TriMet: Zero tolerance for bus drivers on phones

TriMet: Zero tolerance for bus drivers on phones »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – A KATU investigation uncovered at least one and perhaps other TriMet drivers using cell phones to snap pictures while they’re behind the wheel – a violation of TriMet policy.

Pictures like a Portland sunrise, a bridge lift on the Morrison, and a MAX train at a downtown light, are just some of the photos TriMet bus driver Khris Alexander took while behind the wheel of his TriMet bus and posted to his Facebook page.

KATU News reporter Shellie Bailey-Shah visited Alexander’s house to ask him about the photos and was told by his wife that he was at work. A few days later Bailey-Shah returned and was greeted by a sign posted on Alexander’s door that said: “No Media”. She left her business card and after countless e-mails and texts Alexander agreed to speak by phone.

At first Alexander said most of the pictures and videos on his Facebook page were another driver’s. But after further questioning he admitted they were his, though he said he didn’t take the photos with passengers aboard his bus.

However, when asked about a photo of a Corvette that cut him off, he admitted that he did have riders onboard. In fact, he was kneeling the bus for a disabled passenger when he snapped the shot.

Another photo was taken while sitting in traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
He said he is always in park or in neutral at a stop sign when he takes the photographs, and he said it follows TriMet policy.

But TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said, “The only time that you can use a phone – a personal cell phone – is at a layover. Not while you’re at a stop sign, not while you’re at a red light.”

Alexander also said he never shoots while moving, but a photograph at an intersection by Montgomery Park appears to show him in the intersection. Ironically, he took the photo because another driver was blocking a driveway.

When asked why he takes the photos while on the job, he said he does it for fun and to kill time.

Fetsch said, “This new emerging research says it’s like driving with a .08 blood alcohol level. It’s not safe.”

Alexander said he’s not the only driver who takes pictures. He said one driver even takes video.

A few hours after KATU’s interview, TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen e-mailed his drivers the following: “I have zero tolerance for violating our policies or the law. Compromising safety and distracted driving is not worth the risk.”

Alexander said he does not regret taking the pictures.

After KATU’s questioning, TriMet said it has launched an investigation and Alexander will not be driving until a sit-down meeting on Monday.