Metro’s top priority is the safety of our transit system, and that includes both our drivers and customers. We invest heavily in safety and are always exploring new strategies to keep our transit service safe and secure for everyone.

This month, Metro will begin testing “driver shields” and public view monitors—two tools now used by several of our peer transit agencies nationwide to promote safety and deter crime. Driver shields are a partition that partially encloses the driver behind tempered glass. They can be effective in protecting drivers from assault and aggressive behavior. As of October 31, there were 77 operator assaults reported on Metro in 2017. Thankfully, most were not serious. Many involved someone spitting at or on the driver.

Metro is testing a prototype on two buses operating from our South Base in Tukwila. Testing will continue with additional buses at other transit bases throughout King County to gather both driver and customer feedback. We want to ensure the shields address safety without affecting drivers’ ability to communicate and interact with customers.

Public view monitors

In addition, Metro is installing public view monitors on 33 buses serving the RapidRide A and F lines. As customers board, they’ll notice the specially-designed 15-inch color monitors at each of the three boarding doors. The monitors will be connected to the bus’s security cameras — similar to what customers see when they enter a bank or a retail store. The idea is when people know they’re being recorded, they’re less likely to do engage in bad behavior or put others at risk. Metro is joining several transit systems nationwide in testing this approach. All of Metro’s RapidRide buses are equipped with security cameras.

Public view monitors will be installed on the RapidRide A and F lines.

Upon completion of the testing phase, Metro will review security incident data, collect feedback from drivers, and conduct customer surveys. Customer and community feedback is highly important.

These new test systems are only part of Metro’s comprehensive approach to safety. In the last few years, we’ve increased transit police staffing and continued the process of installing cameras on our entire fleet by end of 2018. We’ve launched a new public awareness campaign to emphasize our “no-tolerance” anti-harassment policy and promote a stronger sense of community on buses. And we plan to simplify our fare structure in July 2018, which should help reduce disputes over payment.

Metro sees more than 400,000 boardings every weekday and security incidents are thankfully infrequent. Still, we know there is always room for improvement. Metro will continue working closely with our operators, the ATU, law enforcement, and the greater community to ensure everyone who rides and operates our transit system can do so safely.

Q. On which routes is Metro testing driver shields and public view monitors?

A. Driver barriers first will be tested on two buses that serve various routes out of our South Base. Public view monitors will be tested on 33 RapidRide buses serving the A and F lines.  We chose South Base for the first testing phase primarily because it’s also the location of Metro’s Component Supply Center, where these systems will be installed and repaired. In addition, the A Line has high ridership and a high rate of security incidents.

Q. How much will these pilot projects cost?

A. After the testing phase, Metro will evaluate whether to install driver shields on additional buses at an estimated cost of about $2,700 per bus. The public view monitor pilot program cost is $110,000 for 99 monitors on 33 RapidRide buses, or three monitors for each bus.

Q. How long will these pilot projects run?

A. The first half of 2018, after which Metro will review security incident data, collect feedback from drivers, and conduct customer surveys.

Q. Does every Metro bus have security cameras?

A: Metro is working to equip its entire fleet with cameras by the end of 2018 through retrofitting and installing on new buses. Currently, 811 buses, or 56 percent of the fleet, have cameras. Public view monitors are simply an extension of the cameras that are already in place.