Greater Greater Washington

Talking buses another example of WMATA "safety theater"

Pedestrians across the region may soon find Metrobuses talking to them. Although WMATA will position these buses as a safety innovation, implementing system-wide talking buses would be a poor use of resources and would do little to improve safety.


Photo by el swifterino on Flickr.

Supporters of talking buses argue that audible warnings make our streets safer. But the whole scheme feels like a knee-jerk reaction by a transit agency struggling with an image that it doesn't take safety to heart.

The ultimate question with regard to safety is whether there is compelling evidence that these warnings could have prevented a past collision between a bus and a pedestrian. I've yet to see analysis that concludes that talking buses would address the cause of these incidents.

One thing is certain about talking buses: they're annoying.

Both for those on the street and riders on the bus, listening to the same safety message on repeat for an extended period of time is enough to drive most people at least a little crazy. This is true whether downtown, where lines of buses could broadcast for blocks, or in residential neighborhoods, where early-morning and late-night disruptions are rarely appreciated.

Worse, talking buses bully pedestrians into accepting responsibility for an incident that might occur. After all, if someone is unfortunately struck, shouldn't they have seen it coming? It's logic designed to distract attention away from the incident itself, and prematurely assign responsibility.

Washington isn't the first city to experiment with audible warnings on its buses. I lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time the city's RTA rolled out buses that beeped whenever a bus driver engaged the turn signal. When drivers avoided using their turn signal to circumvent the noise, the transit agency wired the audio system into the steering column and replaced the high-pitched beeping with a female voice.

Cleveland's RTA implemented audible buses after several notable incidents that involved collisions between pedestrians and left-turning buses. Much like the situation developing in Washington, Clevelanders questioned how spending money and resources on audio equipment addressed the root safety issue.

Talking buses have proven incredibly unpopular in Cleveland. A former colleague wrote me to describe the current sentiment. "It's still incredibly obnoxious. I'm embarrassed that visitors to the city have to hear it," he writes. "But like any repetitive sound it gets tuned out most of the time."

This is a serious concern. After a while, talking buses lose any effectiveness they once had. The audible warnings merely become noise pollution in the urban landscape; and we're left with annoying warnings that don't do much good. Small-scale improvements to transit and pedestrian safety is a noble goal; but talking buses are unlikely to accomplish much. Resources would be better spent elsewhere.

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Rob Pitingolo moved to the DC area in mid-2010 and currently resides on Capitol Hill. He also writes about issues of urbanism, economics, transportation and politics at his blog, Extraordinary Observations

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Coz a talking bus is so important when the Metro bus rounds the corner and crushes a pedestrian.

by SJE on Nov 10, 2010 10:53 am • linkreport

Please don't stand in the rear doorwell.
Please don't stand in the rear doorwell.
Please don't stand in the rear doorwell.
Please don't stand in the rear doorwell.
Please don't stand in the rear doorwell.

by engrish_major on Nov 10, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

National and Dulles airports have, I think, finally gotten rid of the endlessly repeated "special security announcement." What would they have said if there was a security announcement that actually was special?

by Ben Ross on Nov 10, 2010 11:00 am • linkreport

Couldn't they just continue with those flashing lights on the fronts of the buses? I found those to be helpful and unobtrusive.

I'm with the crowds here, in saying that the automated messages are *really* annoying. The announcement of the stops is mildly tolerable, if only because it makes the buses more accessible to the visually-impaired.

by andrew on Nov 10, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

What about people who have homes on bus routes? Buses cause more than enough noise pollution as it is. No need for them to start talking. The other day I was walking down the street and a bus roared by me and let out a loud hydraulic Whip-Crack sound. Does anyone know what that is? Part of the breaks? Literally ear piercing.
On another note. Does anyone notice that drivers in DC honk far more than in other cities? Can we enact honking fines in residential areas? I think part of the continued journey towards making cities more appealing to live in should be quieting them down a bit. I know honking is sometimes necessary. But I would wager a guess that 90 percent of the time it is not. Having lived on a busy street in NYC, I think the driver culture there understands that people maybe sleeping or nursing babies in the apartments that line the street. Here not so much.

by John on Nov 10, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

Unfortunately (I guess), some pedestrians have become so clueless that they need a good talking to now and then.

