Public viewing monitors
Credit: Metro

To “promote safety and deter crime,” King County Metro Transit recently began testing two new safety features: driver shields and public viewing monitors, the agency announced in late 2017.

For one pilot project, Metro plans to install public viewing monitors on the 33 buses serving the RapidRide A (Tukwila to Federal Way) and F (Burien to Renton) lines. The public viewing monitors connect into the security system already installed on the buses. Metro describes the 15-inch color monitors that will be placed above each of the three boarding doors as “simply an extension of the cameras that are already in place.”  

“The idea is when people know they’re being recorded, they’re less likely to engage in bad behavior or put others at risk,” wrote Scott Gutierrez, a spokesman for Metro, in a blog post announcing the safety features.

According to Metro, 56 percent of its fleet is already fitted with security cameras, including all of the RapidRide buses. The video is continuously recorded and stored onboard the bus. Metro retrieves the video as needed for an investigation or incident report. Once hard drives fill up, the old video is overwritten with the new video.

“For video unrelated to investigations or incidents, Metro’s policy states our intent to store it onboard for a minimum of 15 days,” Gutierrez wrote in an email. Metro is also once again testing out driver shields — partitions of tempered glass which partially enclose the driver. A prototype has been installed on two buses operating out of Tukwila. The agency said driver shields “can be effective in protecting drivers from assault and aggressive behavior.”

According to Gutierrez, there were 86 assaults on drivers in 2016, and many involved someone spitting at or on the driver. In 2017, for which the latest data goes through Nov. 30, there were 82 incidents.

Several years ago, when Metro first tested driver shields, issues with the design, function, quality and maintenance arose. Gutierrez said that with the older design the plexiglass partition wasn’t very movable and many drivers didn’t like to be separated from their customers.

“The number of operator assaults has continued to be a major concern for our agency, designs of the shields have improved, the quality of products have improved and the design of the interior of the vehicles have improved to help eliminate some of the operations and maintenance issues that were previously identified,” Gutierrez wrote in an email.

The new system allows the drivers to slide the partition back and forth. Gutierrez said these two pilot projects are the result of an operator safety summit in 2016 and will run through the first half of 2018.

27 Replies to “Metro Pilots Two New Safety Projects”

  1. It occurs to me that these monitors would be better served if they were on RapidRide E to Aurora Village. Trouble seems to like that route.

    1. There are more vehicle maintenance folks at South Base than the other bases, and that’s where the A & F lines are based out of, so they start there. Pretty common for other new fleet things as well.

  2. The A Line is just as bad. The reason the A Line and F line both get camera is they originate from the same bus base and are assigned to the various routes not based on if they have the monitor or not but where they are in the line of coaches won a route pulls out of the yard.

  3. Part of we wonders if these measures will have the opposite of the intended effect. If people see the driver enclosed behind a shield, they’ll think is must be because the people who ride buses are dangerous thugs. Which is exactly the type of negative stereotype we DON’T want people getting.

    1. Where I’m currently residing in the Czech Republic, every driver on every route has these shields–and they’re mostly carting around little old ladies with groceries and middle schoolers going home for lunch, not a perfect storm of opioid/drug addiction + homelessness + a mental health system breakdown. It makes common sense to install shields on all buses in WA or even across America–drivers aren’t paid enough to be assaulted (no one is) and they should be able to verbally enforce the rules (no littering, make room for more riders, etc.) without fear of someone coming at them physically. Safety of our public servants > visual aesthetics.

      1. In Europe driver shields also reinforce the concept that the bus driver is a driver, not a customer service agent or social worker, similar to streetcar drivers in their enclosed cabs.

        It would speed up service, but I’m not sure Seattle is ready for that shift.

    2. Most places on Earth I’ve ever ridden buses have these enclosed compartments or something similar. Even buses in a small city like Inverness in Scotland have a fully enclosed driver’s compartment even though you paid in cash, the driver makes change through an opening, and a ticket is printed for you. You can still interact with the driver should you need to. It just seems like common sense to me. I don’t get on a train and think it’s unsafe or “thuggy” simply because I can’t see the driver let alone have physical access to them.

