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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis February 10, 2012
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Sue A. Stewart

Safety and Health Administrator
King County DOT/Metro Transit
Seattle, WA
Vice Chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee

We have a project at Seattle Metro—to take this issue of emerging technologies and figure out how to make everything work smarter and better. And in particular, how do we improve the work environment for the transit operator?

When you line up an old bus from 30 years ago and look at a new bus today, it looks fancier, glitzier, but much has not changed.

We may have added more tools in the console area, but it raises the question of what do I really need to do my job—which is drive a bus and drive it safely.

We’re working with our local Amalgamated Transit Union and representatives of vehicle maintenance with the goal of making the driver’s work station more ergonomic. If we could build this bus from a blank sheet of paper—we’re asking such questions as: where should the controls be, where should the pedals be, and what should be the flow of information?

I don’t see heads-up cockpits like the military because that would be another sort of distraction, but we have to make sure that the controls function in an optimal way—that they don’t require excess force to apply them. Like air brakes. The transit operators need the opportunity to rest their legs from time to time, so there’s more opportunity if manufacturers could think about a different way of applying that critical braking system to all their safety concerns, yet is easier to apply and release to people who use it more than twice a day.

What we’re hoping to do with this project is lay some groundwork using ergonomic professionals to help us. We’ll work with business partners and BC Transit. We want to check in with them because they are so leading edge. We’re hoping that, because of our collective size and might, we can inspire equipment manufacturers to think differently about the products they do make—to challenge their paradigm about what ergonomics means in the driver’s work station.

We understand that we live in a market-driven country. Change doesn’t come because you want it to happen. Change comes because you’ve identified a need and it’s worth your while to do it. We’re hoping to find the quotient that could drive that change.

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