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'It simulates real life'; HRT's new bus simulator helps train drivers ahead of 757 Express launch

"It simulates real life," HRT's new bus simulator helps train drivers ahead of 757 Express launch
Posted at 8:18 AM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 11:20:50-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Hampton Roads Transit is gearing up to launch the 757 Express, a new public transportation system that will run bus stops every 15 minutes during rush hour.

But more stops means more staff, and to ensure the new routes are fully staffed, HRT is training new drivers using a state-of-the-art bus simulator.

"This simulator is an important tool to make sure we have the staff to launch our 757 Express which is launching this fall," said Alexis Majied, HRT's chief communications officer. "With gas prices on the rise and no end in sight, we're just making sure commuters have another option."

HRT's new simulator allows bus operators in training to get the real feel of being on the road before actually hitting on the road.

Drivers learn how to start the bus, set their mirrors, operate signaling and handle the intricacies of making right and left turns in a large vehicle.

"For the inexperienced bus driver, it will actually give them the feeling before getting on a real bus," said Ronnie Baker, a bus simulator training instructor. "It simulates real life."

The simulator allows drivers to practice driving in inclement weather like rain, snow and fog. This is in addition to several different settings, such as driving through downtown, construction zones, on the highway and even through mountains.

While HRT says this will not cut down on any of the training time spent actually inside a real bus, it will allow new operators to feel more comfortable and get unique experiences before actually hitting the road.

"It gives you a perspective of being in a bus without the dangers of it," said Christopher Harris, a bus transportation supervisor. "It hones your skills so you're ready to go out in the public and provide safe transportation."

This new technology comes as the organization is gearing up to launch the 757 Express this fall.

Throughout rush hour, the 757 Express will run stops every 15 minutes, making bussing to work a very legitimate option for commuters.

The new routes will be deployed in phases, starting with the routes that HRT uses to transport workers to the Newport News shipyards.

The project also includes the eventual replacement of the Evelyn Butts and Robert Hall transfer centers.

757 Express is expected to launch on the Peninsula in October before expanding to the Southside.