Metro officials recently outlined plans for $830 million in improvements to the Metrobus system during the next five years. Jack Requa, Metro's chief operating officer for buses, responded to questions submitted by staff writer C. Woodrow Irvin.

QThe proposal calls for buying hundreds of new vehicles, overhauling middle-aged vehicles and creating a real-time information system that will tell passengers when the next bus will arrive. How will the information system work?

AWhen fully implemented, the real-time information system will allow for anyone to access real-time Metrobus schedule information through the Internet, telephone or Web-enabled devices such as PDAs.

Additionally, we will have passenger display bus information at five of our heaviest-used Metrobus stop locations: the Pentagon, Silver Spring, Anacostia, Friendship Heights and Gallery Place. These locations will also provide real-time schedule information for bus routes serving these areas.

Where is the most room for improvement at Metrobus?

We always strive to improve the Metrobus system. One area that our customers want to see improved is better information at our bus stops. As part of the capital improvement plan, we will address these concerns. We will install site-specific bus maps at Metro-owned bus shelters, regional bus maps in all 86 Metrorail stations and up to 6,000 bus stop display cases with bus schedule information at Metrobus stops.

Since the London bombings in July, public transportation has been more closely scrutinized as a potential target for terrorist attacks. What is Metro doing to protect its bus passengers?

The Metro Transit Police Department has conducted random sweeps of Metrobuses and bus garages as part of its continuing efforts to ensure the safety of its passengers. The Transit Police's Metrobus enforcement division is responsible for maintaining the security of Metrobus routes and bus garages. In addition, 100 buses have cameras. The Metro board recently agreed to purchase digital video recording cameras for 125 additional Metrobuses, adding to the bus fleet's security system. These cameras should be in place by the end of the year. Metro is in the process of receiving 278 new buses over the next seven months. All will be equipped with cameras, as will all future buses.

Last year, video monitors were installed in our bus operations control center for real-time monitoring of traffic feeds from regional cameras installed at 250 key intersections. This video monitoring capability increases our awareness and responsiveness to a wide range of potential impacts including severe weather, traffic accidents, crime and other public safety threats. Our control center personnel now have a more fluid understanding of traffic conditions and a quick way of identifying incidents and their impact on traffic by viewing real-time monitors.

As always, Metrobus riders should follow the bus operator's instructions. Emergency exit procedures are listed on windows, ceiling escape hatches and on doors.

What is the greatest strength of the Metrobus system?

One of the greatest strengths of Metrobus is the size of the network. With a fleet of 1,473 buses operating 350 routes, serving 13,000 bus stops, and driving 48 million miles each year, Metrobus plays a critically important role in the region's transportation system and provides opportunities for citizens in this area to improve the quality of their lives through the use of Metrobus and its partnership systems.

Another strength of Metrobus is the commitment and dedication of the 3,548 bus operators, mechanics and supervisors who keep the bus network running every day.

Jack Requa