Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
25 chapter four Survey reSultS: How tranSit agencieS addreSS difficult cuStomer SituationS Chapter three provided information on the types of difficult customer situations that transit agencies deal with and whether these situations are becoming more common. Some information also was pre- sented on what transit agencies are doing to minimize such situations. Chapter four looks more closely at techniques, practices, and policies that have been put in place to prevent, respond to, and counter these types of situations as agencies strive to provide service that is safe and pleasant for all customers. metHodS to Help prevent or minimize difficult cuStomer SituationS public education programs to encourage good Behavior when using transit Many transit agencies engage in a variety of activities with the intent of educating customers, especially potential and new customers, on proper transit etiquette. Transit staff members meet with a wide range of groups within their communities, including but not limited to social service agencies, veterans clubs, churches, neighborhood associations, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), and senior citizens. At these meetings, transit staff not only advise people of the service that is available and how to access it but also take the opportunity to present information on transit rules and expected behavior. Omnitrans, in the San Bernardino, California, region, reported that staff members attend 80 meetings a year and make a point to attend at least one meeting in each city it serves. LBT also makes it a point to attend fairs and events that are consistent with transitâs theme of providing environmental benefits and healthy living. Perhaps the greatest effort is made to inform school students from middle school to college. This is especially important for systems that operate in communities where the transit system has replaced the yellow school bus service for transporting students and in communities where colleges have reached agreements to issue universal passes. Transit marketing, communications, and community relations staff attend functions such as back-to-school nights, college orientation sessions, and school registra- tion. MDT (Florida) and the RGRTA have school programs that award students for proper behavior on their buses. In addition, transit staff provide field trips during which students visit the transit agency to learn more about transit and its benefits and appropriate behavior when riding the bus. Palm Tran (Florida) staff have taken a bus to summer camps where counselors are always looking for activities to keep the kids busy. Omnitrans has a specially equipped bus to provide hands-on training for new bus riders, and the agency reports the interactive nature of the experience is effective in instructing people about the right way to ride. WMATA has a program the agency reports has been effective in addressing juvenile behavior. In the program, Respect Your Ride, WMATA staff and Mass Transit Police Department officers visit local schools to talk to students about the importance of appropriate behavior while riding Metro and having pride and ownership of the safety and security of the system. In addition to in-person events, transit systems have created videos to transmit the message of riding with respect for others. Omnitrans has shown leadership in such efforts by producing a 14-minute video, in topic chapters in English and Spanish, that covers all aspects of riding the bus, including trip planning, fares, customer service, riding tips, safety, and courtesy. The video is the most viewed video on Omnitransâ YouTube channel. The agency reports the video is a valuable tool, especially in communicating with Spanish-speaking customers, and the agency will benefit from additional promotion to a wider audience. Capital Metro in Austin, Texas, has reached out to the community in
26 a variety of ways to educate the public about rail safety. In 2014, a group of middle school students produced two animated videos for Capital Metro to educate students about safety while using transit. These videos have been incorporated into the Squash It safety presentation. Capital Metro has pre- sented the Squash It program to more than 20 schools in the Austin area, educating several hundred students, teachers, and school staff about safe behavior around trains and tracks. LANTA in Allentown, Pennsylvania, reports that the agency plays educational videos on televisions and monitors at transit centers and the office lobby, where riders pass frequently. Capital Metro also encourages good behavior through the Donât Be a Pain in the Bus advertising cam- paign, which is displayed on interior bus placards. LBTâs current advertising campaign demonstrates different aspects of how to ride effectively in the transit system. The campaignâs humorous approach was developed from the social media meme concept, juxtaposing images and text to elicit engage- ment with the audience. The campaign reaches a wide demographic range and is used as a branding and educational tool. Although other systems might not engage in these types of community events or campaigns, they report the use of advertising, printed materials, social media, and their webpages to provide information on rules of the road for transit passengers. providing training to prevent or defuSe difficult cuStomer SituationS There are many transit professionals who say that most difficult situations can be quickly and effectively defused if the transit operator, supervisor, or customer service agent has received training to deal with confrontational customers. Training might be regarded as the first line of defense for keeping bus operators, train conductors, and customer service personnel safe. The goal is to not be concerned about winning an argument with the customer; rather, it is to remain professional and positive and avoid taking things personally. The project survey asked the following questions: â¢ âDo you provide stress/anger management training for your operators, supervisors, and customer service personnel? Please describe it and whether there is evidence it has helped defuse difficult customer situations.â â¢ âCould you please describe in enough detail, for other transit agencies to understand, the pre- ventive measures you have taken to minimize difficult customer situations and how effective you think they have been and how they might be made more effective? Examples include, but are not limited to: Vehicle Operator Training programs directed toward how to deal with dif- ficult customer situations that teach them how to help defuse tense or troublesome situations and help them recognize passengers that âmight be having a bad dayâ or might have a disability that contributes to them acting out.â Virtually all transit agencies responded that they provide extensive training in customer relations and defusing tense situations as part of their comprehensive training for new employees and/or as refresher courses for more veteran employees. The training provided teaches operators and customer service personnel how to deal with difficult customer situations, including recognizing the traits and triggers that may be apparent when a customer may be volatile or is having a bad day. Training typically emphasizes the need for operators to avoid being combative and promote a positive atmosphere inside the agencyâs vehicles. Training materials come from a variety of sources, including the Transportation Safety Institute, the National Transit Institute, Easter Seals (for working with people with disabilities), the Canadian Urban Transit Association, and a number of private companies. Local transit unions are often consulted for their input on what training is required based on their membersâ experiences. There are highly productive exchanges of information at monthly laborâ management committee meetings and at safety committee meetings. PSTA and its union drafted a memorandum of understanding to implement a quality public service council committee designed to address issues such as dealing with challenging customers in a broad forum with input and ideas from both sides. In April 2016, WMATA and Local 689 jointly hosted a bus operator assault symposium to maintain focus on this issue and continue to facilitate discussion and identification of ways to
