TriMet mechanic: 'Safety has dropped off in the background'

TriMet mechanic: 'Safety has dropped off in the background' »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A TriMet mechanic says key safety and security concerns aren't being addressed.

Meanwhile, KATU’s effort to find out if TriMet’s surveillance cameras actually work is now drawing attention in Washington, D.C.

KATU reached out to all local congressional representatives, and so far the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer have responded. They’re trying to help the KATU On Your Side investigators get the maintenance records they’ve been requesting for a month.

A statement from Blumenauer’s office says, “When Congressman Blumenauer became aware of the story, we immediately contacted TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and TriMet, strongly encouraging them to work together to figure out a way to disclose the information that KATU was requesting while making sure that appropriate security measures were protected. We are pressing these agencies to release this information as soon as possible."

Whistle-blower Responds

After seeing KATU’s recent reports on TriMet, a longtime mechanic at the transit agency contacted the station. He asked to remain anonymous, but wanted to share some serious concerns he has about safety and security.

"I find myself not admitting that I work for TriMet,” the mechanic said, “I'm embarrassed by the general manager, Neil McFarlane."

The mechanic says he's been on the job for more than 20 years.

“Safety has dropped off in the background as far as safety meetings, shift meetings, certification for forklift drivers,” he said.

The mechanic says mandatory safety meetings in the maintenance department aren't being held and that key safety concerns are slipping through the cracks.

"The floors on some of the buses are rotten,” he said. “We have issues that have to do with wheelchair restraints. We have issues to do with mirrors that the drivers use to drive with."

The mechanic also believes the maintenance of surveillance cameras on buses has fallen behind. He says three of the positions responsible for maintaining bus camera systems have gone unfilled for three years.

The mechanic says the job openings haven't been posted online.

KATU asked TriMet about his claims and so far it has not responded.

The TSA and TriMet have said the surveillance camera records that the KATU On Your Side investigators have asked for are "sensitive security information.” As KATU has reported, however, other transit agencies in larger cities have released the same records.

Now, the TSA says the information was TriMet’s to give out all along, and it says it's working with TriMet to see if it can release the records KATU wants with the sensitive information cut out. The On Your Side Investigators are hoping to get that information soon, possibly by the end of the week.