The Florida Transit Safety and Operations Network (FTSON) Annual Transit Safety and Operations Summit was held on Monday, June 5, 2023, at Embassy Suites USF in Tampa, Florida. The Summit was called to order by Paul Goyette, Program Manager of the FTSON. Safety practices and emergency exits were demonstrated.
Welcome & Introductions – Tony Brandin, FDOT; Paul Goyette, CUTR; and Benjamin Pearl, Sarasota County Transit, Co-Chair
A warm welcome was extended to our FDOT Project Managers Ashley Porter, Transit Safety Program Manager, and Tony Brandin, FDOT Transit Operations Manager. FTSON Chair, Joe McCabe (LeeTran) and Co-chair Benjamin Pearl (Sarasota County) were introduced, as was the FTSON Program Manager Paul Goyette (CUTR). Appreciation to all the Summit attendees was expressed.
A brief overview of the agenda was provided, giving insight of the day’s topics which included Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) Process, Threat and Vulnerability Assessment (TVA) Overview, FAAC Incorporated Simulator for Transit, and the Apprenticeship Programs for Bus Operators: A Joint Approach to Strengthening Retention, Recruitment, and Workforce Development. The afternoon presentations included Verbal Judo and Mental Health, Intelligent Tools for Stress-Reduction and Resiliency, How to Prepare for a Triennial Review: Lessons Learned and Best Practices, an Overview of the PSTA SunRunner, Jacksonville Transportation Authority Monorail Overview, and details of the recent Broward County Transit Flash Flooding.
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) Process – Theo Bakomihalis and Tom Keller, PSTA
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority shared their internal process for carrying out the requirements for Entry-level drivers to receive training and demonstrate proficiency in theory training and behind-the-wheel training. Theory training includes lectures, demonstrations, computer-based and online learning of basic operation, safe operating procedures, vehicle systems and reporting malfunctions. Behind-the-wheel training includes actual operation of a CMV on a range or public road. A simulator may not be used to meet requirements. The training provider will determine the driver’s proficiency of basic vehicle control skills and mastery of basic maneuvers. Some states may have requirements that exceed the Federal requirements.
Training Provider requirements and the Trainee Road Assessment checklist were covered. All state of Florida requirements may be found in 49 CFR, part 380, subparts F&G. ELDT test topics were covered as well as a course training curriculum before and after ELDT. Instructors must cover all topics listed and “determine and document that each driver-trainee has demonstrated proficiency in all elements of the BTW curriculum unless otherwise noted.” Tom and Theo demonstrated how the USDOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Training Provider Registry works in maintaining ELDT Student Information and Training Certification records. The floor was opened for questions related to the ELDT process. For additional information regarding this presentation on ELDT, please contact Tom Keller TKeller@psta.net or Theo Bakomihalis email@example.com.
Threat and Vulnerability Assessment (TVA) Overview – Paul Goyette and Gennaro Saliceto, CUTR
The objective of a Threat and Vulnerability Assessment (TVA) is to reduce threats incidents, utilize an analytical process that evaluates the likelihood of specific threats that may endanger system operations, and recommend activities, actions, and countermeasures to eliminate or mitigate such threats. Paul and Gennaro gave an introduction of what the TVA objectives are, and an outline of the common TVA acronyms was established. This included describing the 8-Steps of a TVA and how the assessment is a part of State oversight. In short, a TVA is a technique for identifying, assessing, and resolving security threats and vulnerabilities to a transit system. The TVA can show physical areas that are susceptible to criminal activity, system policies that may encourage criminal activity, and steps that may be taken to improve system design.
The TVA shows an agency how to utilize a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques to identify security requirements. During the presentation, it was discussed why an agency should complete a TVA and the eight steps that would be entailed during the TVA which are 1) management approval, 2) identify assets, 3) asset criticality, 4) identifying threats to critical assets, 5) developing threats scenarios, 6) assess the consequences of threat scenarios, 7) prioritize vulnerabilities and countermeasures, and 8) management review/approval and implementation. All items are presented to the agency in a full report.
Agencies should consider including TVA concepts in the agency SSPP and or PTASP, consider Cyber Security, utilize the TVA in coordination with Transit Asset Management (TAM) and SMS. The TVA can be scaled down for smaller transit agencies (keep it simple). It is highly recommended that the agency partner with local law enforcement, TSA, or DHS agencies. For additional information regarding this presentation on Threat and Vulnerability Assessments, please contact Paul Goyette firstname.lastname@example.org or Gennaro Saliceto email@example.com.