I've seen people step off the curb without looking away from their phone just because somebody next to them took advantage of a short break in traffic. I guess they figure that since one person moved, the light must have changed for them. It's a sheep mentality, and kind of frightening to watch.

by Lou on Nov 10, 2010 11:16 am • linkreport

Did Metro tell anyone that they'd be doing this? Or is this just another example of Metro's stellar communication with the public?

by Adam L on Nov 10, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

@Adam L:
They sent buses out to tell the public about it. It's part of their new communications strategy.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 11:29 am • linkreport

@MJ

LOL! Love it.

by Adam L on Nov 10, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

I think these new talking-bus announcements are ridiculous, a complete waste of money. If anyone can't see & hear a bus coming already then I don't think this is really going to help much.

I do not care for this paragraph though:

"Worse, talking buses bully pedestrians into accepting responsibility for an incident that might occur. After all, if someone is unfortunately struck, shouldn't they have seen it coming? It's logic designed to distract attention away from the incident itself, and prematurely assign responsibility."

I don't agree with your assertion that it bullies anybody into anything. Further, how about acknowledging that pedestrians really do need to take responsibility for their own safety? Every single day of my life, I see pedestrians disregarding crossing signals, jaywalking, and failing to yield the right of way; if cars disregarded driving laws on the same scale it would be absolute chaos on the streets.

The fact is that we all have to share the same space to some extent, no matter how we travel. This repeated implication that one group (pedestrians) somehow bears less responsibility for doing so safely is really counterproductive, in my opinion.

But back on topic, yes, the talking bus is really quite a silly idea.

by GDopplerXT on Nov 10, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

I've actually created a device to counter these talking buses. I've affixed a large loudspeaker to a hard hat, which I wear when walking.

Whenever I'm in motion, it constantly broadcasts, "HEY, I'M WALKING HEAH!"

This is to make sure that drivers notice me and give me the right-of-way, even if it's not my turn.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

We have a bus stop in our front yard, which is great and our family uses it. Sometimes in the house we hear the bus PA announcing our stop which is kind of annoying. That's the PA for people sitting on the bus. It can be loader than the actual bus. Metro may have lowered the volume since the PA systems were first installed, seems like it used to be louder, although maybe I'm getting numb to it.

After watching that video I'm a little worried. That looks really annoying.

I know Metro buses have hit a few people, but they are slower and generally driven much more safely than the average vehicle. Plus they are already loud, big and they are hard for a pedestrian to miss. I'll bet per mile driven buses have hit fewer peds than other vehicles. If we wanted to add noise makers to the vehicles that posed the most risk to pedestrians (and bikers) buses would be near the bottom of my list. At the top I would put vehicles driven by 16-24 year old males and police patrol cars.

by Michael on Nov 10, 2010 11:38 am • linkreport

Caution! The moving walkway is ending.

by Simon on Nov 10, 2010 11:38 am • linkreport

In line with what John wrote, my wife, daughter, and I live directly in front of a bus stop on Connecticut Avenue, and we can already hear the bus announcing its route in our respective bedrooms. I guess this will be something us we can hear in our apartment, too.

by Brian on Nov 10, 2010 11:40 am • linkreport

@John:

I was just in Manhattan this weekend and horn-honking was about 1,000 times more prevalent, and more obnoxious, than it is here. Drivers, especially cab drivers, lean on the horn if you don't move through an intersection the split-second the light changes. This despite signs everywhere saying honking is not allowed.

by Anon on Nov 10, 2010 11:49 am • linkreport

So far I've seen two of these - and both said 'bus is turning' when in fact it wasn't. Not very helpful!

by Allison on Nov 10, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

"One thing is certain about talking buses: they're annoying."

Metro already has way, way too many voice announcements throughout the bus* and rail systems.  We need fewer of them, not more. 

This is another one of those notions that probably look great to folks sitting around a conference table but doesn't work out there on the street.  Another example is the rear mounted aircraft strobe lights on Montgomery County school buses, which end up being far more of a distraction than an actual safety improvement (for the full effect try getting behind a string of 'em entering or leaving a school or a bus depot). 

-----
* my nomination for the best-of-the-worst: the audio loop blathering on in English and Spanish about Metrobus service adjustments that took effect last December

by intermodal commuter on Nov 10, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

I filed a complaint with Metro (so I'm saying don't worry it's taken care of...) yesterday about this. My wife and I live along the X8 route and have been annoyed by this the past two weeks more than a few times. The announcement is crazy loud.
And I assume that the setup is something like the steering column activation because it goes off at Union Station while the bus is just sitting there.

by Thaps on Nov 10, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

I had the distinct, umm, pleasure to ride on one of the talking buses last night. It was an experience I hope never to repeat.

