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No Apology About the Metro-North Derailment?

Metro-North is communicating little since a railroad from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Grand Central Station, NYC, derailed, leaving 67 people injured and 4 dead—and an apology doesn't seem forthcoming. No where online does the organization seem to show remorse or any emotion for the impact on people. 

Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) communications have been paltry, focusing on service issues alone. I suspect the organization is operating under old-school rules, with lawyers cautioning against an apology for fear of admitting guilt. If this is the case, it's a strange mindset: it's unlikely the passengers are responsible in some way, and we know that the train was traveling 82 m.p.h. on a curve with a 30 m.p.h. limit. Signs are pointing towards a sleeping conductor, and lawsuits have already been filed. Why doesn't the MTA do the right thing and show some remorse?

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority(MTA) website is a curious mix of Christmas tidings, service announcements, coupons, and hidden messages. Under the "Transparency" tab on site, under the title "Current News," we see the latest articles, including December 2, when the accident occured:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 18:43
MTA Metro-North Railroad Announces Full Hudson Line Service Thursday

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 15:12
See A Christmas Story,The Musical with LIRR

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 15:06
LIRR Gets You to Radio City's Christmas Spectacular

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 14:53
Our Gift to You – Coupon Savings!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - 13:52
Metro-North Crews Rebuild Spuyten Duyvil Tracks

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 - 15:03
Six Lanes For Holiday Travelers At Bronx-Whitestone

Monday, December 2, 2013 - 10:21
Metro-North Hudson Line Service Alert

The article on December 2, "Metro-North Hudson Line Service Alert" is where we find the news. But the bad news is assumed (never previously announced) in the first paragraph and then introduced, oddly, in the ninth paragraph. No mention is made of the 11 critical injuries and four deaths caused by the accident:

Following Sunday's derailment of a Hudson Line train in the Bronx, MTA Metro-North Railroad is operating limited service on the Hudson Line between Poughkeepsie and Yonkers. For travel to Manhattan, customers can catch a shuttle bus at the Yonkers Station to connect with the 242nd Street terminus of the Broadway 1 Subway Line Icon local subway.

New York City Subways will operate two additional 1 Subway Line Icon local trains per hour during the peak periods.

Hudson Line will continue to be cross-honored on the subway.

Many of the 26,000 people who use the Hudson Line on an average weekday are encouraged to ride the Harlem Line as an alternative.

People who do not have to travel are urged to telecommute. People should expect crowded trains.
In cooperation with Westchester and Putnam counties and local municipalities, special parking is being arranged to accommodate additional drivers at the Southeast Station at the northern terminus of the Harlem line and at KensicoDam, which is in walking distance to the Valhalla station.  Riders should consult mta.info for additional information on the continuing repair effort and service restoration.

Metro-North Customer Service representatives will be on hand to assist customers in making the transfers.

Cranes and other special heavy equipment are being positioned to remove the rail cars from the area so that repairs can begin. The equipment will arrive this evening begin work following clearance from the NTSB and work will continue through the night.

The accident occurred just before 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, a southbound, Hudson Line train with about 120 passengers on board derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. All cars derailed.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators who arrived on Sunday and immediately began documenting the scene.  Metro-North is cooperating fully with that investigation. With NTSB approval, Metro-North workers will begin clearing the cars, using cranes and heavy equipment.

Customers are advised to check the website for the latest service updates.

A Twitter search for an apology revealed nothing. Metro-North tweeted a flurry of apologies about service failures before the accident, and one rider posted an MTA text message apologizing for service back in August.

  Metro-North tweets

MTA 2

A NY Daily News article from November 11 tells us we should expect nothing like an apology:

"The MTA doesn’t issue an apology when someone is hit by a subway train — and it doesn’t whip out the checkbook, either.

"About 90% of the 92 “man-under” lawsuits that were resolved in the last five years ended in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s favor, according to a breakdown by the MTA.

"The MTA didn’t pay a dime in 73 of those cases. It dispensed with another nine cases with paltry go-away payments averaging $40,000, according to the authority’s information. Five big cases did result in payoffs totaling $33 million. . . ."

Between Sunday, when the accident occurred, and today, Thursday, at noon, Metro-North tweeted about 85 times. Three of those tweets apologize only for service issues.

The only hint of humanity seems to be in this tweet:

MTA 4

Discussion Starters:

  • How is the MTA different from other organizations we have seen apologize over the past several years?
  • What is the legal perspective on apologies? How can a management team effectively balance this with humanity?
  • Draft a tweet, news release, and email to victims' families to apologize for the derailment.