FAAC Incorporated Simulator for Transit – Jason Francisco, FAAC
FAAC supplies real-time technologies for full-vehicle research simulation for police, fire, EMS, bus, truck and rail vehicles. The FAAC commitment is to remain the leader in supplying training and simulation solutions includes being designed for learning, cross-industry expertise, and instructor development. Their products are adaptable and innovative supplying the highest quality standards, while actively contributing to the transportation community. Modeled after an Xcelsior CHARGE 40’ and 60’ vehicle, the FAAC New Flyer Vehicle Innovation Center is the world’s first electric bus simulator. They have a paratransit training simulator and a bus operator simulator with OEM representation, hydrogen fuel cell hybrids, battery and electric.
Virtual training worlds with geo-specific databases can be incorporated in the bus simulators supporting a 1-for-1 true to life training experience. Simulation training strengths include reinforcing the learning objectives introduced in the classroom, allowing for judgment development through controlled experiences, while developing proper responses for low frequency/elevated risk situations. Simulation training allows for classroom and road instruction, including basic operations, defensive driving, maneuvering the bus, driving on freeways, night and adverse weather driving, service stops and radio procedures. The FAAC presentation demonstrated many positive points to using simulation training for pre-hire driver assessment, new-hire, requalification, and remedial training for a more skilled and knowledgeable driver staff. It is a commitment between the agency and the new hires for training to safer roadways and communities. For additional information regarding this presentation, please contact Jason Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apprenticeship Programs for Bus Operators: A Joint Approach to Strengthening Retention, Recruitment, and Workforce Development – Maurice Beard, Transit Workforce Center (TWC); Jamaine Gibson, ATU International; Alec Johnson and Antoinette Brasson, Metro Transit; and Aleiarose Vaupel, Golden Gate Transit
The Network was pleased to have special guest speakers from Metro Transit Management in Minneapolis, Minnesota including representatives from the ATU International. This Bus Operator Apprenticeship is a registered apprenticeship sponsored and administered by the Metro Transit, the ATU and the State of Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The presentation addressed the program of recognition of bus operators as a skilled trade/journeyworker and the long-term approach to onboarding which takes two years. They provide a more holistic training program with four technical skills workshops, four soft skills workshops, four advanced knowledge workshops, resiliency training, and a robust peer-to-peer mentoring program, which is the heart and soul of the apprenticeship.
An informative video demonstrated the efforts and rewards of how the program impacts the agency and the self-respect the graduated operators take in their certified accomplishment. Over the course of two years, there are five levels of training workshops. From CDL training to mentor and instructor ride-alongs, resilience training, soft skills and technical skills. The final level addresses advanced transit knowledge and then graduation, with dignitaries, management, friends and family present to show support of the operators’ achievement. The program has been well received across the nation and the graduates take extraordinary pride in their accomplishment which brings distinction in their chosen career. For additional information regarding this presentation, please contact Alec Johnson email@example.com or Jamaine Gibson firstname.lastname@example.org.
Verbal Judo and Mental Health – John Furlong and David Frayer, Sarasota County Transit
De-escalation techniques are particularly important for the transit bus operator. This detailed presentation demonstrated how verbal judo, which is often used by law enforcement, can become the difference between a physical and/or escalated event or a situation that simmered down calmly. John and David explained how extensive research has determined that there are similarities between the art of conversation and the art of defense. There are five universal truths showing that 1) everyone wants to be treated with dignity and respect, 2) everyone wants to be asked rather than told, 3) everyone wants to know why they are being asked to do something, 4) everyone wants to be given options, and everyone wants a second chance when they make a mistake.
It is estimated that 98% of physical assaults begin with verbal altercations. There are many significant ways verbal judo can assist the transit driver. It helps to develop a habit of thinking before acting, it teaches responding not reacting, and reminds us to speak to others without causing or escalating conflict. We can learn to praise without sounding manipulative, and how to deal with people under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and anger. We can learn to take a disagreeable and combative person to voluntary compliance.