27 minimize assaults. The MTA created a task force with union participation to deal with operator assaults. The following programs and actions were taken as a result of this cooperative analysis: â¢ Deescalation training; â¢ Installation of operator shields; â¢ Decals on the vehicles explaining the laws relating to assault of an operator; and â¢ Desensitization counseling. What is learned in training sessions can be displayed on posters throughout transit facilities. Eight agencies reported that stress management training is provided through employee assistance programs, although training through such programs usually is entered into voluntarily or offered to employees who have had negative performance or might need to attend as a last chance to avoid termination. A few examples of the types of training provided are described here. â¢ MetroLINK in Rock Island, Illinois, provides companywide training that includes instruction in sensitivity, courtesy, and professionalism. Training reinforces the use of key words and phrases and voice tone when dealing with unruly or upset passengers or callers. The agency provides a distracted driving course that contains a section on how not to hold onto situations or thoughts that can affect the safe operation of the bus. This course also teaches tips on how to leave problems at the door when leaving home and coming to work, breathing techniques for relaxation, and tips on how health affects job performance, both mentally and physically. â¢ Omnitrans provides training to operators and field supervisors in the following areas: annual trainingâhow to deal with difficult people; how to control your emotions; assault awareness; fatigue and wellnessâhow it affects your emotions; and managing emotions under pressure. New operators receive training on customer relations and dealing with difficult people. Indi- vidual training includes performance improvement programs, in which operators with higher than normal customer complaints receive training on stress management; how to control emotions; dealing with difficult passengers; and managing emotions under pressure. Intervention training is provided one on one to operators who have not had positive results to progressive discipline, as a last chance to correct behavior before final disciplinary action. Ongoing training includes seminars and workshops offered to supervisors and customer service personnel and focused on individual needs. â¢ NAIPTA in Flagstaff, Arizona, provides several trainings as part of new employee orientation and repeats all of them at a minimum of every 2 years. Included in the training are dealing with difficult passengers, deescalation and operator assault risk, and customer service. Although the agency does not have training specifically for stress or anger management as part of its safety or risk management training, it offers voluntary participation in a wellness program that offers stress management training. â¢ At the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing, Michigan, handling difficult issues and better managing stressful customer situations is addressed regularly in the agencyâs annual all-operator training classes. Operations supervisors are sent to the Transit Supervisor Certification Course instructed by the Transportation Safety Institute; the course covers a range of topics needed by transit supervisors, including customer service and dealing with difficult passenger situations. New operators are trained in how to deal with difficult customer situations in their initial training and orientation. Operator candidates are taught a variety of techniques and principles and participate in role play during training to improve their skills when dealing with difficult customer situations. Customer service representatives (CSRs) meet on a regular basis and share ideas and discuss ways to reduce stress in the department and better handle problem customers and situations. The focus is placed on the importance of remaining positive when approaching difficult situations and reminding all representatives to not take things per- sonally, which agency personnel report is when most difficult situations fall apart. CATA brings in a customer service training professional to meet with customer service representatives, lead and support staff, and operations supervisors. â¢ The MTA provides deescalation training for its operators. This training program focuses on deescalation techniques as a method for preventing difficult customer situations from becoming
28 serious or dangerous. Emotional intelligence and effective communications are the key elements of the training. The operatorâs ability to deescalate any situation is based on understanding his or her own emotions. Through this emotional intelligence training, the operator learns how not to become emotionally âhijacked.â The agency reports that if an operator gets hijacked and caught up in the default human conflict behaviors, the most effective deescalation training in the world is of no use. The training uses illustrated presentations, videos, case studies, role play, group activities, and student-led discussions. â¢ The PSTA offers employment assistance counseling to all of its employees through the agencyâs employee assistance program. Employees may call a 1-800 number provided by the agency or contact the PSTAâs human resources department directly to set up stress/anger management counseling (or in some instance may be ordered to attend). PSTA recently embarked on a half-day customer service training initiative for all operators, supervisors, and customer service personnel, which included stress management components. In addition, PSTA has a part-time employee (20+ hours per week) whose job is to coach, counsel, advise, and train operators on dealing with stress and anger management while in service. The position is the Coaching and Performance Development Manager. The person in the position works from an office right outside the operatorsâ lounge with direct access to all operators. The success of this position has increased incrementally every quarter. Partnership with the union is an important factor for the positionâs positive impact for workers. â¢ LBTâs training department has developed a program that focuses on what the department refers to as âflashpoint,â the moment in time just before a situation gets out of control. This training includes video clips from current headlines regarding conflict between operators and customers. Also included are verbal judo techniquesâstrategies to deflect and redirect negative behavior, thus preventing, deescalating, or ending an attempted assault. This training program provides operators with tools and support for conflict avoidance. â¢ Manatee County Area Transit uses initial operator training and refresher training. The initial training includes the Transportation Safety Institute Bus Operator Training Program, which has a customer relations component. It also includes National Transit Institute courses in harassment prevention, violence in the transit workplace, crisis communications, system security awareness for transit employees, and terrorist awareness recognition and reaction. In addition to the more comprehensive training programs noted, other agencies reported on specific programs they provide that help to minimize stress or prevent incidents from escalating, including: â¢ The Human Resources Department at VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, Texas, coordinates the provision of neck and back massages on the property throughout the year. Dates are advertised regarding when and where employees can obtain a free 10-minute massage at their facility. â¢ King County Transit emphasizes rules in their customer service guidance book regarding customer relations, customers with disabilities, operator code of conduct, and stopping for customers and fares. â¢ UTA police officers in Salt Lake City receive extensive training that includes critical incident training and verbal judo to deescalate and handle customer situations. â¢ Metra provides suicide awareness training to all conductors, engineers, supervisors, CSRs, and ticket agents. Transit agencies generally were not able to provide statistical evidence of the effectiveness of stress/anger management or deescalation training in terms of reducing incidents of difficult customers. As PSTA noted, evidence showing that such training has helped defuse difficult customer situations is rare because if the training accomplishes its goal and potential incidents are successfully defused, no definitive reports are made or incidents recorded. Only nine agencies responded to the question of the effectiveness of stress management training, indicating that they find it to be useful and effective, even if evidence is anecdotal: â¢ âThere is anecdotal evidence that many difficult situations can be defused, but there is no way to prove whether a situation âgone wrongâ would have defused if handled differentlyâ (from Capital Metro in Austin, Texas).
