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One Year After Metro Crash: Let's Make Sustainable Transit Safer
Flickr user arthurohm posted a picture of his bus driver texting on Flickr's Creative Commons. But what if the passenger, driver, and company knew that this photo could go directly to SeeClickFix? Photo via arthurohm.

Flickr user arthurohm posted a picture of his bus driver texting on Flickr. But what if the passenger, driver, and company knew that this photo could go directly to SeeClickFix? Photo via arthurohm.

If you see your bus driver texting – or dozing – what can you do? Or how about if you notice a train conductor talking on a cell phone?

These were some of the questions that arose yesterday at “Transportation Tuesday,” a meeting hosted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on the one-year anniversary of the tragic Metro crash near Ft. Totten. The guest speaker was Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

With regard to the Metro accident, Hersman said NTSB has already investigated three additional incidents since the crash last year. (One year after the crash, is Metro safer?) She recognized that WMATA is under financial pressure and facing service cuts (so are all other mass transit agencies around the country) and Metro has had a disproportionate number of incidents. But, this is key, she said: NTSB can’t do anything to force any transit agency or business to abide by higher safety standards.

One of the most salient points from the meeting was that NTSB, as an independent federal government agency, has absolutely no authority to make or enforce safety standards and regulations.  NTSB can only make recommendations based on insights gained from previous investigations. (Fortunately, 80 percent of the recommendations they have made are closed or at acceptable status.)

So for now, it’s up to all of us to collaborate and cultivate a stronger “culture of safety” in the United States.

How can we do it?

One tool that came to mind (again) is SeeClickFix. Most often used to report potholes, broken traffic lights, and other non-emergency issues, SeeClickFix could also prove a powerful tool to encourage accountability and responsibility in any type of mass transit.

With SeeClickFix,  next time you see your bus driver snoozing or a train conductor texting, for instance, you can report it right away, and include a photo of the guilty party. Optimistically, this will provide a great incentive for a higher level of personal responsibility in bus and rail transit around the country.

But to expand in this direction, SeeClickFix to will need to strengthen and build new partnerships, possibly with public transit agencies or private companies, including curbside bus services. And public education will also be crucial. A public awareness campaign, which SeeClickFix doesn’t necessarily have to lead, would help inform riders of the tools that are already available and waiting to be used.

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