December 16, 2009

D.C. Metro to review paratransit driver training


Photo courtesy WMATA by Larry Levine.


Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials are taking steps to guard the safety of passengers whose disabilities prevent them from using Metrobus or Metrorail, with a comprehensive review of MetroAccess driver training a large part of the effort.

Already this year, MetroAccess has taken several safety action steps. They include:

  • Instituting regular refresher training for all drivers on how to properly secure wheelchairs and other mobility aids.
  • Hiring a new MetroAccess safety director.
  • Instituting a zero-tolerance cell phone policy that forbids drivers from using a cell phone, texting or using a PDA while operating a MetroAccess vehicle.

To enhance the existing driver training program, MetroAccess officials are conducting a thorough review of the current training and will implement a new pilot program in early 2010, which will integrate more interactive training techniques. It also will emphasize service enhancements that have been implemented in recent years such as door-to-door service, EZ-Pay, and the use of GPS and other technology.

“MetroAccess ridership has increased by more than 50 percent in the past five years and is up 20 percent this year compared to last year,” said Selene Faer Dalton-Kumins, director of MetroAccess. “Reviewing and revising the training program to ensure it always remains relevant to the diverse needs of our expanding customer base is essential to providing safe, quality service for MetroAccess riders.”

Elements of the program will include additional interactive training and testing on safety procedures such as properly securing wheelchairs and mobility aids and added training on defensive driving techniques.

In addition, drivers will undergo more refresher safety and sensitivity training about procedures for boarding and alighting vehicles, equipment controls, ramp deployment and seat belt use. Driving procedures such as speed limit adherence and guidelines for stopping and parking also will be covered.

Currently, MetroAccess drivers undergo a minimum of 110 hours of training before they are certified to transport customers. Training includes an initial four-hour skills course test prior to accepting candidates into the training program, 40 hours of classroom time and 40 hours of behind-the-wheel training. This includes a road test to demonstrate the driver’s ability to maneuver a vehicle and an assessment of the driver’s ability to secure a mobility device, two hours for a written exam and three days of in-service training.

Sensitivity training includes an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hands-on training provided in partnership with customers and disability advocates, and a general discussion about customer service and expectations.

MetroAccess officials are developing specific guidelines for the new driver training program, which they plan to implement in early 2010.

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