A simulation is a representation or model of a real-world process or system over time. Simulating something requires that a model be developed; this model represents the key characteristics or behaviors/functions of the selected physical or abstract system or process. In learning, simulation can be thought of as a technique for practice that can replace and/or amplify real experiences with guided ones. Simulations are often immersive and can be used to engage learners in lifelike scenarios and situations, depending on the level of fidelity of the simulation.

Simulation-based learning has a history of being used in the transit industry, medical field, the aviation industry, and the military. In these fields, it has been found that simulation may work best to improve technical and functional expertise training, problem-solving and decision-making skills, and interpersonal and communications skills or team-based competencies. The strength of simulations in teaching these types of skills are due to their ability to offer deliberate practice with feedback, practice events with rare occurrences, reproducibility, and learner assessment, in addition to allowing learners to practice potentially dangerous tasks in a safe way. Assessment and feedback can be incorporated into the simulation allowing monitoring of learner performance, as well as guided instruction. Many of the skills that simulation seems to do best at teaching align well with the needs of the transit industry. For example, it has been found in the transit industry that simulation-based training allows learners to effectively:

  • Acquire, practice, and develop skills
  • Rehearse reactions to situations
  • Improve decision making skills
  • Review their learning

There are different types of simulation, ranging from low fidelity to high fidelity that can be either live or virtual. There are different benefits and limitations of each level and different times when each is appropriate to use. The different levels of fidelity also determines the cost and time needed to create the simulation training. Typically, as the simulation fidelity increases, so does the cost and time investment required. Regardless of the level of fidelity, the return on investment of using simulation increases the more vital it is that learners receive the instruction and the more they need to use the simulation. It is important to take all of these factors under consideration when deciding what type of simulation to use.

The chart below provides examples of ways simulation has been used in the transit and non-transit industry, as well as possible applications for the transit industry.

Simulation Training
Examples from the Transit Industry
Bus Driving Simulators Used as a tool for enhancing the effectiveness of operator training and retraining. Most simulators use geo-specific database modeling that incorporates important elements into the simulated environment to replicate a realistic, transit specific driving experience. Additionally, simulators include extensive libraries of scenarios that offer operators various challenges related to decision making, reaction time, and judgment, each designed to accomplish one or more specific training goals and/or objectives. Simulators can replicate models of different bus sizes and types and the cab enclosures consist of actual and/or representative parts and components of real transit buses.
Emergency Disaster Response-Tabletop Exercise – Access Services of Los AngelesA real life simulation with a command center installation and countywide inter-agency coordination. The exercise effectively enhances a county’s ability to serve more residents, thereby potentially minimizing the loss of life, property, and number of serious injuries.
Certified Transit Technician Program – Center for Urban Transportation Research – TSWD ProgramsIncorporates the latest technologies, including Virtual Hands-On Training (VHOT) and 3-D modeling.
Conductor Training 3-D Simulation – Norfolk SouthernFocuses on training the decisions that conductors must make to safely and efficiently switch cars, using the fewest moves possible, and the amount of time to build outbound trains. Plan to implement three tiers of simulation – beginner, intermediate, and expert. The beginner level offers step-by-step coaching and gives learners both a bird-eye and ground-level view of a virtual train yard.
Automobile, Truck, and Small Engine Vehicle Training – LabtechStudents who receive training through Labtech simulations are able to transition quickly from the classroom environment to the work environment, as these simulations consist of the actual devices and controls students will be using upon joining the workforce. This results in greater knowledge retention and employable skills.
Examples Beyond the Transit Industry
Stryker Maintenance Training System – U.S. ArmyUsed for maintenance training and to provide skill-level development for system operation, fault diagnosis, troubleshooting, adjustments, removal/replacement, and repair tasks for armament and vehicle maintenance specialty Soldier for the Stryker tactical vehicles.

Incorporates Diagnostic and Troubleshooting Trainers (DTT), which are completed on a desktop computer station. These DTT lessons provide a virtual view of each maintenance task. Learners also have the opportunity to use part task trainers. A part task trainer is a training device designed to train a task associated with a particular system. It is cost-effective because it allows maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with a particular system without having to use a full simulator or actual vehicle.
Virtual Maintenance Training – DiSTICreates virtual environments that consist of simulation software logic, computer hardware, and displays, and a 3D virtual environment that serves as the interactive front end for the students and instructors. DiSTI incorporates both part task level and platform level simulation training.
Virtual Maintenance Trainer – AerosimSimulation-based training tool used by Airlines, MROs, and Training centers around the word. It’s designed to reduce training costs and increase operational efficiency by teaching any number of aircraft malfunctions on demand. Maintenance Technicians can explore the entire aircraft using the fully functional Virtual Flight Deck and Virtual Aircraft. They can also navigate Virtual equipment bays, remove components, and see the results in real time.
Inland Waterway Pilots and Captains Training - Seaman’s Church, Paducah KentuckyThese simulators provide personnel the opportunity to learn and test their skills in difficult situations mimicking those they may face in real life.
Possible Applications for the Transit Industry
Virtual Maintenance TrainingSimulation can be used to give technicians in training the opportunity to practice and learn in virtual environments, with life-like components, before interacting with the actual system. This virtual practice could help reduce the cost and risk of having novice technicians practice on real equipment. It also eliminates the need for access to real equipment. In addition to these benefits, this type of training can be especially engaging and motivating for younger learners.