messages were sent on his phone. What did his laptop have anything to do with it?
  • They arrested him the second time because he called a TriMet employee names on his podcast (the one who had him first arrested). It was not explicitly made clear to him that this was not allowed, and it still doesn't look like that was really not allowed. And his comments were in regard to a public press release, aimed at whoever wrote it, not specifically the person who filed the charges.
  • On the second arrest, he was never read his Miranda rights. ("You have the right to remain silent..." Or should it be, "You don't have the right to not remain silent?")
  • The repercussions of his second arrest virtually silenced Lane's voice. The most vocal critic of TriMet is virtually silenced. What are the odds of that?
  • His bail was set at $46,500. The bail for the man who assaulted the Line 4 operator in St. John's was set at $10,000. What do we value more: operator safety or not annoying TriMet managers? (Somebody ought to ask them that. Oh wait...somebody already tried.)
You see, when there are too many details pointing to the same conclusion, it's hard not to come to said conclusion. Even if TriMet issued a press release stating that they are not trying to silence a TriMet critic, I still wouldn't believe them and I'm sure few others would. (They would probably just blame the whole thing on the Union contract anyway.) The way for TriMet to prove that they are being honest here is to drop the case. This would make it clear that they respect the voices of criticism that have been speaking. But I don't expect them to drop the case at all. It's hard to accept criticism when you're always right.

So, to conclude, this act of shutting Lane up has only enraged the already ticked-off riders and bloggers, and has lowered the level of trust even further. It's like going out and claiming your own coffin from will-call. I want to see that TriMet's future is a bright one. At this point, it sure ain't looking very good.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ringing in the New Year

FWHOOH!!! Sorry, that was just me blowing the dust off this blog. It's been too long.

So we start 2014, and things are different. I find myself in a slightly different position that I had been before. For the past year, I was the kid who just floated about on the blogosphere, agreeing or disagreeing with whomever I wished, and playing more of a supporting role to other, more well known players in the field.

But things have changed. TriMet has successfully shut down Lane Jensen, the second most well-known blogger in the TriMet world. I look around trying to find anyone else to fill that void, and I see no one. Lane used his blog to post facts or his interpretation of facts in order to make people aware of TriMet's issues by the numbers. That voice is gone, unfortunately. And unfortunately, that void will not be filled unless someone rises to the occasion.

I don't want to be that person. I want to just sit back and write about autoblock signals, random facts about transit centers, and why bus 2809 has this strange band wrapped around its roof at the front by the side ID numbers. But, TriMet is the nonhuman thing I love most in this world, and letting that void be left unfilled would be like letting a good friend die of starvation when you have the biscuit in your hand. So, therefore, I will step up to the plate to help make the change I want to see.

One of my main demotivators, besides the holidays, has been the pressure I have from both sides. The same day TriMet IT people graciously met with me to go over the inner workings of the CAD-AVL and radio systems, my friend Lane was arrested a second time by the Transit Police. Now I had two posts to write, one telling of the great complexity and promise of the IT system, and the other to call out another part of TriMet for its continued devaluing of transparency. One side trying to get the truth out, another trying to shut up people from telling the truth. This saddens me, and my trust in the agency drops to a near all-time low. (My trust in certain people and departments in the agency, however, has gone up. I wish I could say the same about everybody.)

So my hope here is that, as you read what I post here, you will become more aware of the truth. This truth is really hard to find sometimes, and it will take some real digging to find it. And just because you think that you know what the truth is, you may be wrong. This goes out to both the blogger side and the TriMet side. I hope that whatever truth I can find helps everybody to see what's really going on, what is actually good, and what is actually very, very bad.

I won't be Lane Jensen. He had a knack for facts, but at the same time he had a knack for ticking people off. I don't seek to ruffle anyone's feathers. I'm not going to call people out on podcasts. I'm not going to try to arrest board members. That's Lane's thing, and he was remarkably successful in it. But what I will do is try to make public what is hidden in a way that maintains levels of respect and decency.

I would rather just go ride the lines, memorize bus stops, and compute bus schedules. But unfortunately, desperate times call for desperate measures. Let's hope and pray that by the end of 2014, we see improvement and much brighter future for the agency.

Next up will be the posts about Lane Jensen's silencing and the development and design of the radio system. This should kick off a very interesting and enlightening year for everyone in the TriMet world.

And, oh, I should leave you with this picture. I don't know why it's there, or even why the font is so very different but there is something weird about this bus and that band going around it. If anybody knows, please email me or comment. Thanks!