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With $400,000 grant, TriMet will try audible turn warning system (again)

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 29th, 2013 at 11:56 am

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(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet is once again looking at technology to improve street safety when their buses make turns. Last week, the agency announced a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant of $400,000 to test three turn warning systems for possible integration with their fleet.

TriMet first looked into an audible turn-warning systems for their buses back in August 2010. That step came after a TriMet driver made a left turn in northwest Portland and killed two people who were walking in a crosswalk in April 2010. They began testing a system in March 2011, but pulled the plug a few months later. At the time, TriMet said they didn't move forward with it because," ... it was determined that the technology has not advanced enough to make it an effective tool to help alert pedestrians and people riding bikes that a bus is turning."

In their announcement last week, TriMet said they plan to test three more systems beginning this fall. Those systems include: the DINEX™ STAR LED headlight with Pedestrian Crossing Alert; the Protran Technology Safe Turn Alert™; and the Clever Devices Turn Warning System.

Here's more about each system from TriMet:

The DINEX STAR LED headlight has an intelligent system that calculates the bus’s speed and steering wheel angle. It automatically turns on additional super bright LED lights inside the headlight pointed in the direction of travel. Operators can better see objects on the road directly ahead. The headlight has built-in sound and light alert systems. When the bus is turning, it provides sound and light alerts to pedestrians and bicyclists at road crossings.

Both the “Safe Turn Alert” and the “Turn Warning System” have audible warnings. When the bus operator turns the steering wheel, a warning is broadcast through external speakers on both sides of the bus alerting pedestrians and bicyclists that the bus is turning. Just what the audible warnings will be has yet to be determined.

45 buses will be used in the test and TriMet says they will seek feedback from both riders and the community "as part of the overall assessment." Turning buses is a significant safety issue for people who ride bicycles so it will behoove everyone to stay tuned for opportunities to learn more about each of these systems for a chance to weigh in.

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Comments
  • jeff April 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    they could focus on and demand better driver safety for a lot less money...

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • CaptainKarma April 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    The new buses' headlights already feel like a poke in the eye to me.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby April 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    They could save a lot of money and just demand that their drivers pay more attention.

    Recommended Thumb up 12

  • Dabby April 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Maybe that warning should call out "We admit we cannot drive safely around bicycles and pedestrians, so watch out!."

    Recommended Thumb up 11

  • q`Tzal April 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Add 5%-10% more service per line on lines in high incident areas.
    This relieves driver stress to maintain schedules that are already impossible to maintain due to traffic conditions; this is because more frequent service reduces customer dissatisfaction and thus the "need" to maintain the scheduled stops at all costs.
    Reducing the unnecessary hurry will greatly enhance driver attentiveness and the safety of the general public around buses.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Indy April 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Do you have any evidence that drivers are stressed by maintaining schedules? If I were a driver, I would pretty much shrug it off. Not like it's the driver's fault that traffic is bad or passengers are slow.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • BURR April 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        Driver performance is determined primarily by their ability to meet schedules.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Jim Lee April 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    The real issue is the "AUTOS UBER ALLES" philosophy that encourages motored vehicles into intersections ANYTIME pedestrians are present.

    Under present Oregon law motorists--bus drivers among them--are allowed to intersect pedestrian rights-of-way whenever their judgements dictate.

    And with TURN AGAINST RED permitted there is NO TIME that a pedestrian has protected right-of-way in an intersection.

    Imagine road rage due to a pedestrian's intruding upon a motorist's right-of-way...

    You get an idea of the basic problem.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Patty in Portland April 29, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    While I think it important for all road users, including pedestrians, to look out for others, this reads a little too much like "here I come, get out of the way" to me.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • anon April 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    A bus should not be turning into a crosswalk with people in it, so I don't understand why this warning system exists in the first place.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Chainwhipped May 1, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Stand at any intersection in downtown Portland, and you'll see why this kind of add-on may be necessary. Pedestrians - and this means all of us - routinely cross against the traffic signal. Most people are paying enough attention to cross when it's safe, but all it takes is an ill-timed phone call or text message (sometimes just plain self-importance) for someone to cross at the wrong time in a bus driver's blind spot.