29 â¢ âWe do not have a formal way to track efficacy of these efforts. Anecdotally, many operators utilize the stress reduction tactics they are providedâ (from Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado). â¢ âIt has not been a full year since the training was provided and we have no evidence (statistically or anecdotally) that this has reduced difficult customer situations, however we have heard from employees that they found the training to be beneficialâ (from Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky). â¢ âThe feedback from Operators who received the training stated that it was highly useful in making a difference toward avoiding conflictâ (from LBT). â¢ âWe have noticed that drivers who have attended this training do better in deescalating situations than those who have not attendedâ (Star Metro). â¢ âWe provided de-escalation training through Nine Lives Solutions out of Dayton, Ohio. It did help but no conclusive evidence of minimizing difficult customer situations has been documented as a result of this trainingâ (TARTA). â¢ âWe have had several staff members who demonstrated symptoms of stress and anger problems in the past that are now performing well in challenging conditions after coaching and training by means of one or more of the resources mentioned earlierâ (MTS, San Diego, California). â¢ âWe have experienced a 30% decline in bus operator assaults in the first quarter of 2016. We cannot state that EAP (training in stress and anger management) alone has contributed to this decline, but our comprehensive suite of programs aimed at improving employee safety may have been a contributing factorâ (WMATA). â¢ âThroughout the year in safety meetings, the fixed route contractor discusses the stress and challenge of our transit customers, of which there is a wide diversity. It has helped defuse dif- ficult situations, in particular the âno fare or donât have enough money for my fareâ customerâ (RTC Ride, Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission, Nevada). Although there might not be statistics to support exactly how effective any particular training is, it is generally regarded as an article of faith that training is the first line of defense in keeping operators and conductors safe and in helping frontline personnel deal successfully with difficult customer situations. protective BarrierS to prevent aSSaultS on BuS operatorS The survey for this project asked if the transit system used protective barriers or partitions for their bus operators to help prevent them from being physically assaulted, thereby possibly avoiding or minimizing the impact of a difficult customer situation. The agencies responded with the following information: No protective barriersâ33 Use protective barriersâ7 Testing protective barriersâ1 Metra, the commuter rail system serving Chicago, noted that their engineers operate trains while in a locked compartment that is inaccessible to passengers, but their conductors interact with passengers with no barriers. Whether or not to use bus operator barriers has been a subject of debate for years. There is no doubt that barriers of different types can help protect an operator from an assault. However, many believe that the most effective prevention is compassionate and consistent customer care and service (25), and physical barriers create an unwanted separation between an operator and the passengers. Four agencies (LANTA, Palm Tran, Omnitrans, and TriMet) reported that they experimented with or carefully researched bus operator barriers but ultimately decided against using them. LANTAâs bus operators said the barriers caused them to lose their personal touch with passengers. Palm Tran operators also said the barriers were not passenger friendly and caused the operators to feel âtrapped.â TriMet experimented with partial barriers, solicited operator feedback, and found that most opera- tors did not favor the barriers. Consequently, barriers are not being considered by TriMet at this time.
30 After an operator was killed in the line of duty, Omnitrans hired a grief counselor who met with operators, many of whom said they would feel safer if they were provided with a barrier or enclosure for the driverâs compartment. The transit agency hired a security consultant to investigate the feasibil- ity and research the types offered, costs, and other agenciesâ experiences with such devices. It was determined by Omnitrans that the devices did not sufficiently protect the operator and could actually cause an increase in and escalation of different types of assault. The consultant also said, based on research at other agencies that had experimented with barriers, that barriers would further separate the operator from the passenger so that the passenger might fail to see the operator as a person. The consultantâs report noted that some agencies took the barrier out after time because some operators reported they felt âtrappedâ in the driverâs compartment and, if an accident occurred, they might not be able to get out. In addition, opening and closing the barrier to secure wheelchairs was becoming an annoyance. Seven transit agencies reported that they are using or testing barriers or enclosures or partial barriers for their driversâ compartments. Tucsonâs Sun Tran is testing partitions. Foothill Transit has included operator barriers on new buses being purchased. WMATA has installed barriers/shields on 350 buses in its fleet and reports that the barriers have been effective in protecting operators. Most operators have been supportive, but some have mentioned issues with glare from the shield affecting their ability to drive in the evening. RGRTA uses partial door barriers to help protect operators. The agency reported that operators received them well and believed the partial shields provided a higher sense of security and comfort. The partial shields minimize the danger to the bus operator when faced with a difficult customer contemplating an assault, but they do not eliminate the danger. The agency has received no negative feedback from customers about the shields. SFMTA uses a door that partially blocks passengers from operators; the door reaches about the midarm level. The agency reports that the doors have been effective in providing some protection and making their operators feel safer. SFMTA has received no negative feedback from passengers. After a rash of assaults on bus operators, MDT installed enclosures years ago and reports they provide an excellent deterrent from physical contact if the bus operator follows the policies in place and stays within the enclosure and the customer does not attempt to go over the enclosure. As with other agencies, MDT has received little feedback from customers, most of whom appear to understand that an operator who is safe from physical assault provides a safer ride for all passengers. The MTA uses barriers and has experienced a decrease in assaults on the agencyâs operators. Operators have provided positive feedback, with only a few commenting that they feel closed in. The MTA reports the agency has found a happy medium by installing a two-part barrier that functions like a Dutch door. Operators can open the top half of the door if they feel too cramped, but the bottom half of the barrier must be closed (see Figure 7). FIGURE 7 Partial door enclosure used by the RGRTA. Source: RGRTA.
