some tweets; dart’s response; and context on safety record

Good afternoon, readers.

The Bus Blog‘s Twitter RSS feeds picked up the following exchange from over the weekend:

kbuchtak: Almost hit by a bus with @johnpemble’s face plastered on the side. Not cool, John. Not cool. [John works for Iowa Public Radio, according to his Twitter page. Iowa Public Radio advertises on DART buses.]

johnpemble: @kbucktak I’m on a bus now? Wow. And it nearly hit you? One of these things isn’t a surprise. Which one?

kbuchtak: @johnpemble Given DART’s safety record, I’d say the answer is clear, no?

johnpemble: @kbucktak I’m more surprised that my image, should it appear in public ads, would be on an object of such notoriety. Why wouldn’t it?

DART’s social media team responded to the first Tweet,¬†without passing judgment on the validity of the claim.

ridedart: @kbucktak Safety is top priority at DART. So if there was an incident we should look into, we would like to hear about it. 283-8100.

The team did not, however, respond to the insinuations about DART’s safety record. How do you challenge assumptions in 140 characters without sounding totally defensive?

There is no denying the highly publicized rash of pedestrian accidents between 2007 and 2009, some of which were deemed DART’s fault, others not. But they can and should be put into context. For starters, DART’s drivers put on some 10 million miles in that time, and have driven millions more since then. More importantly, DART responded by implementing more than 60 new safety initiatives, including increased operator training and stricter hiring and firing policies.

The most objective measure of a transit agency’s safety record is “preventable accidents per 100,000 miles,” and DART’s rate has been roughly halved in recent years. You can see the trend line in the chart below, which was prepared by General Manager Brad Miller. For the record, DART’s transportation and paratransit managers have a strict interpretation of what constitutes a “preventable accident”; it includes any fender bender, even banging a mirror on the side of the bus garage. To them, it is more important to reinforce a culture of safety than to post artificially low numbers.