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.