Manager's Forum

How is your agency prepared to respond to accidents that happen with your vehicles?

Atlanta, Ga.
Dr. Beverly A. Scott
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)

MARTA’s No. one priority is protecting the safety of our customers. To that end, rail, bus and paratransit operations focus first and foremost on preventing vehicle accidents through proactive training methods and accident prevention programs. MARTA conducts annual training programs and requires continuing education to regularly reinforce safe operating methods and effective emergency response plans. MARTA rail, bus and paratransit operators are committed to doing everything in their power to provide a safe environment for our customers.

Rail training thoroughly familiarizes new operators with all aspects of the system and safe driving procedures, including braking systems, equipment functions and emergency response measures. Bus and paratransit van operators are trained to face the challenges that come along with driving on our crowded roadways through extensive defensive driving and safe operations training during both initial certification and follow-up training classes.

In addition, MARTA conducts a number of activities to plan and prepare for all types of incidents – from minor events to very large mishaps. MARTA regularly conducts tabletop exercises, full-scale simulation drills and advanced communications planning with all our departments. Effective emergency responses also require coordination with a multiplicity of other agencies; therefore, MARTA frequently meets with local, regional and state jurisdictions to coordinate these efforts.

MARTA has also worked with our Safety and Operations Departments to implement enhanced protocols for responding to incidents and conducting investigations. For serious incidents, MARTA requires an independent assessment and investigation.

When an accident occurs, operators are instructed to secure the vehicle, assist any customers who are in need and contact their respective control center. All MARTA revenue vehicles are equipped with robust communication systems to ensure an effective emergency response to accidents. Trains are equipped with two-way radios so that operators can communicate immediately with the Rail Service Control Center. Bus and paratransit operators utilize radios with a priority request talk feature that connects them directly to the Bus Communication Center.

In the event of an accident, MARTA police and supervisory staff are immediately dispatched to the scene. Members of the response team are trained to continue moving customers to safety and assist anyone in need. Emergency doors, windows and hatches are available on trains, buses and vans to facilitate quick exiting when needed. MARTA police are also trained to administer preliminary first aid.

During certification, bus and rail operators receive comprehensive training on how to respond in the event of an accident. In addition, bus operators are issued accident kits, which include instructions for operators involved in an accident, data collection cards, emergency phone numbers and courtesy cards to pass out to customers and witnesses to collect information so that MARTA can provide follow-up assistance.

If accidents impact service to other customers, MARTA immediately disseminates service information using our various communications channels to ensure customers are notified of any changes.
Our emergency response procedures were recently put to the test when a tornado swept through downtown Atlanta on March 14 as the city hosted thousands of visitors for the Southeastern Conference Basketball Championship. Staff throughout MARTA responded in a tremendous way immediately reporting to the downtown area to assist in moving crowds safely away from the damaged area.

In particular, one westbound train sustained damage during the storm as it traveled to the next station. The operator immediately secured the train, and helped customers onboard to remain calm. These customers later expressed deep appreciation for the operator’s assistance. This event showed clearly how MARTA’s staff is ready, willing and able to put emergency response practices into action when needed.

Vehicle accidents and emergencies are unfortunately part of the reality of running one of the largest transit systems in the United States; however, MARTA remains firmly committed to maintaining a strong safety record by focusing on accident prevention programs and regular emergency response training.