Reducing Distracted Driving Behaviors
In 2005, using a cell phone while operating a bus was changed from a Class B to a Class A violation. In late 2009, Metro Transit beefed up its policy, changing it to require operators to have electronic devices turned off and stowed off the body while operating a bus. In addition, it began reinforcing the severity of this violation with posters at work sites.
Also, beginning in 2009, Safety began a campaign to ensure that all bus operators attend Safety Keys training — which incorporates a distracted driving video — at least once every three years.
One-third of the bus operators would be trained each year. This was accomplished ahead of schedule and by 2010, the vast majority of bus operators had participated in the Safety Keys refresher course within the past three years.
In 2011, Metro Transit Safety held Health & Safety fairs at each operating facility. Staff borrowed a simulator the American Automobile Association uses for training, giving operators an opportunity to test-drive the module and experience how distractions affect reaction time.
In 2012, a Transportation Safety Institute-certified class on distracted driving “Curb your Distractions,” was added to annual operator training.
This course was originally developed by TSI as an online class that required user accounts. While an online course worked well for the smaller rail operator workforce at Metro Transit, there were significant logistical barriers to having nearly 1,500 bus operators log into the training from their own computers with an individual user account. Metro Transit Safety and TSI collaborated to develop a classroom version of the training, where Metro Transit acted as the pilot property for this implementation. As a result of the teamwork, Metro Transit was able to certify each of its operators in the TSI course.
As a result of the expanded education efforts combined with measured enforcement, customer complaints regarding distracted driving have dropped from 0.123 per 100,000 boardings in 2009 to 0.019 per 100,000 boardings. There were 19 violations in 2009 and unfortunately, the same number in 2012. Metro Transit has been firm but fair in enforcement of its policies and sadly, people who ignore the rules have lost their jobs.
Improving Customer Awareness of Safety
In recent years, Metro Transit has used the philosophy in customer communications that “safety is a shared responsibility.” In 2011, a new campaign told customers to “Stay out of the Zone” around the bus for safety.
In 2012, a new campaign focused on keeping customers away from the curb and warned customers to “Stay safe/Don’t chase.” Through bus wraps, bus-side ads, interior car cards, shelter ads, online banners and onboard newsletters, Metro Transit alerted customers to the perils of running after a bus after it has left a stop.
Addressing Winter Road Performance
Minnesota is known for challenging winter weather, and knowing how to operate safely in snow is absolutely critical for Metro Transit operators. To help bus operators address this challenge, Metro Transit Safety created a winter driving training video, “What Would You Do?” The video is divided into chapters: Getting Prepared, Bus Stops, Highways and Articulated Buses. The 17-minute video was shown to all bus operators in 2010. It can be shown in whole or by chapter for targeted retraining. In addition, all new bus operators took part in a safety conference prior to the winter season.
At the same time, the maintenance division addressed issues with articulated buses becoming stuck in snow. Tires with more aggressive tread were installed on the drive shafts of articulated buses and bags of sand were placed on each of the buses to help add traction when rear wheels are snowbound.
Reaching Out to the Growing Bicycle Community
The popularity of bicycling has exploded nationally in the past 20 years and in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the trend is no different if not more pronounced. In fact, "Bicycling" magazine in 2012 named Minneapolis the No. 2 on its list of the most bike-friendly cities in the country.