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

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

(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.