      I can get killed on my bike doing almost everything right. I can ride in the bike lane in high-vis clothing in broad daylight, with front and rear lights, on the right side of the road in the bike lane while wearing a helmet and be killed anyway. Even if I do all of those things simultaneously, I could be killed by the best driver in the universe because I was also running a red light.

      There are rules you can bend, and rules you can't.

      Teach each other to cross the street with our eyes open and our heads up, and more of us go on living.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • A April 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    So now they'll beep at you before running you over? Seems like it would be just as easy to install a device that kills the engine and applies the brakes if it detects people about to be hit due to driver negligence.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Jeff April 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    As an additive measure, the public should step up on its own and be more aware of buses and their movements. Peripherally related, I loved the old PSA's that read "Max weighs 44 tons. Get real."

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • o/o April 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    i am happy it comes with light warnings for deaf/ear bud users. but is it really necessary? it is not like bus hitting people every day.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • dwainedibbly April 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I'm on pain meds for a migraine today, so the following message is brought to you by America's Pharmaceutical Industry:

    At least it's grant money and not real dollars, right? The audio should scream "Gangway!" Or, maybe, make a sound like gunfire.

    What they really need is an interface to the bus driver's mind, so that the system can play the sound of a cash register (remember those?) BEFORE the bus starts turning. That's the problem with all of these systems: they don't warn until after the turn has started.

    I'm going for a nap now. Mrs Dibbly is making me step away from the keyboard...

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • q`Tzal April 30, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Today's rant is brought to you by the letter "T".
      T is for Thorazine.
      Good night!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Johnny Tenspeed April 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Being responsible for your own actions is so 1950's.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Granpa April 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Agreed, Johnny. Although there have been some terrible collisions and lives lost as a result of bus/cyclist/pedestrians trying to occupy the same space at the same time I can not pile on with the majority of posters that bus drivers are bad drivers. It is often the case where cyclists refuse to heed turn signals, or operate in a predictable manner or ride according to the rules of the road. Remember the wishful bumper sticker slogan "Bikes ARE traffic"? Well we got our wish, now we have to play by big boy rules.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • BURR May 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        Any adequate study of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes shows that motorists fail to yield right of way or fail to observe traffic control devices at least as often if not more frequently than cyclists.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chigger Mortis April 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I'm waiting for the howls from the cyclists who wear earbuds.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Eric April 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    To be fair, there are plenty of times I'm reluctant to pass a bus because I'm never 100% sure what it's going to do. Granted that's more when the bus is pulled over at a bus stop, but I don't think the idea of alerting people to the bus's actions is necessarily a bad idea (it does do more moving around on the road than most cars) but that doesn't mean this is the right solution.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • John Liu April 30, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Buses are among the most predictable traffic out there. They drive on fixed routes, change lanes infrequently and usually at the same place each time, are relatively slow-moving, and if you see a bus stop ahead, you pretty much know what the bus will do.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Zach April 30, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Trimet drivers, at least in my experience, are some of the most courteous to share the road with. They wait behind me if they need to make a stop in the next block, they always let me turn first, they signal their intentions, and drive slowly. I agree with the commenter above me -- they're some of the most predictable traffic out there. Sure, it's sometimes hazy when and if you're supposed to pass them at a scheduled stop, but of all the close calls I've had out there on the road, it's never been because of a bus. So, y'know, cut the bus divers some slack -- they're doing a hard job, and I'm pretty darn sure they care about people's safety. Hopefully this new system will help us cyclists decide when to pass the bus, and when to just wait behind.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Ryan April 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Dumb, dumb, dumb waste of money. Don't get me wrong: Sandi L. Day crashing into pedestrians in the crosswalk and killing two of them was a tragedy. But this isn't a daily, monthly, or even a yearly event. Trimet should be focusing on improving bus service.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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