It is shocking and graphic video showing Metrobus accidents and close calls on the road. But the transit agency doesn't want you to see it, reports News4 Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss.
Through a public access to records policy request, News 4 was allowed to view dozens of Metrobus accidents and incidents, traffic violations and near collisions. All of the incidents took place between July 30 and Aug. 30.
In the video, a Metrobus with a green left turn arrow makes the left turn, then hits a woman in a crosswalk knocking her to the ground. Metro says she was later transported to the hospital with minor injuries to her arm and leg.
In another clip, a bus rolls down a street narrowly avoiding hitting a little girl running from behind an ice-cream truck.
Other video shows operators on cell phones -- a direct violation of Metro’s zero tolerance cell phone policy. In one instance, an operator looking down at his phone drifts out into the middle of an intersection, hitting a car head on.
But the transit agency says the public is not allowed to view this video.
“What we’ve used Drivecam for primarily is a training tool. And what we’ve seen over the last year and a half is that the number of (Drivecam) clips have reduced in numbers,” Jack Requa, head of bus services for Metro told News 4 Thursday. “Most often, these operators are not called back in for similar types of violations.”
In a letter from Metro’s office of General Counsel, the transit agency notes:
WMATA does not release its DriveCam videos because WMATA installed the DriveCam system for internal training purposes and to assist in the evaluation of Metrobus operators.
Metro has now put this policy in place, even though similar Drivecam video was released just this year.
“We can't comment on individual employee discipline, but for minor violations, it's generally a progressive scale, where discipline increases for subsequent events -- up to and including termination,” says Metro chief Spokesperson Dan Stessel.
When asked if he felt his bus operators were safe on the road, Requa responded that operators are focusing on driving “one block at a time.”
During any given rush hour, there are more than 1,200 Metrobuses on the road. Each one of them is equipped with a Drivecam video. In many cases, it’s not the bus operator at fault for an accident or close call. The video frequently shows buses being cut off by drivers.
“I don’t think there is anything to hide,” says Metro Boardmember Mort Downey, who also heads Metro’s Safety and Security Committee. “Anybody who wants to see what’s going on (on) the buses, could be out riding the buses.”
But is Metro being transparent?
"I think on the whole yes,” says Downey. “There’s always room for improvement.”
Drivecam video is supposed to be reviewed by top Metro staff, especially if they get to the level of a pedestrian crash. But with the clips from this July and August that hasn't happened yet with Requa, Metro’s top bus official.
"I know that you've reviewed clips, but I have not seen the clips that you have seen,” said Requa.