31 uSe of tecHnology to diScourage and appreHend cuStomerS exHiBiting difficult BeHavior Without exception, the 41 transit agencies responding to the survey reported that they use video cameras that also have audio capabilities. All have from two to 12 cameras inside their vehicles. Only a few specifically mentioned they have cameras to capture events outside of their vehicles. Most transit agencies also stated that they use cameras at their transit centers, major stations, and park-and-ride facilities. The larger transit agencies with security command centers indicated that they are able to monitor the cameras at stations and park-and-ride facilities in real time, allowing them to take quick action if they view suspicious activity; they can call supervisors, security guards, or police, if necessary. The presence of cameras might curb, but does not prevent difficult passenger behavior in all cases. As one agency noted, âThe individual that is ready for an incident is going to have an incident regardless of the technology.â The presence of cameras may not deter the inappropriate behavior of some passengers, including those with mental health issues or who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, 20 transit agencies stated that cameras have at least a small deterrent effect and made some passengers think twice before creating disruptions or engaging in offensive behavior. Some transit agencies reported on steps they have taken to increase the deterrent capabili- ties of cameras and microphones by posting signs on the vehicles and at stations, as well as making announcements that inform people they are being filmed. NAIPTA bus operators regularly inform customers that fare transactions are being captured on film, point to the camera, and welcome them to take their concerns to the office. They report that this regularly helps to defuse such situations. LBT installed customer monitors in 20 of its buses in a pilot program. The monitors are positioned in the front of the vehicle near the operator (Figure 8). Customers are able to view themselves on the monitor as they enter the bus, much like customers view themselves on monitors when in retail establishments. This provides customers with verification that they are on camera and may provide a deterrent for operator/customer conflicts on the vehicle. This is a relatively new program at LBT, and operators are being surveyed for their input. WMATA is testing a program with a large video dis- play of the passengers being recorded; the video display is near the operator to discourage altercations. FIGURE 8 Onboard LBT monitor letting passengers know they are being recorded. Source: LBT.
32 Although it might be too early for definitive conclusions, WMATA is encouraged that assaults against the agencyâs bus operators declined by 30% in the first quarter of 2016. Although the agency cannot state that this initiative is the sole cause of the decline in assaults, WMATA personnel say the video display has contributed to this positive trend. Perhaps the most significant contribution that security cameras make in reducing difficult passenger situations is that they allow the transit agency and local police to identify and apprehend offending passengers. Video and audio recordings of incidents provide excellent evidence of any misbehavior that has occurred on a transit vehicle or in a facility. Once there is a clear video and audio record of the offending passenger, transit agencies can take appropriate actions to counsel, suspend, or ban the individual from using the service. Those who have engaged in difficult passenger behavior are either no longer going to be on the system, or their behavior will be modified if they wish to continue using the system. The MTA reported that the agency has been able to use video and still images to make several arrests for assaults on operators and riders. The use of video equipment has been effective in reducing crimes on the system. Part I crimesâhomicide, rape, and other serious crimesâhave gone down, largely because the agency closes more than 70% of its cases with the strong evidence provided by video/audio surveillance. MTS reported that the agency can track continuous difficult customer infractions through video/audio footage and has been able to correct such actions (and ban such customers from service in some cases) as a result of the detailed documentation the cameras and microphones collected. Although video and audio equipment might not prevent an incident from happening, it can help reduce the number of future incidents. Several agencies reported that smartphones offer opportunities for passengers to report mis- behavior on transit vehicles. At Omnitrans, customers are encouraged to report incidents to the Safety and Security Office through e-mail, WeTip (an anonymous crime reporting system), and Omnitransâ Text-a-Tip program (texting to Omnitrans Security). Omnitrans reports the program has had a positive impact. RTD also has a transit watch app that can be downloaded on smartphones that allows patrons to contact dispatch and gives them the ability to take pictures that can be sent directly and silently to RTDâs security command center to determine the most appropriate action. Alameda County Transit will soon have a pilot program called TipNow that allows passengers to anonymously report inci- dents on the agencyâs bus fleet to central dispatch, which can contact the sheriffâs department to address the situation. Similar smartphone applications have been instituted at Cambria County Transit Authority (Pennsylvania), TARTA, MDT, and TriMet. In addition, many agencies noted that their websites include online forms to report incidents to customer service personnel, who review reports as quickly as possible. Although these types of technologies do not necessarily prevent a determined difficult customer, they do effectively expand the number of eyes and ears that can detect and report disturbances on transit vehicles or at transit facilities. Offenders who are apprehended are less likely to cause disturbances in the future. An example of such an application used in Sacramento, California, is shown in Figure 9. One additional advantage of the video/audio surveillance equipment is that the information cap- tured can be replayed for use in coaching and training of operators and supervisors. Transit personnel are better able to recognize and anticipate potential difficult customers and become better prepared to use their training to respond appropriately should they be faced with similar situations. More than a dozen responding agencies indicated that they have an emergency access button that is available for bus operators to press discreetly, allowing them to alert dispatchers who can immediately contact police. Covert microphones that can hear what is going on inside a bus in an emergency also help authorities know what they are responding to and provide an audio record of the incident. Announcements are made aboard transit vehicles that state the rules of conduct and remind people that if they see something they should say something. adopting codeS of conduct to guide cuStomer BeHavior The majority of transit agencies reported that they have developed codes of conduct or other rules and regulations intended to govern transit customer behavior. Other names associated with such guidelines are ârules of the road,â âstandards for passenger behavior,â and ârules of conduct.â These
33 codes, rules, and standards provide details on what behavior is not permissible and the potential consequences for violating the rules. The codes and rules also provide transit employees with a legal basis for giving directions to customers when intervention might be necessary. The existence of such rules helps to ensure that passengers will not think a transit employee is being arbitrary or making things up as they go as they conduct their duties of being responsible for a safe trip for all passengers. One agency noted that operators sometimes were frustrated because the rules often are more severe than operators are encouraged to enforce, making them appear to be paper tigers. Nonetheless, these codes and rules establish the fundamental authority for vehicle operators, supervisors, or local police to take action when necessary. Of course, the hope is that customers will abide by the rules in the interest of a peaceful transit trip for everyone concerned. To help them do so, transit agencies take a number of actions to inform passengers of the rules. These various codes of conduct typically are provided on agency websites and through social media; on separate brochures and flyers; in transit guides; on placards inside transit vehicles; and on posters and digital displays at transit centers and stations. The most important rules might be included on decals on the back of seats or on bookmarks that are provided to customers. Announcements are made over the public address system in vehicles and at transit centers reminding customers of the rules. Operators are sometimes given two-sided cards that enumerate the basic rules and can be handed out to customers as a reminder or warning. The point of such saturation tactics is to maximize the opportunity for people to know the rules and eliminate the excuse an offending customer might have of not knowing them. The codes, rules, and standards can be fairly brief and address only the most prohibited behavior or rather long and comprehensive, providing tips on using the transit system and staying safe. Most codes of conduct clearly note impermissible behavior that is subject to civil action, such as assaulting an operator or another passenger or committing any other crime against the laws of the local, state, or federal government. Other behavior may cause a customer to be removed from a bus or train and/or prohibited or banned temporarily or permanently from using the service based on the judgment of the local transit managers. An example of one agencyâs code of conduct is provided here from the VIA transit system in San Antonio, Texas (Figure 10). Other transit agencies may include a variety of other impermissible actions, and some codes indicate the listed prohibited activities are only examples of actions that may result in expulsion or FIGURE 9 Sacramento Regional Transit Districtâs Alert SacRT app. Source: Sacramento Regional Transit District.
