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Center Identification Number: 392-12

Project Title: Cops, Cameras, and Enclosures: A Synthesis of the Effectiveness of Methods to Provide Enhanced Security for Bus Operators 

Co-Principal Investigators:

Joel Volinski, NCTR Director

Darin Allan, Research Associate


Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

External Project Contact: 

Mike Johnson, FDOT

I. Project Objective

To conduct a synthesis research project that collects information on the effectiveness of different techniques that transit agencies are using to help protect their bus operators and passengers. The intent of the project is to survey transit agencies that are using cameras, police, bus operator enclosures on their buses, or other techniques in order to discourage aggressive actions against bus operators. Other techniques being used by transit agencies to help protect their bus operators and passengers from harm will also be identified. The information collected will be shared with transit agencies around the country.

II. Project Abstract

Safety of operators and passengers is a primary concern of transit systems, and has become an increasingly important issue to transit bus operators. Many transit agencies have experienced incidents of assaults against their bus operators that have resulted in serious injuries or deaths. These incidents can also expose passengers to assault and injury. Even when there are less serious consequences, assaults on operators can lower their morale, increase absenteeism, and strain labor-management relations over whether or not the agencies are doing enough to protect their employees.

There is also substantial cost to transit agencies in terms of lost availability of operators who rightfully go on workers compensation status. A number of transit agencies use different types of techniques to minimize the possibilities of assaults against their bus operators and passengers. Many use either uniformed or plain-clothes police officers or security guards on particularly troubling routes. At least one transit agency relies on a version of "Guardian Angels" to help maintain safety on buses. Digital cameras strategically placed inside buses are also being used to help discourage criminal assaults as well as other unwanted behavior such as graffiti and unwarranted claims of injuries from passengers (or alleged passengers). Perhaps the most visible effort to discourage assaults on operators is the provision of bus operator enclosures that separate the operators from anyone else on the bus, and protects the operator from attacks. However, while this method might provide the most protection to bus operators, it might negatively affect passenger relations and increase the image of a bus as a place where crime might be committed.

This project intends to survey transit agencies that have employed these techniques to determine their level of success, cost effectiveness, and acceptance by both bus operators and passengers. The project will also try to identify other techniques transit systems are using to increase the chances of their bus operators avoiding dangerous situations, such as passenger relations training to avoid conflict. The effect "full wrap advertising" has on on-board activity and safety of passengers will also be explored. The project will be done in synthesis form.

III. Task Descriptions

Task 1 Literature Review

This task will involve a review of all sources of information that may exist on the subject of providing protection for bus operators and passengers. This will include a review of the Transportation Research Information Services database (now online), issues of Passenger Transport over the past three years, proceedings of APTA conferences, and information that might be available from the Transportation Safety Institute. A search will also be conducted over the Internet for any other newspaper articles or reports that might be available through this source. Project managers will also contact commercial bus carriers (e.g., Greyhound) to identify any steps they have taken to enhance operator security.

Task 2 Developing the Peer Review Committee

This project will benefit from a review committee that can help provide insight on the issues of protecting bus operators and passengers. They can provide recommendations on what transit agencies to contact, and will serve as reviewers of report drafts.

Task 3 Developing and Disseminating the Survey Instrument

Approximately 50 transit surveys will be surveyed to obtain information on what techniques they are using to help protect their bus operators and passengers. The survey will be developed in hardcopy as well as electronic form. The survey will then be sent to the agencies. The project manager will attempt to personalize the appeal for information by contacting agencies in which he is familiar with key staff members from his membership in Leadership APTA and other APTA and TRB committees. Project staff will then follow up with these transit agencies to encourage completion of the survey.

Task 4 Completion of the Report

Project staff will collect the information from the surveys and call transit agency representatives to clarify any material, if necessary. Request for digital photographs of equipment or personnel will be made. If appropriate, site visits will be made to transit agencies that have particularly interesting and effective techniques in place to get input from bus operators and passengers. Draft versions of the report will be shared with members of the peer committee for their review and comment prior to developing the final report.

IV. Student Involvement

Graduate Students will be used to conduct the literature search and develop the survey instrument. They will be given drafts of all elements of the report and kept informed of all results.

V. Relationship to Other Research Projects

Various articles have been written about the technology associated with on-board cameras. Presentations have been made on their effectiveness at APTA conferences. TCRP Synthesis 21 entitled "Improving Transit Security" identified a broad sweep of dozens of measures being taken by transit agencies to protect passengers, facilities, and employees, but did not provide any depth of information on the effectiveness of what was being done to address bus operators - security in particular. However, that report can provide useful information on which transit agencies to include in the survey for this project. This project is intended to help the USDOT achieve part of its goal of improving the safety of travel in the United States.

VI. Technology Transfer Activities/Peer Review

Copies of this report will be made available through the website of the National Center for Transit Research. The final report will also be sent to the Federal Transit Administration's Transit Research Information Center and the Research and Special Programs Administration for consideration for national publication that will make the report available at no charge throughout the nation. The results of the research will also be summarized to allow presentations to be made at transit-related conferences throughout the country including State of Florida Transit Association meetings.. The Principle Investigator will also take advantage of his role as a TRIP Ambassador to advise other transit managers of his findings as he travels to different transit properties and conferences in the role as a dissemination agent for TCRP research. The findings of the report will also be presented at the National Center for Transit Research, and possibly presented as a video webcast through NCTR that would be available to anyone with the ability to access internet video transmissions. As noted earlier, peer review is built into the project, with a peer panel established as part of Task 2.

VII. Potential Benefits of the Project

Information on the cost-benefit and effectiveness of various ways to protect bus operators will be available through this report. Transit agencies will have the benefit of learning from the experiences of the various transit agencies that have invested in different methods to protect their employees and passengers to determine what method they might prefer to pursue, if any. The report will also provide information on what labor-management issues developed and how they were handled.

VIII. TRB Keywords

Public transit, safety, operator, crime.


National Center for Transit Research at the Center For Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375 (813) 974-3120 (813) 974-5168 Comments: