Manager's Forum - December 2006

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Gregory Cook
CEO/Executive Director
Ann Arbor Transportation Authority

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) has always been a leader in embracing new technology and is nationally recognized as a progressive organization. AATA was the first to develop, implement and use a coordinated computer-controlled communication and data gathering system incorporating GPS, onboard touch screen mobile data terminals, voice communication, automatic passenger counters, satellite- controlled voice enunciators and realtime engine operating data. A constant stream of digital information flows into the control center via radio and is instantly processed by computers into easily understandable and usable screen displays and reports.

AATA's leading-edge technology has paid benefits far beyond originalexpectations, but it is its camera system that continues to contribute in ways that were never anticipated. The 100+ gig hard drives are capable of documenting a constant flow of 27 images per second (with sound) simultaneously from all five cameras for a period of about a week of bus operation before over-recording begins.

Originally installed as a safety and security feature, the video camera system consists of four or five digital cameras onboard each bus (giving complete interior coverage of the vehicle, with one camera mounted on the front dash recording what the driver sees out the front windshield). The installation of the cameras brought an immediate unexpected benefit by allowing AATA to better investigate allegations of slip and fall incidents.

Having access to video and audio recordings of slip and fall incidents has expanded to include the use of in-service onboard video recordings as a training tool. Each time a video recording of an incident is reviewed, a decision is made whether to archive it in the training library. A continually growing library of "home movies" is being developed to demonstrate safe driving techniques, what to do and what not to do in resolving passenger disputes, and how to maintain positive passenger relations.

Trainees are able to see first hand how their peers handle situations. In addition, existing employees with documented performance problems can watch themselves in action to see where improvement is needed. A picture truly becomes worth a thousand words.

These "home movies" of real-life operations are projected on a large wall-sized screen in AATA's state-of-the-art training room. This projection makes the figures almost life-sized and the surround sound system makes students feel as though they are on the bus instead of in the audience.

The videos can be catalogued according to their subject matter and easily stored electronically. Being in digital form, they can also be transmitted to any computer equipped with viewing software within the AATA network so that supervisors or managers may view them.

Each onboard camera can be accessed and played back individually, enabling the trainer to provide several different views of the same incident. One camera may show the passenger's body language, while another may illustrate how the driver reacts to the customer's body movements. Other cameras give insights into how the other passengers are reacting to incidents.

The camera mounted on the dash is used for safety training to familiarize students with hazardous intersections, to remind them of the importance of maintaining safe following distances, and how to safely maneuver in congested downtown traffic. The new student can view an entire route to become familiar with important turns and recognizable landmarks before attempting to negotiate the route.

The inside cameras are ideal in demonstrating to students the effects rapid acceleration, sudden deceleration and sudden changes in direction have upon passengers sitting or standing inside the bus. Students can watch their fellow drivers interact with customers seeking information, discussing complaints and concerns, or expressing appreciation to the driver for a job well done.

"We've always used classroom lectures, and more recently professionally produced interactive CD's in training new drivers, but with video recordings showing our own drivers in action doing their jobs we're able to take our training to a whole new level," said CEO Greg Cook. "Our students are able to learn from the successes as well as from the mistakes of fellow drivers. It brings it home much more soundly when a student realizes he or she is watching a fellow employee driving an AATA bus, not some professional actor pretending to be a driver in some make-believe city.

"The use of in-house videos in our training program serves as an inspiration to all our new operators," Cook continued. "They are inspired by the thought that a video of them doing something particularly well could be shown someday to a group of new students, as well as reminded that if they do something particularly badly, that, too, may make them a star on the big screen.

"The next step in the use of cameras for training," Cook said thoughtfully, "will be to equip our onboard digital camera and sound system so it can be accessed in real time via the radio. That way our students can watch drivers operating their vehicles and interfacing with customers when it's actually happening. Thought is even being given to interfacing two-way radio communication so drivers can talk directly with students who are watching them at work from their classroom and give them pointers or answer their questions."

Mobile, Ala.

Robert Williams
General Manager
The Wave Transit System

At The Wave Transit System, safety is instilled in all of our new operators from their fi rst day of employment. The term, “If you can’t do it SAFELY, don’t do it!” is introduced to trainees immediately by our training team. Under contract with the city of Mobile to manage The Wave, First Transit places strong emphasis on personal safety through slogans such as above and through other safety programs.

The training program used by The Wave is the Transportation Safety Institute's Bus Operator Training Program. This program serves as the foundation for bus operations training. To complement the TSitraining program, the Smith System Driving Improvement Institute Inc.'s Defensive Driver training program is taught. This program uses five themes, or "keys," toward accident prevention. Also, extra training is afforded those trainees who do not possess a CDL license. This training includes help with the written test as well as the road test.