    3. I’ve seen people who sit up front and try to have conversations with the driver like they are their bartender. They often appear either lonely, mentally ill, or drunk. Though seemingly non-aggressive towards the driver I feel they are putting the safety of the bus in danger in that they are distracting the driver from driving. I am hoping it cuts down on that behavior. [+1 Chad]

      1. This made me laugh. I see people doing that all the time, and often wonder what the bus driver is thinking. I don’t think the vehicle operator should be directly accessible to the passengers…is there any other public mode where that’s the case?

    4. “If people see the driver enclosed behind a shield, they’ll think is must be because the people who ride buses are dangerous thugs.”

      Except that there’s been so much overreaction since 9/11 that people may think it’s just another federal mandate. They already have to sit through ten seconds of raising/lowering the wheel barriers when a bus enters/leaves the DSTT. (Can’t the dispatcher tell it’s a Metro bus from a few feet away? It’s not like there’s anybody there to check the driver’s ID, so what’s the point of stopping?) And the distance between SeaTac station and the airport terminal.

      1. Mike, the barrier-stops at DSTT entrances were something I suggested to a Metro Councilmember on a visit to Westlake Station under construction. There was a flat-bed trailer the size of a bus along one curb. Maybe 1989.

        I told that the trailer proved how much explosive somebody could simply drive into the tunnel. He laughed and told me I was paranoid. Which was really beside the point.

        Many, if not most mechanical responses to the 9-11 attacks were economic relief to starving Federal contractors. But I would’ve advocated this measure even if the Trade Center was still standing.

        I worked blasting for a little while.


    1. You can’t put a price on the safety of passengers and drivers. All buses are eventually going to have cameras anyway. And what’s the cost of a 14 inch flatscreen these days? Just askin.

      1. Mounting brackets, vandal resistant hardware and running the wires will probably be in the $8,000 range per screen.

        At least, that’s what it costs TriMet to install an arrival board at a bus stop.

  4. Something needs to be done. Up until recently, I never felt there was a security issue while riding Metro buses, people pretty much kept quietly to themselves. And while things are still generally fine, there are these weird moments of crazy intensity/anger/violence that question my patronage of Metro.

    Personally, I think in the “olden” days the driver served as an effective gatekeeper, but since policy has rightfully took that duty away, there is no one to keep terrible people from boarding, or doing bad things once onboard. Even when other passengers ask the driver for help in dealing with unruly behavior, the request is often denied…and (true story) on a recent trip the ‘good samaritan’ started getting harassed himself and didn’t get any backup from the driver. Even as just an observer, that episode left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

    The solution is very easy to see (if not cheap) for anyone who rides both Link and Metro. I use both daily, since the U-Link opening, and I have never seen an incident on the train (or platform) that rises to what I see at least once every couple of weeks on the bus. ST obviously takes safety and security much more seriously than KC Metro.

    1. Link has one line and seventeen stations. Metro has thousands of buses and bus stops spread out over a much wider area. It would take several times more people to have security on every bus, or roving through every bus several times a day. If you rove to a bus stop in Fairwood and the next bus out isn’t for 30-60 minutes and you don’t have a car in your pocket, how do you get to another bus route to check it?

      1. ST has prioritized security in a way that’s not visible on Metro, which has yielded results throughout ST’s infrastructure. It’s not rare to see an official (ST security, fare enforcement, KC sheriff) on a train, whereas I have never seen an identifiable security person on a Metro bus…and that’s a lot of rides. Even just a sprinkling of security would probably due the trick. At times it’s feeling like anarchy on Metro transit, and that feels very different from just 5-10 years ago.

      2. Does SPD patrol Metro buses? If they don’t, why not? It’s extremely common to see NYPD on MTA buses and trains.

  5. Chad and Scott, if I’d kept driving beyond my thirteen years of service, I would’ve been so unready for a work environment like that I would’ve taken a Phillips-head on duty every shift and taken care of the problem before sitting down.

