Management & Operations

Check your gun at the curb

Posted on May 1, 2005 by Steve Hirano, Editor/Associate Publisher

Road rage is, well, all the rage in Los Angeles. Driving on the freeways around here has always been a bit of a risk, but now it’s gotten absolutely dicey. One minute, you’re minding your own business trying to get around the guy who’s plodding along at the posted speed limit, and the next minute someone’s trying to make the evening news by putting a bullet or two in your head at 10 mph over the posted speed limit. I’m not making light of this situation. Humor is not the proper response to the unsettling attacks that have occurred in the past few months. They’re about as funny as a tire blowout on the San Diego Freeway during the morning rush. Or an overheated engine on the Ventura Freeway during the evening rush. Or a blown gasket on the Santa Monica Freeway during the middle-of-the-night rush. As you can see, there is nothing funny, ever, about L.A.’s freeways. Freeways, buses and trains
But what’s this got to do with buses and trains? Not a whole lot, I must admit. I was going to suggest that public transportation begins to look more attractive after you’ve had your windshield shot out on the Santa Ana Freeway. Or, better yet, after your neighbor (the one with the teenage son who keeps you up at all hours with the “music” blaring on his stereo) has his windshield shot out on the Santa Ana Freeway. Freeway shootings, however, do not improve ridership, at least not in any appreciable fashion. They do prompt you to think, however, that getting in your car every day and sharing a narrow strip of asphalt with people who kill other people for sport or for pleasure or for no discernable reason is not good for your mental health. There’s a public service jingle in this somewhere. “You deserve a break today, take the bus or train, OK?” My apologies to the marketing folks at McDonald’s. (For better public transportation marketing tools, visit the American Public Transportation Association’s (PT)2 Website at www.public transportation.org.) Safety is key benefit
But the fact that traveling in buses and trains is much safer than traveling in cars is rarely touted by those in public transportation. The transit and motorcoach industries almost never stress their inherent safety advantages. Safety seems to be a soft buzz in the background, almost like white noise. The question that comes to my mind: Why is safety such a weak sister to the other attributes of public transportation? The school bus industry talks about safety every chance it gets. It’s a time-honored tradition to characterize school bus transportation as the “safest form of surface transportation.” The industry has earned the right to make this claim because of its astonishingly low fatality rate (fewer than 10 passengers per year are killed in school bus crashes), with approximately 24 million children traveling to and from school 180 days a year. Transit and motorcoach operations also have incredible safety records. But you rarely hear about it. We talk about the need to provide communities with mobility solutions, about mitigating traffic congestion, about reducing air pollution, about almost everything except safety. Getting on a bus or train is safer than getting in a car. You might not think about it that way, but it’s true. In pupil transportation, they call the young passengers “precious cargo.” I think most adult passengers using public transportation are precious, in their own way. Why don’t you let them know that your operation provides one of the safest transportation options that can be found?

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