Metrobus riders are at a greater risk of injury or of being in a collision than commuters on other major bus systems in the U.S., according to data to be presented to the Metro board Thursday.
Collisions, security incidents and injuries reported in the nation’s sixth-largest bus system outnumber those in New York City, Boston and Chicago, according the data.
With 23.9 injuries and fatalities per every 10 billion passenger trips, Metrobus has nearly four times as many such incidents than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York and twice as many as those reported in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which covers the Boston area, according to the report.
Of the nine major transit systems compared in the report, only New Jersey Transit and the Southern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority had a higher rate of injuries and fatalities.
Metrobus also has one of the highest rates for collisions and the highest rate of security incidents (crime) among its peers.
The report, which is based on data from the National Transit Database, paints a troubling picture of Metrobus’s safety and security record at a time when overall public confidence in the region’s transit system is at its lowest.
It also weighs Metro’s rail system against other major subways. Despite the recent troubles with safety performance, Metrorail fares better in some measures. With 32 collisions, derailments and fires per 1 billion passenger trips, Metrorail outperforms most of its peers, trailing only the New York subway, according to the report based on data from January 2013 to August 2015.
With an average of 465,000 daily riders, more than 300 routes, and a coverage of area of 1,500 square miles, Metrobus has seen its share of safety and security concerns in recent months with several high-profile incidents involvingassaults on bus operators and crimes at bus stops.
Recent incidents include a bizarre hijacking of a U6 bus in Northeast Washington in May that resulted in the death of a pedestrian and an attack on the bus operator; the arrest of man who allegedly assaulted several passengers on a No. 70 bus in Silver Spring, and tried to kick open the bus door; and the stabbing of the operator of an A8 bus in Southeast Washington.
Though Metro officials say year-to-year data suggest a slight improvement and crimes on buses account for only about 8 percent of all crime in the Metro system, there are areas that continue to be of concern. The number of attacks on bus operators went up last year, for example, prompting a targeted campaign that included more surveillance and police officers on some troubled routes.
The bus system also saw a significant increase in crimes at bus stops — from 87 incidents in 2014 to 147 in 2015, with many of those being some form of robbery, according to Metro’s annual crime report.
Metro officials have said the agency cannot have officers everywhere but deploys police resources according to crime trends and feedback from bus operators. All buses have cameras, and some buses are equipped with shields that close like gates after operators are buckled into their seats, providing a barrier between drivers and passengers.
The system’s buses also have a higher rate of collisions than buses in other systems, according to the data. And, many injuries reported across the bus network are the result of those collisions. Injuries are also reported from slips, trips and falls inside buses, some from when the bus is in motion or after a hard brake, according to the transit agency’s most recent safety report.
Last year, Metro buses were involved in 46 collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists that resulted in 22 injuries. In some of those cases, Metro said, the operator wasn’t paying attention or there was an “improper Operation, Improper Position, Rule Violation and Situational Awareness.”
Last month, 12 people were injured after a Metrobus struck a tree on East-West Highway near Grubb Road in Montgomery County.
According to Metro, the customer injury rate was slightly down last year compared to 2014. The bus system reported 294 customer injuries in 2015, down from 334 in 2014 — a 12 percent decrease. And Metro said some routes are more prone to incidents where passenger injuries result. Metro’s annual safety report identified routes X2, 90, 70, C8, 79, A12 and P6 as the most problematic.