    Leaving shield and screwdriver behind the seat for my relief, in case he had different priorities than the clear sight-lines necessary to keep my own driving smooth, fast, and crash free.

    As a matter of pure coach-handling, being in same room as everybody else on the bus gave me best sense of unity with my vehicle. Which my better instructors correctly insisted was the most important factor in handling a big vehicle.

    And Matt, quick google search tells me that Czech Republic has half the population of New York City. And about a third more than State of Washington. Never been there.

    But suspect that like the rest of the industrialized world, Czech citizens, whose national income will never approach ours, would never tolerate our willful neglect of such a high percentage of our population.

    Or allow its pharmaceutical industry to touch off a epidemic or addiction that would touch off coast to coast racist mass murder had a drug kingpin from a dark-skinned country been responsible.

    Or watch one of its richest and most technically advanced cities, with a reputation for wishing anybody thought it was Green-Party, develop a higher percentage of its working people living under tarps and over drains. At the rocketing height of its history’s richest economy.

    Cure for unfair wages easy. Send me figures for average Czech bus drivers wages and benefits. And comparative power of labor unions in our two countries. Also, doubt that in the rest of northern European transit, drivers and unions rightly view law enforcement as working out of grade. As do the police.

    But summing up, the better a driver handles a coach, in addition to improving speed and efficiency, is also their chief defense against violence. As in every field involving people and machinery, trouble avoids the confident competent.

    Now about our country- I’m assuming we’ve both still got the same one. Seriously curious of what the average Czech thinks about the condition of the United States and what we, its people, can do about it?

    I think our chief problem is that since the last survivor of the Great Depression died, nobody has ever seen a problem requiring our own direct participation in politics. With a transit background, I see Death by Deferred Maintenance- BART and DC Metro writ large.

    Our next five thousand suddenly dead won’t be 9-11A. It’ll be the Bhopal chemical leak Chapter One. But from what I see of people high school on these last several years, I’ve got no doubt that in addition to able, we’re fast getting readier. Did Czech news cover Train 501?

    Nobody had to order anybody, soldier or civilian, both of whom came willingly and fast, to help everybody de-board. So the worse what happens next, the less I want to be beyond our borders. We’ll be glad to have you home to help.

    Mark Dublin

    1. What political participation happened during the Depression? I’ve heard about Civil Rights demonstrations and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, but not Depression demonstrations or people running for office to change things, etc. There was the Seattle citywide strike, where there others like that?

      1. Mike, google:

        demonstrations, strikes, and violence during the great depression

        Remember there was no such thing as a social safety net. People were literally forcibly dispossessed, and starving.

        There was a very serious chance that the country would break up. The worst we saw in the 1960’s would have been a frat party by comparison.

        Fact that after almost 90 years nobody remembers The Great Depression is ominous. Really true about what happens to people who forget history.

        And considering the amount of debt young people are starting their lives with, coupled with fact we’ve been using credit cards for wages since about 1980, 2008 could be a kiddy party where they hide the treats.

        But this particular posting, the size of those proposed cameras on the buses sent a special chill down my spine. It’s been at least 25 years since anybody read “1984.”

        Maybe it’s prevalence of social media, and those putrid websites where the whole world can find satellite pics of where you live, and all the times you’ve been in jail.

        By the pictures, an astounding proportion of this country’s crime is committed by fashion models! Would also bet that if a fourteen year old gave advertised they were a psychotic prostitute..

        …they’d appeal the judge’s ruling they couldn’t be online ’til they were forty as a violation of their First Amendment rights.

        In nineteen FORTY EIGHT, a British civil servant name George Orwell, who’d become disillusioned with Communists because they shot so many other Communists, wrote a book about a totalitarian takeover of England in nineteen EIGHTY FOUR.

        “Big Brother” was the title of the dictator, who had, well Philco tube radios and 1940’s televisions in everybody’s house. And maybe cameras with birdies to watch. Can’t remember. On which he was always WATCHING YOU!

