The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) says it is “working differently” and will launch several public safety initiatives that will enhance and support customer safety and community service for those who use our transit system.
Metro Transit Police (MTPD) has strategically increased officer availability to be more visible throughout the Metrobus and Metrorail system to provide customers with additional assistance. Officers take trains and buses at regular intervals throughout the day as part of the new ‘HelpingHands’ security patrol operation.
“We’ve been listening to customers over the past two months, and it’s clear that a better and safer customer experience is paramount to rebuilding customer traffic and trust,” said Randy Clarke, Managing Director and CEO of WMATA. “The steps we are taking are part of a larger framework that enhances the work MTPD is already doing to make Metro better every day.”
In the coming months, WMATA will hire several crisis intervention specialists trained in mental health awareness and de-escalation methods. They will be paired with an MTPD officer or operations staff to respond to customers with mental health, intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Since the pandemic, MTPD says it has seen a 40% increase in the number of people needing mental health assistance. Although officers are there to help the public, they are not trained mental health experts. These new civilian roles will work with the MTPD and operations personnel to provide the appropriate crisis response and community resources.
WMATA will also implement a new Customer Experience Liaison (CXL) outreach program to improve staff visibility at stations and make Metrobus and Metrorail a simple and seamless experience. CXL staff will wear easily identifiable uniforms and be located at Metrorail stations and the Metrobus Transit Center throughout the system. Their support will be especially valuable during special events and service disruptions.
These initiatives are in addition to WMATA’s larger efforts to meet and serve customers where they are.
Earlier this year, WMATA launched a campaign to better educate the public on steps they could take to improve personal safety when using public transit. MTPD text advice ads include QR codes on station, train and bus signage with MTPD’s text advice number, MyMTPD (696873). Customers can scan the QR code with their phone to automatically add the MTPD number to their contact list.
WMATA says it also monitors cameras across the system, with more than 8,000 cameras on buses, trains and at stations. The use of video monitors will also be extended to show customers entering buses and train stations in real time.