The main problem I have with it is that the announcement goes off if the drivers turns the steering wheel even a little bit. That meant everytime he changed lanes or had to go around a parked car we heard the announcement, usually twice in a row, once to go around and once to get back in the travel lane. Also, every time he pulled over for a stop, it would go off. And it sounds even louder in the bus, though i like the notification to the driver to look both ways.

by natalie on Nov 10, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

I'm pretty sure the 5A has Janet whatever her name is telling us something. Luckily she has no command presence and I tune her out.

Safety theatre? No. I think it is WMATA giving its opinion of what it thinks of bus riders.

As the DC-NYC buses have shown, it doesn't take much to turn buses into preferred transport for middle class folks. WMATA just doesn't want to take the effort to really upgrade.

by charlie on Nov 10, 2010 11:59 am • linkreport

@John: The "whip crack" sound you heard was probably the air bladder on the bus releasing excess pressure. Unlike cars, many buses have pneumatic suspensions and braking systems. (It may also power the door openers and other systems.) The engines constantly pump air into the system to maintain pressure, so the bus regulates the pressure by releasing excess air.

And the reason people honk is because it always solves the problem, no matter what the problem is. Pure magic!

by Stanton Park on Nov 10, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

I see pedestrians disregarding crossing signals, jaywalking, and failing to yield the right of way; if cars disregarded driving laws on the same scale it would be absolute chaos on the streets.

While I know this is not the main thrust of your comment, I am contractually obligated to point out that drivers (though not "cars") do in fact disregard driving laws on the same--possibly greater--scale.

This is something everyone here agreed on (to paraphrase Lance).

by oboe on Nov 10, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

What's that crazy sound the natural gas buses make when the driver lets up on the gas?

If you've heard it you know what I'm talking about.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 10, 2010 1:00 pm • linkreport

The idea that WMATA is being proactive and showing concern for the safety of the public is admirable. Where we are becoming a lazy society, sometimes we need technology such as this to remind some of us not to step in front of moving vehicles. The expense incurred to install technology like this is far less than the cost of a human life!

by Buddy R on Nov 10, 2010 1:16 pm • linkreport

@oboe - Contractually obligated! Where can I get that kind of work? :D

If you are including cyclists as drivers then absolutely I concede your point (by drivers I was thinking motor vehicles, cars, trucks, buses, etc.)

If you do just mean drivers of cars, trucks and buses, I don't agree but maybe we're not thinking in the same terms.

But I do feel like pedestrians too often get a pass around here when it comes to their responsibility in sharing the roads. (Just to specify a bit, I live and work in DC, so that is my main reference point. I did grow up in the 'burbs though, so I know that's a different pedestrian/driver dynamic.)

by GDopplerXT on Nov 10, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

It is entirely possible that the volume needs to be adjusted. That is part of the reason for the pilot program -- to evaluate the process. Still, we are a society which takes extra steps to help people be safe. Would you sacrifice more lives for a minor annoyance? That is what it sounds like. Be fair to WMATA and let them evaluate this attempt at increased safety.

by Bill on Nov 10, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

So do you all think backup alarms on trucks and buses are also "safety theater"?

by jcm on Nov 10, 2010 1:21 pm • linkreport

@jcm:
What if the backup alarm went off the entire time the vehicle was turned on? Even when moving forward or being stationary. Would it be effective?

"PEDESTRIANS: THE BUS IS TURNING" is irritatingly loud and it does nothing, nothing to solve the problems WMATA has had with bus/pedestrian collisions.

If I'm a pedestrian with the right-of-way about to cross the street, and I hear the bus message, what does that mean? That I should cede the ROW? I think not.

After a high-profile collision where a left-turning bus killed to pedestrians at 7th and Pennsylvania NW, Metro outfitted their buses with yellow light bars. This was meant to increase their visibility so that, among others, pedestrians could see the buses coming.

Except that in the aforementioned collision, the pedestrians had the right-of-way. They were in the crosswalk with the walk signal, and the bus turned left without seeing them. See? The bus was perfectly visible, the driver just wasn't paying attention. The driver. Not the pedestrians.

As far as I know, there are no recent instances of unaware pedestrians being hit by buses (turning or otherwise). In all the recent cases of which I am aware, the bus driver failed to yield to the pedestrian(s).