        But like in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, the tyrants- one a nurse, one a Commie interrogator with an Oxford way of speaking-told the doomed rebel that, one, all the patients were there voluntarily, and two, Big Brother hardly had to brainwash anybody.

        OK, you licensed practical history professors! I’ve got the remote, and you’re going to be watching FOX news forever! Until it’s time for The Shark Tank!


      1. Many thanks, Jim. And about a seven course meal plus appetizers and dessert for thought now. Do those tents look sort of familiar?

        Seriously, if I wasn’t so attached to my own 48″ x 36″ US flag, which I bought in Ballard when my wife demanded we go protest the Iraq war, I’d take it into Seattle and donate it.

        Next police “sweep”, and I think we’d shortly find out how many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have that particular camp for their permanent residential address. Leading to pertinence for this posting.

        Whether due to massive collapse of either systems of finance or public works, or both, what I see is not a massive armed popular uprising. But the need for anybody who knows their own job to swiftly become, at every level of government, the Establishment.

        Whose deliberate dismemberment is probably the main thing that every stinking verbal and administrative outrage from a third of our branches of the Federal Government is a precision measure to conceal.

        Departmental leadership hand-picked for incompetence. Large percentage of career staff resigned and not replaced. Anarchists probably driving nails with their heads for the shame of finding the Establishment already wiped out.

        So whatever your partisan politics including none…think of next move not as a demonstration, let alone maneuvers for rebellion. But what it really is: disaster planning- which a fault or two could necessitate any second.

        Presented right, your can probably have soldiers at your side. And on it. Before the collapse and during. Maybe, being actual National defense, with Federal money.

        As individuals and close partners: Get curious. Your vehicles, your maintenance, your route planning, your scheduling, your security, and all else touching your work. Accounting. Know them all so well that you and your colleagues can run a transit system without command one.

        Somebody- you know who you are- run this by ATU Local 587. In the days when they got some respect, this outlook was a lot of why. And Jim, probably most important item you linked is post-script to General MacArthur’ career.

        The President at the time of the Korean war might have been any near-sighted five foot tall men’s wear store owner (anybody old enough to know what a haberdasher was?) from Kansas City.

        But he’d also been a combat artillery captain in the First World War. So second Presidential order Douglas MacArthur disobeyed, he was out on the seat of his khakis so hard he raised a cloud of dust. Because Harry Truman was no Herbert Hoover.


  6. Not to slight the rest of the labor movement, just making sure to my old Local gets credit for being in it. To me, the weakening of organized labor is a much worse deferred item of maintenance than BART and DC Metro. More like every highway, dam, and sewage plant in the land. Its restoration should be no more an item of rebellion than theirs.


    1. Unfortunately decades of misinformation and corruption have all but ruined organized labor in America. My old union was all but dismantled piece by piece in a few short years. Employee apathy (or disenfranchisement) is also to blame.

  7. According to Gutierrez, there were 86 assaults on drivers in 2016, and many involved someone spitting at or on the driver. In 2017, for which the latest data goes through Nov. 30, there were 82 incidents.

    In a word… unacceptable.

    It needs to made very clear you assault a transit operator, you are going to a very special place in Hell. There is no excuse for wantonly attacking a disabled person’s limbs, and transit operators ARE our limbs.

    Agree, disagree with charging a fare all you want – there are MANY public comment opportunities and MANY e-mail inboxes in the Land of the Free. There is a red line that needs to be drawn here… and we all need to hold the line to protect the commons.

    Furthermore, I agree with Felsen;

    ST has prioritized security in a way that’s not visible on Metro, which has yielded results throughout ST’s infrastructure. It’s not rare to see an official (ST security, fare enforcement, KC sheriff) on a train, whereas I have never seen an identifiable security person on a Metro bus…and that’s a lot of rides. Even just a sprinkling of security would probably due the trick. At times it’s feeling like anarchy on Metro transit, and that feels very different from just 5-10 years ago.

    Indeed. Make sure to THANK the police, regardless of how you feel about occasional overreaches. Please.

Comments are closed.