As a transit driver, we encounter two types of passengers – those who follow requests/rules and those who are difficult and are always looking for an argument. It’s important to control your irritation when dealing with difficult people and remember the L.E.A.P.S. acronym: Listen (look like you have their undivided attention), Empathize (you don’t have to agree, just act like it), Ask (for the facts), Paraphrase (so they see that you are listening), and Summarize (be brief). The presentation also covered nine cardinal ‘don’t say’s when in a heated situation, and provided substitution statements that better help to calm the situation. Words and phrases that promote positivity were shared. Words (verbal judo) can ignite or diffuse a potential situation, choose them wisely, create better customer service, and keep your environment safe for you and your customers. For additional information regarding this presentation, please contact John Furlong email@example.com or David Frayer firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intelligent Tools for Stress-Reduction and Resiliency – Dr. Darcy Lord, Programs that Uplift
Science shows that though it takes training and intention, it IS possible to reduce stress, feel relief, and increase energy reserves – even before things are different/better. This session showed the audience how to recover more quickly from draining events, decompress between work and home. feel better more often, increase your personal energy, lessen symptoms of stress including brain fog, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue.
There are three techniques to take yourself out of the stressful “Fight or Flight” mode into the “Rest, Digest, and Heal” mode of the hormonal system. They include 1) balanced breathing, 2) intentional attitude techniques to access positive attitudes, a personal mindfulness body scan before sleep time.
This presentation included several interactive activities for the audience. After one activity, there was complete silence across the room which indicated the message of controlling your mental state was possible and had been achieved with this large group of transit professionals. After these interactions, Dr. Lord reminded everyone that “you are in charge; you CAN direct your mind/brain and shift to “On Demand” to help recover the nervous system and return to a state of active calm, to positively increase your health and well-being. For additional information about this presentation, please contact Dr. Darcy Lord at email@example.com.
How to Prepare for a Triennial Review: Lessons Learned and Best Practices – Dean Kirkland-McMillan, CUTR
A brief overview of the Triennial Review was given, Rule 14-90 and the State Management Plan (SMP) establishes that “the Department or its contractors shall conduct triennial reviews of public transit systems to ascertain compliance with the provisions of the rule”. It was noted that the review shall include interviews with agency personnel, reviews of relevant plans, rules, and procedures, documentation and observations. After the review, a report containing findings, observations and recommendations will be issued by the District. The report will eventually initiate a CAP to correct the issues encountered during the review.
During a Triennial Review, the focus is on Safety & Security Best Practices, Maintenance Best Practices, Triennial Review Lessons Learned, and the availability of numerous resources for Florida’s public transit agencies. Specific requirements of the needed information of each of these topics was covered, with discussion of checklists, Emergency Procedures Plans, Accident Reporting Procedures, and Contractor Oversight. Tracking systems and monitoring on all maintenance activities was clarified, including the need for updated Facility & Equipment Maintenance Plans with corresponding inspection checklists.
In closing, Dean and Laurie shared tips and lessons learned that can assist all agencies. They reminded everyone that the Triennial Review is required but shouldn’t be an unnerving event. Be prepared with well-maintained paperwork and files and practice the best practices every day to always be in compliance. They also shared information regarding free resources from FDOT, FTSON, RTAP STTAT and LPIP. Forms, checklists, listservs, and technical assistance (in-person and remotely) are available to the public transit agencies. Don’t fret – be a friend of the FDOT Compliance Oversight and Technical Assistance Program. For additional information about this presentation, please contact Dean Kirkland-McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PSTA SunRunner Overview – Abhishek Dayal, PSTA
An insightful look at the PSTA SunRunner was given by Abhishek Dayal. This mode serves workforce and residents (50,000 jobs/40,000 people within ½ mile) with quick service, bringing riders from the beach to St. Petersburg in 35 minutes. Circulation is frequent with service every 15 minutes during the hours of 6am-8pm and is free through October 31, 2023. There are numerous unique features such as 30 uniquely branded station platforms with real time bus arrival, artwork on stations and on hybrid-electric buses, transit signal priority along the route and on-board bike racks and dual door boarding. A short YouTube (https://youtu.be/A3XLX0h0SOQ) was played for the audience which gave true comprehension of the SunRunner.
Planning for the SunRunner began in 2015 and was identified as a future premium transit route in 2003. It is a part of the MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan and was applied for in New Starts Federal funding in 2015. The project came in under budget at $38.6 million dollars with funding sources by the FTA, FDOT, the City of St. Petersburg, and PSTA. This BRT has provided high ridership and seen a decrease in vehicular crashes. Most of all, it has increased positive public sentiment throughout the community. For additional information about this presentation, please contact Abhishek Dayal at ADayal@psta.net.
Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) Monorail Overview – Sebastian Lang, JTA
A brief history of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s 2.5-mile elevated two-way monorail, built in the 1980’s was presented. Risk management for the monorail is addressed in 49 CFR Part 659, the Rail Fixed Guideway Systems, the State Safety Oversight, Skyway Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) Plan, through the Safety Management System (SMS), and the JTA Policy IQ. Preconditions for Unsafe Acts involves analyzing preconditions of unsafe acts which includes environmental factors, the condition of the technicians, operators, environmental and personnel factors. As the system ages, factors face the legacy of the system. Items like discontinued parts, outdated technology, and intensive ongoing maintenance tasks make the monorail capital intensive.
However, by managing risks through continuous improvement JTA is executing and launching the system. Planning for these improvements include flat roof repairs, elevator phone upgrades, station, shop and train floor upgrades. New cameras on the trains and PIDS upgrades are also ongoing. They will also be disposing of four trains. The new concept of the monorail will include Acosta PTZ camera, drop-ceiling repair/replacement, fire alarm upgrades, station rail replacement, guideway railing assessment & replacement.
The JTA future is looking to the U2C, mitigating risk from the current to future state of operations. As the Skyway is retired, the U2C system will be in place. A question remains will both systems operate simultaneously? While there is experience with the monorail system, procedures and policies will need to be adjusted/created for both systems. Training would be varied on the two systems and personnel turnover is to be considered, while a steady operational tempo becomes an increased operational tempo during the transition. For additional information about this presentation, please contact Sebastian Lang at email@example.com.
Broward County Transit (BCT) Flash Flooding – Colin Mulloy, BCT
Fort Lauderdale experienced the rainiest day in its history on April 12, 2023. A 1-in-1,000-year rainfall event sparking a flash flood emergency in Broward County prompted emergency rescues, forced drivers to abandon cars, shuttered schools and shut down the FTL international airport. Colin opened this presentation with a newsreel video of the recent flash flood of 25.6 inches of rainfall within 12 hours. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport received 20+ inches of rainfall in four hours, and the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department received over 900 calls for service. The BCT towing/wrecker service reported over 500 calls to assist stranded vehicles scattered and needing to be towed. Numerous gas stations ran out of fuel creating gas shortages. This all occurred during the late afternoon amid heavy traffic heading home after work and school. The rainfall peaked in the darkness of evening compounding safety and rescue issues.
Even though many BCT staff were at home because of the time factor, the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) was immediately implemented. COOP is designed to provide essential agency functions following a significant emergency event that limits or restricts the availability of personnel, facilities, or technical systems. BCT Operations and Maintenance continued service ensuring safe detours and facility integrity. This included Paratransit Operations, terminal accessibility and “special missions” as many drivers and residents had been stranded because of the flooding and the unexpected rapid rise of water throughout the city. Colin shared how some maintenance staff even took it upon themselves to recuse folks stranded on an overpass to safety. The city has since recognized this heroic rescue with a special citation.
Even though BCT has emergency plans and a strong COOP, it is primarily utilized during hurricane season. Hurricanes are frequent to the Broward County community, but always come with several days warning to allow preparation for the incoming storm. However, the BCT COOP was truly put to the test with this typical but unusual afternoon rain that turned into a historical flood. BCT has been able to review and learn about the strengths of their COOP, and grasp areas that need improvement. Immediately after the event, they brought in an outside facilitator and gathered all involved divisions of the agency for a thorough review. Roles were more clearly defined, and a formal report was generated.
Since the flood had occurred without warning from NOAA or the Broward County EOC, an emergency activation was never implemented. BCT went into action only because of great training in readiness and preparedness during an emergency – most of which occur without warning. This unpredicted flood was a system wide All Hazard Event. Preparedness and situational awareness were key to BCT’s success in overcoming what could become a major disaster. Communication practices and decision-making authority have since been reviewed and strengthened because of this flood. In conclusion, Colin was thankful that everyone at BCT came out safely, and the agency had performed above the call of duty. He noted that the lessons learned during this catastrophic event will be shared making the BCT story a springboard for all who hear about it. For questions about the BCT response to the flash flood, please contact Colin Mulloy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wrap up and Final Thoughts – Tony Brandin, FDOT; and Paul Goyette, CUTR
With the day winding down, the Summit guests were provided a preview of safety, operations, and emergency planning sessions at FPTA/FDOT/CUTR Professional Development Workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday. Everyone was encouraged to attend these professional development sessions. A sincere ‘Thank You’ was extended to our Florida Department of Transportation hosts.
The FTSON 2023 Safety and Operations Summit was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.