So really, what Metro should do is put a feature on the bus driver console that says to the bus driver, "DRIVER: PEDESTRIANS ARE PRESENT!"

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

*killed two pedestrians

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

If I didn't see a bus coming somehow, but HEARD a voice saying "the bus is turning", I would stop in the middle of the street and look back at the voice. Honestly, that's just how my brain works. So -- and I am being 100% serious here -- thank you, GGW, you just might have saved me from getting hit by a bus.

by tom veil on Nov 10, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

This is extremely annoying. I live on a corner with a bus stop right outside my bedroom window. I've gotten to where I don't hear the bus announcements or the buses roaring down the street, but this has been driving me crazy. And what, are the pedestrians supposed to flee as the turning bus comes toward them?

by Jennifer on Nov 10, 2010 1:53 pm • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson I suspect having the right of way is cold comfort if you're lying dead in the street. If the alarm will prevent injuries and fatalities then it's a good thing, right?

Truck backup alarms are irritating as all get out, but they work. If these alarms are effective then I could learn to live with them. You claim that in the accident on Penn, "The bus was perfectly visible, the driver just wasn't paying attention. The driver. Not the pedestrians.", but I don't know of any evidence that the pedestrians did see the bus, and tried to get out of the way. If they'd have heard the bus, would they have been able to dodge?

Obviously, I'd prefer that bus (and other) drivers drive better, and not have to worry about them doing stupid things while I cross the street. But until someone invents a perfect bus driver, I'd just as soon have as much warning as possible.

by jcm on Nov 10, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

@jcm: No. Backup alarms are a reasonable way of notifying people nearby that an uncommon (since buses and trucks are almost always either moving forward or stopped) and more than normally hazardous (because of the driver's very limited vision in the direction of motion) operation is taking place.

Left turns being common and seldom especially hazardous (most bus left turns, after all, are done in pulling away from the curb after a passenger stop), alerting people to every one is unproductive and indeed "cry wolf" self-defeating: nothing but theatre.

by davidj on Nov 10, 2010 2:01 pm • linkreport

Truck backup alarms are irritating as all get out, but they work. If these alarms are effective then I could learn to live with them.

They work because trucks backing up are relatively infrequent. Buses making turns happen almost nonstop, especially when you're near downtown.

by Rob on Nov 10, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

@jcm:
Okay, let's put you in the situation.

You're walking northbound on 7th toward the Archives Metro stop. While you cross Pennsylvania Avenue, you have a walk sign. As you cross the westbound lanes, you hear "PEDESTRIANS: THIS BUS IS TURNING".

You're not too worried, since you have the right-of-way. Besides, you've heard that phrase 7 times already, since the bus has been waiting for several seconds for southbound traffic to clear (with its signal on).

How are you supposed to know that this time the bus actually is turning? How do you know it isn't still planning to yield to you?

If you haven't had a chance, go look at the video on Unsuck (linked in the article). The entire time the bus is in frame, it's looping that phrase, and as far as I can tell, it's not crossing any pedestrians' paths.

Nothing about the bus announcement is alarming enough that I would jump out of the way. Remember, the bus has been saying that since before I entered the crosswalk.

Even fire trucks with lights and sirens slow or stop before entering an intersection against a red light. The least we can ask Metro now that their buses have sirens is that they try and not hit pedestrians.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 2:07 pm • linkreport

If you do just mean drivers of cars, trucks and buses, I don't agree but maybe we're not thinking in the same terms.

Right, clearly the drivers of cars don't jaywalk, but they do speed with impunity, take right-turns on red without stopping, treat stop-signs as yield signs. They do this almost universally. It's so common that it doesn't even register until you make an effort to look for it. But we just consider that "normative" driving behavior. And pedestrians know enough to look for it, and compensate.

When you look at pedestrian "scofflaw behavior" (say jaywalking) again what you see is near universal behavior, but quite predictable in general. It's only the relatively rare outlier that makes us slam on the brakes and think, "God, pedestrians are crazy!" For example, the distracted (or drunk) person wearing headphones who in a moment of carelessness steps off the curb into the path of a bus.

Again, drivers do this too: take a right-turn on red without slowing and seeing a pedestrian at the last second. Of course, pedestrians know enough to look for this behavior, checking to see there's no traffic even though they have the light. Of course, for many pro-car types, this behavior is ultimately dismissed with a casual reference to Newton's Second Law of Motion.

I do feel like pedestrians too often get a pass around here when it comes to their responsibility in sharing the roads.