Strong emphasis on providing good customer service is another of The Wave Transit System's core values. During the training period, a member of our marketing department meets with the training class for a day and provides valuable customer service training tips and insight on the proper handling and treatment of riders. In addition, each new employee is given eight hours of sensitivity training by a person with a disability. This training provides a "real-world" look and feel from the perspective of a disabled person. Additionally, we have added severalother training modules that cover security awareness and blood borne pathogens.

Our training efforts do not end after a new employee has graduated and becomes a full-time employee. During the new employee's 90-day probation period, a number of safety audits and observations are performed. The audits and observations are performed by the employee's field manager and safety director. Upon successfully completing their 90-day probationary period, an annual safety audit is performed.

To support our training efforts, we use citizens' reports from our fleet monitoring program named Safety Alert Network. This program encourages the public to report any unsafe driving action performed by a bus or van operator. The program allows our safety department to identify any risky or unsafe activity or situation that may need immediate attention. Recently we received numerous reports of vehicles making unsafe lane changes on one particular road. This data allowed us to address the problem before it escalated into a more serious, accident situation. To energize our safety efforts and reward employee behavior, a safety incentive program named, Peavey's Safety Jackpot is used. We also award National Safety Council "Safe Driving" pins and do a "suggestion" of the month award.

Through these extra training measures, we have achieved a 20 percent reduction in accidents.

Our training program is constantly being updated and evolving to meet the ever-changing road environment and the needs of our customers and employees.

Kansas City, Mo.

Mark Huffer
General Manager
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

The goals of a transit agency could be stated in grand terms. However, the goals continue to be rather basic - to provide safe, reliable and courteous transportation. A well-trained and motivated bus operator workforce is essential to achieving these goals.

At the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), each new operator receives six weeks of training, which consists of three weeks of classroom and vehicle-specific training and three weeks of in-service training. The course is designed to provide operators with basic skills.

In addition to being flexible with regard to training methods, KCATA instructors recognize that training doesn't stop with the completion of the initial training course. KCATA instructors closely monitor and mentor new hires throughout their probationary period. Our open-door policy allows operators to contact instructors to discuss any problem they may have.

KCATA recently started a new program with the establishment of a formal refresher- training program. The goalof this program is to rotate half of the bus operator workforce through the program per year, so that alloperators willexperience the refresher training biennially.

KCATA refresher training courses are designed to reinforce training and information previously given to operators. Our current refresher-training curriculum includes modules on the Americans with Disabilities Act - Provision of Service Requirements, Customer Service, Defensive Driving, Fares, Radio Operation and Operating Rules. The small group setting allows for lively interaction between new and veteran operators as well as management. Operators are encouraged to express their concerns, and management is committed to responding and addressing the concerns. Response to the training has been overwhelmingly positive, with 95 percent of the operators rating the program "very good" to "excellent".

On an as-needed basis, remedial training sessions are tailored to a specific performance deficiency. When situations arise with an individual student, the instructors will give the necessary attention to that student to resolve the matter. Sometimes, the situation requires one-on-one training to address a specific skill deficiency. If one instructor is not successful in addressing the problem, another instructor will work with the student.

The strength of our training is the actual training staff and the individualized attention given to our students. The training staff is annually required to attend classroom instruction on effective training and teaching techniques. In turn, they are expected to bring this "best practices" knowledge back to KCATA and apply it to our workforce.

Always looking for innovative ways to improve, the next phase of the training and safety program is currently moving forward. Plans are underway to construct a separate facility at the KCATA headquarters for the purpose of housing and expanding the agency's training program. This facility will include training classrooms, offices for the training staff and workstations for the newly created transitional work program. The centerpiece of this new training complex will be a state-of-the-art bus driving simulator system and supporting workstations. The simulator will become an integral aspect of new hire training, as well as remedial training and accident avoidance training.

KCATA continues to be proactive in promoting its training efforts. In a unique program, we are collaborating with a local educational institution, Longview Community College, in the development of a precision driving facility. The facility is designed to simulate various driving situations and conditions. It will include a 200' x 500' skid pad, a 200' x 200' skills pad and an urban driving course. The facility will allow reinforcement of training skills introduced on the bus simulator and provide a permanent roadeo and CDL skills course. While this will be an outstanding facility for KCATA, the community college will use this permanent site for the purpose of retraining displaced workers for jobs that require CDL certifications.

KCATA believes that it is a grave mistake to underestimate the importance of a well-trained bus operator workforce. The goal is to invest heavily, so that the agency and its customers realize the benefits.

Manager's Forum goes to the front lines of the transit industry to get feedback on different topics relevant to passenger transportation - and we want to hear from you! If you have an idea for discussion or would like to voice your opinion, please contact Fred Jandt at (920) 563-1688 or via email at