Entering his second year as an operator, German Gonzalez has welcomed thousands of people onto the bus. In nearly all cases, the exchanges are quick, but pleasant.
But there are still rare occasions when he has to think on his feet to keep a tense situation from getting worse. To help navigate those moments, Gonzalez and other operators are being invited to take a three-day workshop led by instructors with the Red Kite Project.
The interactive training program, tailored to workers in high-pressure environments, explores what leads people to act out and how to effectively respond when they do. Using humor, offering choices, and asking people to explain were among the many strategies offered.
“The comments we make can escalate or deescalate situations, so how we respond is critical,” Gonzalez said. “Just in the few days since I took this class, I’ve had a couple encounters where I was able to turn things around using the conflict solutions that were shared. It’s nice when you don’t have to get others involved and you can solve these issues yourself.”
The workshops keep operators engaged through role-playing activities and by drawing on real examples involving Metro Transit operators. The class also explores the role community trauma and personal histories have in shaping people’s behaviors.
Nearly 700 Metro Transit operators have completed Red Kite Project training since 2016. The courses were paused during the pandemic and resumed in June.
The goal is to eventually have all operators complete the training, and to extend it to supervisors and managers beginning this fall. An online refresher course is also in the works.
Expanding access to de-escalation, personal safety and mental health training is one of around 40 actions included in the Safety & Security Action Plan.