I agree, but I think those distinctions are too stark: all drivers leave their cars at some point. They're inevitably pedestrians. And they behave in just the way you describe--that is, as "scofflaw pedestrians". That's why referring to it mostly as "pedestrians vs drivers" obscures rather than reveals.

It's not a question of drivers versus pedestrians, but why is it that folks behave in the way they do depending on what mode they're operating in.

[Cripes, that was wordy. Sorry.]

by oboe on Nov 10, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

Nobody had the idea of better drivers ed for the bus drivers?

Bus drivers in this region are horrible. Better drivers ed can teach drivers not only simple things like following the law, but also to not pump the breaks, wait until people sit and not crash into cars, bikers and pedestrians.

by Jasper on Nov 10, 2010 2:26 pm • linkreport

@Jasper:
Also, don't punch "McGruff the Crime Dog".

by Matt Johnson on Nov 10, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

I live along one of the piloted routes and can hear the warning message from inside my apartment. The (repetitive) announcement is obnoxiously loud and can be quite startling if you have happen to be the pedestrian walking down the street at the time.

by Mike on Nov 10, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

Yes, I agree. The ratio of inconvenience to effectiveness is such that this is definitely safety theater. Or at least safety fluff. And insulting to boot. There is something called personal responsibility. You shouldn't have to rely on the operators of large motor vehicles to broadcast their existence to you. You should be aware.

by Josh S on Nov 10, 2010 2:35 pm • linkreport

I'm not claiming they work, or they shouldn't be changed, or maybe in the long run scrapped. I am claiming that dismissing it out of hand as "safety theater", while we are all ignorant of the effects of the alarm, is shortsighted. Running a pilot to test their efficacy is the kind of thing transit companies should be doing, and should be encouraged. In 2002, Buses killed 74 pedestrians (pdf link). If turn alarms prevented half those deaths, would they be worthwhile? Maybe not, since 37 deaths per year in the grand scheme of things isn't a huge problem, and there's thousands of buses that would be producing noise. On the other hand, some would argue that a cheap device which saves 30 lives a year is worthwhile, even at the cost of irritating noise. At any rate, there's a discussion worth having, rather than just dismissing it out of hand as "safety theater". Incidentally, the RTA in Cleveland won an award (pdf link) from the American Public Transportation Association for it's left hand turn program, which included the beeping on the buses ridiculed in the article.

And Matt, "You're not too worried, since you have the right-of-way " never, ever describes my thought process. I spend way to much time on my feet or bike surrounded by fast moving multi-ton vehicles. That's the kind of mindset that gets bicyclists and peds killed. It obviously doesn't excuse drivers from negligent behavior, but physics is physics. I don't have a problem with asking drivers to not hit pedestrians (obviously), and I'm not some car-nut blame-the-pedestrian person.

by jcm on Nov 10, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

Who the heck thought this was a good idea? Had they ever even seen it in practice?

Matt Johnson is right, nobody is going to pay any attention to this "warning" if you hear it seven times in a row while the bus is waiting to turn. PLUS in several of the recent bus-pedestrian fatalities that I can think of the pedestrian had the right of way, or this announcement wouldn't have helped at all.

by MLD on Nov 10, 2010 2:36 pm • linkreport

I concur with the many commenters who've noted the excessive volume of recorded announcements transmitted outside the bus in residential areas. It's unnecessary noise pollution and a nuissance to residents, especially in the evening through early morning.

by anon on Nov 10, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

We literally have residents in my suburbs coming to WMATA and County public hearings and asking that buses not be routed on their block. They don't want the traffic or the noise. I try to explain that people with disabilities on their street need that bus, and that people who are blind need the route announcement the Metrobuses already make. Further announcements -- that are less defensible -- is going to make my job a lot harder. WMATA is going to see the day when local municipalities start trying to keep public buses out, which is bad for everyone.

by John on Nov 10, 2010 3:47 pm • linkreport

@jcm:
I suggest you go into the Washington Post archives and see the video loop of the pedestrians who were killed crossing Pennsylvania ave. They were in the middle of the crosswalk (legally I might add) when the bus hit them. They would have had no time to jump back or dodge the bus if it had been blaring that stupid warning at them. The bus was going very fast.

