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Situational Awareness Training for Light Rail: Looking Out for the Other Guy

Situational Awareness Training for Light Rail: Looking Out for the Other Guy


Situational awareness training is perhaps the most critical and most neglected aspect of preparing a mass-transit vehicle operator to get out on the road.

Why is situational awareness so vital to transit operators? Just look at this dash-cam footage released by Houston’s METRO (Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)

According to reporters in Houston, “Those near misses happen all the time.” And, as is the case in so many cities, it’s very often pedestrians and drivers who are creating dangerous situations, not the mass-transit operators themselves.

Situational Awareness Training for Mass-Transit Operators Protects Everyone on the Road

“There’s not too much that can win an argument with a streetcar,” notes Nigel Lindsey-King. And yet, these are fights people pick all the time. As Lindsey-King noted previously, “People will run to get out of the way of a car or bus—even a bicycle!—but they walk to get out of the way of a streetcar. It’s crazy.”

Nigel Lindsey-King is a transit training professional, as well as former Superintendent of Surface Transportation Training for the Toronto Transit Commission. Before all of that, he was himself a mass-transit vehicle operator. That’s why he advocates so strongly for training systems that include situational awareness training for bus and rail operators.

Almost invariably, it’s driver or pedestrian inattention or misestimation that causes this mass-transit near misses. “All too often, other vehicles, and pedestrians, in particular, seem to think ‘Well, as long as I’m not on the actual rails, I’m OK’ forgetting that the vehicle sticks out at least a foot on either side of each rail.”

This is why situational awareness training is so critical for mass-transit operators: In contrast to private citizens, they have to look out for their own safety and the safety of their passengers and the safety of the public at large (who are moving under their own power all around them).

“Especially with light rail, the only evasive action you can take is braking. You’ve got to be aware of everything that’s going on around your vehicle,” he explains. “Watching that space that you are occupying, and making sure that you have the time and the space to stop if someone does something crazy in front of you.”