34 FIGURE 10 VIA Metropolitan Transit code of conduct, revised September 2015. Source: VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, Texas.
35 suspension from the transit system. In essence, they set a floor of expectations for appropriate customer behavior in the interest of the health and safety of all transit customers. They give authority to transit personnel to take appropriate action with difficult customers and enjoy more stature when such codes are officially approved and adopted by the agency board of directors or the local governing body through ordinance or by state law. There might be graduated prohibitions for repeat offenders, with the ultimate action of offenders being banned permanently from using the service. Transit man- agers need to carefully document all actions taken on the basis of the code of conduct, provide clear reasons in writing for any sanctions, and provide avenues of appeal to customers. treSpaSS warrantS Many transit agencies use trespass warrants for individuals who have violated the code of conduct, city ordinances, or other laws. This allows the agency to temporarily or permanently ban individuals from transit vehicles or facilities. This is not a power to be exercised capriciously; denying a form of mobility that is available to virtually everyone is a serious matter. However, this power provides another tool in the toolbox for transit agencies to discourage or prevent difficult customer behavior that is illegal and jeopardizes the health and safety of transit personnel and other customers. It is important that the exercise of such power be approved by the governing body of the transit agency and based on policies that are clear, published, and defensible. Palm Tran has created a trespass sign that is placed in two locations on all agency buses and at every facility; the sign shows what constitutes unacceptable behavior and what can and will occur if people violate the standards of conduct. The agency also notifies the public of trespass warrants on the agencyâs website, through social media, and through other methods, such as brochures showing ârules to ride byâ and the agencyâs Ridersâ Guide and Code of Conduct. NAIPTA described its use of trespass warrants as follows: We have a rider suspension that is triggered by an operatorâs report of an incident. The road supervisor will report to the vehicle or meet in route to deliver the suspension as often as possible although operators can suspend passengers from service for a single day. The suspension is reported to all operators with the violatorâs name and photo to ensure all operators enforce the suspension. We have signage in the buses and on our website. Operators have a two sided card to hand out as a warning or as they notify someone of a single day suspension. When necessary, we report the suspension to police as part of other reporting matters (vandalism, altercations, etc.). We believe the program has reduced both repetitions of difficult situations while eliminating some difficult passengers from the system. For instance, âRider Aâ has been a regular rider causing problems for years (disputing fares, complaining about the driver, disruptive to other riders, etc.) and after a 30-day suspension has not returned to the system. Transit agencies reported that they typically work with local law enforcement to issue the warrants that subject people to potential fines or arrest. LANTA has found that having direct police contact with problem passengers has reduced significantly the number of incidents. Different agencies tend to use trespass warrants for different violations based on their local circumstances. MTS in San Diego reports using them to deal with people who have shown violent behavior toward operators or other customers. Difficult passengers who loiter at or around bus stops and transit facilities receive most of the criminal trespass notices issued by Capital Metro. Alameda County Transit reports issuing trespass warrants most frequently to address fare evaders. The SFMTA issues them most frequently to graffiti artists. However, such notices can be used to address any number of violations of the agencyâs code of conduct. The issuance of trespass warrants usually is done on a case-by-case basis after careful deliberation given the seriousness of the consequences for the customer. Transit agencies were not unanimous in their opinions of the effectiveness of trespass warrants. Mountain Line officials reported trespass warrants are the most effective measure they have to deal with problem behavior. Star Metro reported the agency finds most riders know that a trespass warrant will be issued against anyone who threatens the safety of other passengers, which helps to discourage such behavior. C-TRAN in Vancouver, Washington, issues âexclusionsâ for repeat offenders of the rules of conduct and has found them to be fairly effective. Even if a rider gets back on one of the agencyâs buses before the end of the exclusion term, the rider usually behaves and goes undetected because he or she does not want to be caught and face additional sanctions or possible interaction with law enforcement.
36 On the other hand, SFMTA reported the agency finds trespass warrants to be âonerous to get and difficult to enforce.â MDT reported that passenger warrants alone will not keep difficult people off the transit system without the proper security personnel to enforce such actions. UTA officials noted that the method is hardly foolproof because if people who have been issued warrants pay their fares and operators do not know them, they can still ride the system. CUMTD reported, âThis is done very rarely as it is more work and more controversy than itâs worth.â Many responding agencies noted that issuance of trespass warrants is done only rarely, and they rely on the professionalism of their operators to use their training to properly handle almost all incidents with difficult passengers. Some agencies do not use trespass warrants and instead rely on local law enforcement to assist them in the more serious cases involving difficult customers. LBT does not issue passenger warrants. However, under extreme circumstances, the agency occasionally petitions the court for a civil restraining order when a customerâs behavior becomes so difficult that it regularly disrupts LBTâs service. Short of that, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Transit Enforcement Detail (TED) issues mis- demeanor citations (written promises to appear) to persons who disrupt LBTâs system in various ways (fare evasion, fighting, other disruptive behavior, etc.). As noted, issuing trespass warrants is a serious action, and transit agencies must have an appeal process in place. For example, LANTA will not allow passengers who have been issued such war- rants to ride the buses again until they have talked with the director of operations, who determines if the passengerâs riding privileges will be restored. If the passenger is not granted restoration of rights to use the system, he or she can appeal to the agencyâs board of trustees. RTD in Colorado utilizes a suspension process for customers based on the following: 1. RTD transit policy violations and/or fare evasion: First OffenseâWarning notice Second OffenseâCitation Third OffenseâCitation and 30-day suspension Continued OffensesâCitation and 90 days to 1-year suspension 2. Part II crimes that result in arrest or criminal citation, such as vandalism or disorderly conduct: First Offenseâ90-day suspension Second Offenseâ90-day to 1-year suspension Third Offenseâ1-year or permanent suspension 3. Part I crimes resulting in arrest (crimes against person), such as assault: First Offenseâ1-year suspension Second OffenseâPermanent suspension uSing contracted Security or local police The presence of uniformed law enforcement officers can help discourage difficult passenger behavior. The visibility of such officers can cause anyone who is thinking of engaging in illegal acts or those prone to acting out to modify their behavior. Four of the 41 agencies reported that they have their own transit police department, with officers who patrol all transit facilities and ride vehicles on a random or targeted basis. Another eight contract with local police departments (in some cases many local police departments) to provide security services for their systems. Four smaller systems reported that they provide office space at their most prominent transit center for the local police department. MDT noted that the agency contracts with a major private security firm whose personnel are supple- mented by local law enforcement. tranSit agency reSponSeS to difficult cuStomer SituationS The previous sections of this report focused on the ways transit agencies try to prevent difficult cus- tomer situations through training of personnel, codes of conduct with consequences for violations, meetings within communities to educate people on appropriate behavior while using transit, and advertising campaigns to remind people of transit etiquette. However, despite all of these types of efforts, difficult customer situations still happen from time to time, and transit personnel need to take action. This section of the report describes how transit agencies deal with such events in real time.
