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

Posted by 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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jeff
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jeff

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

CaptainKarma
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CaptainKarma

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

Dabby
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Dabby

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

Dabby
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Dabby

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

q`Tzal
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q`Tzal

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.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

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.

Patty in Portland
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Patty in Portland

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.

anon
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anon

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.

A
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A

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.

Jeff
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Jeff

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.”

o/o
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o/o

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.

dwainedibbly
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dwainedibbly

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…

Johnny Tenspeed
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Johnny Tenspeed

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

Chigger Mortis
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Chigger Mortis

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

Eric
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Eric

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.

John Liu
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John Liu

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.

Zach
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Zach

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.

Ryan
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Ryan

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.