Never Underestimate the Potential for Cluelessness

On January 27, the worst incident in Metrolink's history occured when a SUV parked across the tracks derailed both an early-morning southbound train and a northbound train that was passing it at the time. Almost immediately, people came out of the woodwork with their ideas of how it could have been prevented.

After enduring over a week of self-appointed "experts" weighing in on the subject, I wrote an op-ed article for the Daily News pointing out that, with the investigation of the incident still underway, all that theorizing was not only premature, but unwelcome.

The article drew a couple of hostile letters to the editor a few days later. One person said I had "nothing to offer except to bash those who would offer suggestions as to how to avert another rail disaster". A second called my article a "whining rant that belittles anyone who has an opinion and ... offers no solutions".

Both letter writers missed the point entirely. The point is that no one -- myself included -- is qualified to make those suggestions.

In fact, the letter writers are guilty of the same thing as the "experts" I wrote about. One accused me of not being able to "figure out that you don't push trains, you pull them", even though the Federal Railway Administration says that is an approved practice (and I said so). The other took me to task for pointing out that it takes money we don't have to accomplish the kinds of things that were suggested ("ask the families of the 11 people who died what it cost").

Apparently reality isn't a concern when you're clueless. And, truth be told, all these "armchair experts" weighing in before the official investigation can be completed do even more emotional harm to the grieving families of the victims, because it gives them the false impression that all these suggestions could have avoided the accident, before official conclusions have been reached.

I did have to chuckle, though, at the ultimate cluelessness contained in the final jab from one of the letter writers: Please tell me our tax dollars don't pay for Richards' salary and this Metro S.F.V. Valley Sector Governance Council (whose name is apparently longer than the list of duties these people perform)? If that person had done a little research before "proving" how much he "knows" he would have found that I draw no salary as a councilmember, and that MTA isn't Metrolink. I hope he stumbles across this rant someday so that his knowledge on the subject can be increased.

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