37 The first option is always the exercise of good judgment by the operator. An experienced pro- fessional bus operator is capable of managing most situations with a difficult passenger. The art of deescalation is the most effective deterrent of difficult customers. Good training will condition the bus operator to see past the difficult customerâs attempted disruption and focus on the bigger picture of doing everything possible to preserve the service intact. The CATA in Lansing, Michigan, reminds its employees that it is their goal to promote ridership, not ban people from the system. Transit agencies generally approach customers with the understanding that they do not know everything that is going on in that personâs life that might contribute to difficult behavior. As one transit trainer wrote, During Customer Relations Training I explain that operators deal with negative passengers that can be catego- rized as Different, Difficult, or Dangerous (the 3 Dâs). The Operator is one word or action away of bringing the passenger to the next level either up or down the scale. Training operators on ways to handle customers and how to defuse situations is the key, and agencies expect their employees to follow the agencyâs policies and procedures rather than take matters into their own hands. However, when the operator is unsuccessful in being able to normalize the situation, the following procedures tend to be used by the responding agencies. dealing witH fare diSputeS As noted, the most frequently occurring and challenging type of difficult customer situation is fare evasion or fare disputes. This issue has plagued transit agencies for decades. Certain passengers con- tinuously try to evade paying any fare or a full fare when entering a bus or riding a train. There are a number of scenarios in which this might happen. Passengers might try to walk past the operator and fare box without paying and without acknowledging the need to pay a fare. Others might pay only a partial cash fare. Others might present an expired pass or transfer or try to use a pass for which they are clearly not eligible (such as a student pass or senior discount pass). Some passengers simply do not have the fare, whereas others might be able to pay but try to avoid paying. For example, a cus- tomer might offer a $20 bill when asked for the fare knowing that change is not issued aboard transit vehicles. This situation is a frustration for bus operators, who know that other passengers who have paid their fares are witnessing these situations and likely are somewhat resentful of a passenger not paying a fare to use the service. In past years this would result in arguments between the operator and the fare evader, and the situation often escalated into shouting and sometimes a physical assault on the operator from a passenger who had been âbacked into a cornerâ in front of others. In such cases, although the operator was trying to secure the revenue for the transit system, he or she often took the argument too personally and believed it was his or her responsibility to ensure the fare was collected. Although fare evasion remains the most frequently occurring difficult customer situation, it is questionable if it is the most challenging in terms of procedures. The challenge lies more in collecting the fare than in how an operator should deal with the situation. Most transit agencies have stepped away from strict enforcement out of concern for the safety of the operator and the desire to continue providing on-time service to all passengers. The direction given to bus operators now is to have them tell the passenger the correct fare. If the passenger does not pay, the operator should not consider it a personal affront and hold up the bus and inconvenience the passengers onboard and the passengers waiting for the bus. A courteous and respectful statement such as âIf you are short on the fare you can pay the difference tomorrow.â However, if the operator knows the passenger is a constant fare evader, the dispatcher is to be contacted with a request for a supervisor to meet the bus on route at a regular stop. When the field supervisor is called to respond to a fare evader, the operator should open the coach doors where the supervisor is waiting. If possible, the passenger is made to alight the bus where the supervisor will again inform the passenger of the required fare. If the customer does not pay and does not have a valid reason for not paying, the passenger should be informed he or she will not be able to ride without paying the fare. If additional assistance is needed to remove the customer from the coach or the customer situation escalates, police are called by using 911. Of course, the situation is not always this clean and simple. The operator may still feel somewhat humiliated, disempowered, and not supported. The operator does not want to have other passengers see this action and think it is a precedent for others to copy. The operator is aware that the passenger might disembark the bus before the supervisor arrives and that the evasion of a small fare is not likely
38 to have high priority with local police unless they have no pressing other matters. However, this is all the more reason not to take the incident personally because bus operators cannot control all the circumstances under which they operate. Operators, as the first and often last representative the difficult customer sees, need to rely on their training, which invariably includes messages such as this one provided by Centro in Syracuse, New York: [B]e courteous, patient, professional, and respectful regardless of circumstances; avoid confrontation at all costs; never take away a personâs dignity and give them an âoutâ; do not put yourself in the position of enforcing an ultimatum because ultimatums may be ineffective. dealing witH cuStomerS under tHe influence of drugS or alcoHol Dealing with customers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol (particularly alcohol) was identified by survey respondents as the second most frequently occurring and third most challeng- ing difficult passenger situation. Although it might be uncomfortable for other passengers to have an inebriated person on board the bus or train, the operator or conductor needs to make a judgment call (as they so often must do) on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not the person is causing or might cause a problem. This type of incident demonstrates why good training and experience are so valuable to a transit operator and just how difficult their job is. Being intoxicated is not considered grounds for prohibiting a person from riding. Clearly they are not allowed to drink while on the vehicle. If such passengers are not causing any issues and are mobile and able to safely get on and off the vehicle under their own power, they generally are allowed to ride. However, if such passengers are being disruptive or a danger to themselves or others, the operator initiates actions to have them removed from the bus. As is the case at most transit agencies, the operator cannot deny the passenger a ride unless so instructed by the dispatcher/supervisor. MetroLINK in Rock Island, Illinois, advises that if the passenger is questionable for safety reasons, the operator calls for a supervisor to respond. If necessary, the operator pulls the bus over safely until assistance arrives. If the supervisor deter- mines a drunken passenger is disturbing other passengers or poses a risk, the supervisor assists the passenger to where he or she needs to go or, if necessary, calls 911. Given the unpredictable nature of someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is not unusual for local police