’Texting Trolley Driver’ in Boston Subway Crash a Transman

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 12, 2009

A May 8 collision between two inbound trains belonging to Boston's subway system (locally referred to as the "T") allegedly resulted from the operator of one train texting his girlfriend.

That operator, named Aidan Quinn, is a female-to-male transsexual, according to a May 11 ABC News story.

The ABC News item reported that Quinn had been hired as a minority on the basis of his transition to male from female, even though his driving record showed that Quinn had been issued three tickets for speeding.

The ABC News story also notes that the 24-year-old Quinn had referred to himself as one of the first transsexual employees to be hired by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which oversees the subway system.

The article contained a quote from an unnamed source who said that the driver "was initially hired as a minority and used her transgender status." Quinn started work for the T nearly two years ago.

The news item said that 46 people were hurt, and added that three cars were "crushed" in the impact, with the total bill in damages to MBTA property estimated at nearly $10 million.

The article also said that Quinn told police that he had been texting his girlfriend when the collision took place.

The incident recalls another crash on the same subway line last year in which a driver was allegedly on a cell phone just before the train she was operating collided with another train, killing her, reported Boston public radio station WBUR.

Quinn, who may be charged in the accident, did not appear at a May 10 meeting in which investigators and MBTA officials were scheduled to look into the incident. ABC News reported that Quinn claimed to be sick.

The article cited Daniel Grabauskas, the general manager of the MBTA, as saying that if it is determined that Quinn was indeed texting while on the job, he would be dismissed; Grabauskas also said that MBTA operators of all vehicles would be required to leave cell phones behind when on the job.

A May 10 article in The Boston Globe quoted Grabauskas' words in the subject, with the T's general manager saying, "Leave it at home. Leave it in your car. Leave it with a friend. Leave it in a locker.

Grabauskas warned that those who flout the policy, thought to be the first of its kind to ban operators from even carrying cell phones, would lose their jobs.

"This is going to be a zero-tolerance policy," Grabauskas said.

Federal investigators have ruled out mechanical problems, leaving operator error as the most likely reason for the crash.

The ABC News article quoted Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board as saying, "The point of collision occurred 80 feet past [a] red signal."

The train being operated by Quinn was moving at a speed of 25 mph, and the collision sent the train in front rolling 31 feet, the article said.

The article noted that nine or more MBTA drivers had been found to have been using cell phones while on the job over the last 12 months, leading to their suspensions.

The article quoted Stephen Macdougall, the president of the Boston Carmen's Union, as saying, "The individual involved in last night's incident and the issues led up to that tragedy were avoidable.

"This was an individual act by an individual who does not represent the attitudes or the professional conduct of all or most MBTA workers."

In a May 12 article, The Boston Globe also noted that given the fact that both Quinn and the driver killed last year, Ther'rese Edmonds, were 24 years old, some are calling the T's policies on driver qualifications into question, suggesting that drivers should be older.

The article quoted Massachusetts state Senator Mark C. Montigny, who said, "I think, at a minimum, it should be looked at."

Montigny is on the Transportation Committee for the state's lawmakers.

Added the lawmaker, "The irony is, in some places you can't even rent a car if you're under 25."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.