WATCH: Metro shuttle bus operator in trouble for distracted driving

A shuttle bus waits at Benning Road Station to take Blue and Silver line Metro riders around two closed stations Monday morning. Ridership was down 65 percent on stations east of the track closure, according to initial ridership figures, on Monday morning. It was the first rush hour with the closure, part of Metro's second round of track rehabilitation work. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

WASHINGTON — Metro has ordered a private contractor to pull a bus driver off a work zone shuttle route after he was caught on camera talking on a cellphone behind the wheel.

In a video posted online by Metro’s largest union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the driver can clearly be seen talking on the phone while operating a bus at the Fort Totten station Thursday morning.

WARNING: Video features explicit language.

“WMATA has a strict zero tolerance electronic device policy,” the union said in a statement, arguing that private contractors should be held to the same standard as Metro employees. “All incidences where a Metro operator has an electronic device on his person result in a discharge on the first offense.”

In a statement, Metro called the video an “obvious and egregious safety violation” and ordered the contractor, Coach USA, to permanently bar the driver from providing service to Metro.

The driver had been operating a shuttle bus, taking Metro riders around a work zone on the Red Line.

Through Labor Day, riders on the Red Line need to take shuttle buses between the Fort Totten and NoMa–Gallaudet U stations. Its part of a 45-day shutdown of the Rhode Island Avenue and Brookland stations.

Under Metro’s policy, train and bus operators must have their electronic devices turned off and put away while they are working or they can be fired.

The union said it has challenged 16 such firings in the past, but has been unsuccessful.

“Among them was a bus operator who had a phone on his person (not using it) because his wife was in her ninth month of a difficult pregnancy,” the union said. “Local 689 has lost every case taken to an arbitrator for violation of the policy.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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