ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) recently hosted a business meeting and tour of its facilities for the Rochester Area Transportation Supervisors Association (RATSA). During the tour, about 20 members of the supervisors association tried out the RGRTA’s state-of-the-art driving simulator.
“The simulator was awesome,” said Peter Lawrence, director of transportation at the Fairport Central School District and president of RATSA. “It’s like you’re stepping into an actual bus.”
The programmable simulator features a Recaro driver’s seat and all the panel instrumentation found on a transit-style bus. When a driver turns the ignition, the simulator mimics the sound of a diesel engine. The speedometer responds to pressure the driver applies to the accelerator pedal.
“What’s really neat about the simulator,” Lawrence said, “is if you were to hit a person, a curb or a building, the seat and cab vibrate.”
Other features of the system include a three-dimensional screen that simulates the panoramic view of the road that a driver has from the cockpit. If a driver hits something during the session, the instructor can play back the incident from a bird’s-eye perspective for reviewing and evaluation purposes.
The simulator is equipped with a camera that monitors the driver’s actions and behavior as he or she completes a simulated route. All simulated maneuvers are tracked and recorded and can be sent to a printer for further evaluation and record keeping.
“The only negative I experienced with the simulator was the possibility of getting motion sickness,” Lawrence said. “You can’t just hop onto the thing and think you’re going to be on it for 20 minutes.”
The simulator, which was purchased through a federal grant, is about three years old and cost the RGRTA between $400,000 and $600,000. It simulates a 35- or 40-foot school bus and a 60-foot articulated transit bus.
Lawrence said there are 37 simulators in major cities throughout the nation, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Rochester is considered a small or mid-level metropolitan area and is the only region of its size that has a simulator.
RATSA, which represents 29 school districts, four contractors and four school bus dealerships, is considering a proposal to request use of the simulator to train its trainers when the machine is available. RATSA hopes to have the proposal completed by January and have access to the transportation authority’s secured facility by February.
“Rochester is very progressive and is trying to use and share services,” Lawrence said. “It just makes sense, when they are not using the simulator, to allow it to benefit the community.”