CTA Implements New Technology for Training Bus Operators

April 9, 2005
4/9/05

The Chicago Transit Authority has purchased bus simulators to provide the latest in training technology to CTA bus operators. The simulators enable the CTA to train new bus operators in key skills. The use of the state-of-the-art simulators is another way the CTA incorporates safety at every level of training.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said, "As we move forward into the 21st century, it is refreshing to know that the CTA is doing its very best in providing its employees with the latest in training technology systems."

The Mayor joined CTA officials in showcasing the new simulators today.

?The CTA has experienced record low numbers of bus-related accidents in the past two years which can be partly attributed to a renewed focus on training and retraining techniques," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?The simulators will give instructors the ability to recreate specific driving conditions that challenge operators to drive defensively. They are an important new tool in our overall safety initiative."

Since 1997, CTA has reduced bus related accidents by 11 percent from 6.4 accidents to just 5.7 accidents for every 100,000 miles in 2004.

CTA's safety initiatives include increased communication between management and employees concerning safety-related issues, leading to an increased awareness of safety issues. The CTA has also implemented technologies such as wheel guards to prevent injuries from the rear wheels of buses and continually invests in the quality of its fleet through the purchase of new buses. A newer fleet is more reliable and increased reliability leads to safer service and fewer breakdowns. The recently installed voice announcement system on buses improves safety because it alerts customers to their destinations so they are not standing up too early and possibly falling or being jostled.

?CTA management is making company-wide efforts to raise awareness among all CTA employees regarding safety related issues on our vehicles and in our facilities," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?By simulating real-life bus situations, our operators will experience high tech instruction in a controlled environment."

Combining computer software, video screens and a mockup of the operator's seating area on an actual CTA bus, the simulator teaches standard operating procedures for making turns, navigating intersections, following moving traffic and maneuvering the vehicle. It also can simulate real-life driving situations that provide student operators the experience of interacting with difficult weather conditions, pedestrians, other vehicles and unexpected obstacles.

Each system replicates the operating features of CTA's bus fleet including functional dashboards, driver seat, floor pedals, turn signals, mirrors, headlights, door control, ignition, gear selection and parking brake. Large model simulators allow student operators to experience a 360-degree visual display of their surroundings. The smaller models feature three screens that resemble the bus's front, left and right side views. Left and right side view mirrors also are included so that operators learn to gauge driving distance.

The CTA has a total of 18 bus simulators for training its 4,470 bus operators. There is one unit at each of the eight CTA bus garages. In addition, the training centers at the 74th Street Garage and at the Chicago Avenue Garage each have one large unit. Chicago Avenue training center also has three small units and 74th Street training center has four.

The new system is in an acceptance phase as CTA personnel become familiar with its operation, train trainers, program software and develop specific training programs.

When fully operational, CTA will incorporate simulator training into the training required of all new bus operators. The CTA plans to use the system for recertification, defensive driving training and retraining veteran operators following an extended leave.

The $1.5 million system is funded by the Strategic Capital Improvements Program administered by the Regional Transportation Authority. The simulators and software are manufactured by FAAC, Incorporated, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The contract was competitively bid.

A number of public transit agencies across the country are using the simulators including agencies in New York, Dallas, Houston, and Washington, D.C.

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