to be summoned to respond to provide their superior authority. As with so many cases of difficult customer situations, it is important that the bus operator and dispatcher be sure to document and record the date and time of the incident. dealing witH cuStomerS wHo Have mental HealtH iSSueS Although dealing with customers who have mental health issues was the second most challenging issue faced by responding agencies, none provided specific information on how they deal with cus- tomers. Someone exhibiting erratic or strange behaviorâregardless of the cause of that behaviorâ can be disconcerting and frightening to other customers. In short, although operators are not social workers or psychologists, they observe the behavior of passengers who have mental health issues and make their best judgment on whether such passengers pose a threat to the operator or other passengers. If operators believe that might be the case, they call the dispatch supervisor, describe the behavior of the passenger, and ask for guidance. Depending on the judgment of the dispatch supervisor, a field supervisor and/or local police are sent to meet the bus and assess the situation. The passenger in question might be permitted to continue to ride or escorted by the supervisor to the passengerâs final destination or to a social service agency, medical facility, or the police station, depending on the con dition of the passenger. Two responding agencies noted that the incidence of encountering people with mental health issues or addictions tends to increase in areas that are experiencing high unemployment. dealing witH cuStomerS wHo Have open woundS, or offenSive odor or Hygiene Passengers with poor hygiene or odor represent a delicate issue for operators. As always, the bus operator or train conductor has to use his or her best judgment on how to deal with the issue. At PSTA, whether a passenger is to be allowed to stay onboard depends on many different factors, including
39 tolerance thresholds and potential for creating biohazards. At Foothill Transit, the agency does not take any action unless the hygiene issue causes some type of safety concern or threat. At the CATA, operators defer delicate situations such as hygiene to a supervisor or manager for handling. Omnitrans provides the following guidance to its operators when dealing with passengers with poor hygiene: Operators may occasionally encounter a passenger in need of public transportation who may have an open seeping wound, bleeding excessively, excreting other bodily fluids and/or is foul-smelling. If a passenger, or mobility impaired passenger is encountered that is extremely unsanitary and may cause an unsafe condition/ hazard to the Operator or passengers, the Operator must contact the Dispatcher immediately for assistance. Operators must use common sense and good judgment in determining whether a passenger should not be transported resulting from an unsanitary or unsafe condition that may cause discomfort or sickness to the Operator or passengers. Confirm there is visible evidence of bodily fluids (urine, feces, vomit, and/or blood) on the patronâs clothing and/or mobility device before informing the patron they cannot board the bus. If already on the bus, do not attempt to force them off the vehicle. Do not embarrass the patron or use any terms that could be considered insensitive or derogatory. Do not assume from previous encounters that the patron may not be suitable for transporting. (Operators must never deny service and/or pass up a patron without the explicit authorization of a Dispatcher/Supervisor.) In the case where you determine a patron cannot be transported for these reasons, please follow the steps outlined here: â¢ Inform the patron of reason they cannot be transported (e.g., I am sorry; I cannot transport you today as a result of the physical presence of bodily fluids on your person and/or wheelchair.) â¢ Remain at your location and notify the Bus Dispatcher using the Priority Request to Talk (PRTT) â¢ Mark the video camera â¢ Provide the Dispatcher the following information: â Location â Reason patron should not be transported â Description of the individual; name if available â Description of the individualâs condition â Report to Dispatcher if any bodily fluids are on the bus (a bus change may be required). â¢ Based on the information provided, the Dispatcher will provide the Operator instructions on how to proceed. â If directed to remain at location, a Supervisor will be sent to the scene to evaluate the individual and to take a report. â Please apologize to passengers on board the bus for the delay and provide them a âBâ ticket to transfer to another available bus. â¢ The responding Supervisor will make a determination if he/she is safe to transport and/or to continue in service. â¢ Complete an incident report and submit to the Station Foreman at the end of your shift. Please be courteous and empathetic with all customers. Every one of our customers deserves to be treated in a respectful, humane manner. dealing witH cuStomerS wHo are diSruptive Transit agencies deal with a great variety of customers who engage in behavior that is either against their code of conduct or disruptive. Many of the problems dealt with are relatively minor and usually are handled by the operator without intervention from another party. Once again, incidents are handled on a case-by-case basis, with the operator exercising his or her best judgment of the situation. The operator either ignores the passenger (in the case of a flippant comment) or attempts to resolve the situation with the passenger directly (passenger eating on the bus, talking too loudly on a cell phone, using profanity with other passengers) by discouraging the behavior and notifying the customer of the provisions of the code of conduct. At TransLink, passenger etiquette pamphlets are available at transit locations and in buses for operators to advise passengers on rules for proper riding. It takes the ârule makingâ out of the operatorâs hands, so passengers cannot think the operator or supervisor is being arbitrary in asking them to abide by posted guidelines. Again, not all incidents are clear-cut and resolvable in textbook fashion. Inappropriate language, talking loudly, and playing loud music are issues that CUMTD reported facing. The agency regards such incidents as among the most difficult to deal with because of freedom of speech rights. Agency staff have talked among themselves about this at length and remain uncertain how to deal with such
40 problems. They note that if the passenger is not threatening others or invading someoneâs space, it can be hard to find a solution. If a passenger is obnoxious or disruptive, the operator notifies dispatch for a supervisor or the police department to respond. The operator will pull the bus off the road only if necessary for the safety of all aboard. At Cherriots in Salem, Oregon, one-on-one education with a customer who is not following rules appears to be effective, as is issuing exclusions from service. Agency person- nel expect difficult situations to be handled at the lowest level possible, meaning that if an operator can appropriately and safely deal with a situation, he or she is expected to default to training and document the incident. If the operator is unable to deal with the situation, he or she is expected to notify dispatch, request security or an operations supervisor, or request law enforcement. At Cambria County Transit Authority in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, operators are given the authority to have an unruly customer put off the bus. At TARTA, supervisors determine whether a passenger is allowed to ride and if an incident is worthy of potentially excluding the passenger from service. At NAIPTA, when operators are unable to resolve a situation through discussion and corrective action, they default to suspension and require passengers to meet with their managers for reinstatement of services. Sarasota County Area Transit attempts to keep processes simple. The operator warns the indi- vidual that a behavior is against the agencyâs code of conduct. If an incident occurs while the bus is in motion, the operator brings the vehicle to a safe stop. If the warning fails to accomplish the desired result, the operator notifies dispatch, who sends a supervisor or notifies authorities. Operators are instructed not to engage the situation in ways that would escalate the passengersâ anger or actions. The supervisor attempts to reason with the individual. If the situation escalates, the supervisor backs off and immediately contacts authorities. At TANK, if the passenger does not comply, the operator contacts dispatch and requests a road supervisor or, in rare cases, the police if there is a threat or expression of violence. If a road supervi- sor responds, he or she takes the passenger off the bus, has a private conversation with the individual, puts him or her back on the bus to finish the passengerâs trip, and follows the bus until the individual disembarks, or the road supervisor transports the passenger to his or her destination. If the police are contacted, the police remove the individual from the bus or take him or her into custody. In dire situations, operators have access to a panic button that alerts dispatch that there is an emergency. That button activates a covert microphone that dispatch can monitor, and it changes the destination sign to âCall Police.â TANK notes that there has never been a need for an operator to use the button, but all operators know that it is available. The agency has found their procedures to be effective because they have few repeat offenders and have needed to suspend someone only a handful of times. Operators need to feel confident in using any technology that has been installed in the bus to assist them during incidents with disruptive passengers. VIA Metropolitan Transit discovered operators were having a hard time remembering how to use the different communication features on the bus to contact dispatch. Emergencies were not being responded to appropriately. VIA has a radio system, a computer-aided dispatch/automated vehicle locator system, and a panic button on each vehicle to communicate with dispatch. However, many operators were confused about how and when to use the equipment. On learning about this situation, VIA managers investigated the complaints and found that operators were not pressing the correct button when they needed help. For example, the operators frequently confused the panic button with the video camera button. Operators perceived that dispatch was ignoring their calls for assistance. Managers also learned that operators were using the handset to call the dispatcher instead of using the mobile data terminal because they could not remember how to use the terminal. The findings resulted in the development of a campaign to improve safety and security for operators. VIA implemented a focused effort of providing information on how to com- municate emergencies. Rules and procedures were revised and refresher training and a guide were developed and provided to all operators on how to communicate emergencies. Dispatcher standard operating procedures also were revised to coincide with the new operator procedures. Since the campaign was launched, there have been no more reports of nonresponsive dispatchers or of a delay in response time. The number of radio calls to dispatch also has decreased. Overall, the campaign strengthened safety and security for operators and passengers using the system.
41 dealing witH figHtS and tHreatening BeHavior Fighting on a transit vehicle is rare but serious. Passengers or operators can be hurt, and the safe operation of the bus is put at stake. At Sun Tran in Tucson, Arizona, operators are trained not to try to be a hero. Instead, they should get help as quickly as possible by calling dispatch immediately and getting passengers off the bus if they are in danger. The operator otherwise remains with the bus, as long as a passenger is not threatened and the operatorâs life is not endangered. In what is surely an agonizing situation for the operator as a witness, the transit agency advises the operator to not try stopping an attack against a passenger. Such action might cause the attacker to become angrier while still failing to stop the attack on a passenger. Even if the operator succeeds in stopping the attack, more violence may occur in the process than if he or she had not interfered. An operator can never know when a passenger has a concealed weapon that he or she may use. At MetroLINK, if passengers start a fight or are aggressive physically or verbally, the operator pulls the bus to the curb, opens the doors to allow passengers to leave the bus, and immediately noti- fies dispatch. A supervisor is sent to the scene, and a deputy is notified or 911 is called for police to respond. The video camera is marked, and an incident report is filed by the operator. A video request is made to security, and an investigation of the incident is completed. A follow-up meeting is held with the passengers involved. A determination is made to warn, suspend, or ban the passenger(s) from the transit system. These same procedures were reported by a number of transit systems. For similar situations at TARTA, there is an immediate expulsion of the passenger(s) along with extensive exclusion time (including a possible permanent ban), and criminal charges might be pursued. TARTA and/or the Lucas County Court System have responded to such incidents by banning 10 individuals indefinitely in 6 years. CATA also reported that an assault requires immediate and severe action, sending a clear message that the action or behavior is unacceptable and will be followed with legal prosecution. It is illegal in most states for nonauthorized people to carry firearms in public, and many transit agencies note that carrying any weapons (guns, knives, daggers, clubs, brass knuckles, swords, etc.) onboard a transit vehicle is against the code of conduct or state or federal law. Of course, that pro- hibition is of little consequence if a customer brandishes such a weapon while on a transit vehicle. Operators are advised to activate the silent alarm if one is available and comply with the demands of the weapon holder. TriMet advises operators to immediately notify dispatch and to âpress EMERG, 1-Police, and SEND.â If the operator or passengers are being threatened and it is not safe to talk, the silent alarm is to be used and the following done: When dealing with people overtly threatening or carrying a weapon attempt to defuse the situation by: â¢ Being firm, assertive and respectful. â¢ Explaining the consequences of the personâs actions. â¢ Not reacting to bad words or bluster. â¢ Not touching the person or attempting to confiscate their property. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not respond physically when confronted with threatening, violent behavior or unstable customers unless it is absolutely necessary to defend yourself or a passenger and the degree of physical force is only that which is minimally necessary. â¢ If it is safe to do so, secure the bus and open the doors. The customer may be asked to leave the bus. â¢ Protect yourself and your customers, evacuate the bus if necessary. â¢ Follow dispatch instructions and assist emergency response personnel as requested.