The onus should be on the bus drivers and WMATA.

by lou on Nov 10, 2010 4:14 pm • linkreport

Hmmm, I used to live in a quadrant, the smallest one, name will go unmentioned-- last week there was a commission of ANC and DDOT officials observing the traffic patterns at a difficult intersection there. While they were there, they observed 7 illegal U-Turns, one made by a woman who has an email listserve in the neighborhood and has recently railed against unsafe driving at that intersection! Silver-haired Afric. Amer. woman with green eyebrows. Residents know who that is...

by Anon on Nov 10, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

If we have a need for audible announcements

Than where is the written announcement for the deaf ?

If you are going to build a system for whatever you need to also account for the disabled blind, deaf and whatever else.

by kk on Nov 10, 2010 5:51 pm • linkreport

I have worked for Cleveland RTA. I think this system is very helpful. It wakes pedestrians up from walking and texting.
I think this system is a great idea. I think this will help keep accident rates down and pedestrians from being injured.

by Roger Smith on Nov 10, 2010 6:58 pm • linkreport

Wow, thats terrible.

Might as well give them a siren thats on 24/7

by JJJJ on Nov 10, 2010 8:47 pm • linkreport

by waiting for the next safety poster contest on Nov 11, 2010 12:23 am • linkreport

Idiotic idea, for all the reasons above. When I saw one of these the other day near Metro Center, all I could think of were the blaring ad blimps in Blade Runner ("A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies!")

by eck on Nov 11, 2010 8:48 am • linkreport

O.K. I’d like to chime in a bit since I’m one of the main supporters of the “Safe Turn Alert” being installed on buses. Yes, I understand some of the concerns being addressed from this web forum but I can assure you that a lot of research and development and concrete results are at the heart of WMATA’s and other agencies decision to pilot and move forward on this system. I inquired about the volume issue raised and was informed that one or two buses installed with the system were being tested for final adjustments on volume and sensitivity.
After losing a couple of close friends to related accidents of this type several years ago, I did a little research to find out what could help mitigate these and other similar types of accidents.
First a few facts related to buses and turning:
Turning accidents from Buses at cross walks is a national problem (a few examples).
www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/05/left-turn_accidents_like_fatal.html

www.kgw.com/news/local/Friends-honor-victims-of-TriMet-bus-accident-92183454.html

www.transitblogger.com/death/man-dragged-to-death-by-mta-nyct-bus.php

www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/florida/os-lynx-bus-hits-kids-one-dead-20101104,0,1028945.story

Research shows that these types of accidents can be almost eliminated with the use of passive voice technology (The type of system WMATA is installing) TCRP A-28 report 2007, NTSB January 2008.
Example:
Greater Cleveland installed the first pilot three years ago and installed the “Safe Turn Alert” system wide over a year ago.
Results: GCRTA went from an average of 36 accidents (several deaths) per year from Turning Buses at intersections to just 3 (zero pedestrianÂ’s).

We all know what saving one life is worth (priceless) but if you prevent one of these accidents or deaths you also save the city $10 million which is the average lawsuit settlement.

It's reported that the system only cost Cleveland a little over $500,000.00 installed on their whole fleet.
Several other agencies have reported similar findings with mitigating voice alerts.

Just think, smoke alarms, CO2 Alarms, Side Impact alarms, back-up alarms, Stop Lights, Crossing signals, Vehicle Horns, etcÂ…. The reasons we have these types of warnings more and more is because studies show they work. Also, we are becoming more and more distracted as a society.

One writer mentioned his concern for those who are vision impaired and does this also help them. I'm told that vision impaired are a main featured as part of this system.

A final note. The “Safe Turn Alert” does two things. It has an inside speaker to remind the driver to “look both ways” and pedestrians that the “bus is turning”.
Hope this helps

Thanks and I'm sorry for the long message.

by Carolyn on Nov 11, 2010 10:21 pm • linkreport

Good ideas can have bad implementations: it might make some sense for there to be some sort of audible alert, but a recorded loop in some number of languages is not necessarily the best way to go about it. 

Consider for instance the electric BRT overlay service in downtown Denver.  For years those electric bus units have used a bell, like the ones on the cable cars in San Francisco.  It gets attention without being as annoying as voice announcements. 

Metro already has too many, way too many sound loops.  It's bad enough in the rail system (a 15-20 minute late night wait for a subway train gives one an acute distaste for this form of noise pollution) but this step goes on to inflict it not just on passengers and operators, but also anybody within earshot of a bus line.  If this step is inevitable is it not at least possible to find a less obnoxious way in which to take it? 

by intermodal commuter on Nov 12, 2010 4:40 pm • linkreport

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