TRANSIT: Rhode Island rolls out 'talking' buses aimed at safety

RIPTA is applying an audible warning system to its fixed-route fleet to improve safety for buses, motorists and pedestrians

April 13, 2017
Rhode Island rolls out 'talking' buses aimed at safety
Rhode Island rolls out 'talking' buses aimed at safety

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is rolling out a fleet of “talking” buses to serve the state’s communities.

The new technology allows the buses to alert pedestrians and motorists with an automated announcement through a “Safe Turn Alert” system that voices messages such as “Caution! The bus is turning.” In addition, orange lights on the side of the bus flash during the announcement, providing a visual alert for the hearing impaired.

The buses automatically issue the alert whenever the driver turns the wheel. The implementation of this technology came as a result of officials at the transit agency wanting to make their fleet safer, especially since drivers and pedestrians are increasingly distracted.

RIPTA spent roughly $400,000 on the program, which was tested last spring and summer on a handful of buses. Last fall, the agency’s board voted to implement the technology on its entire fixed-route fleet, which includes about 210 buses. About 90% of the buses have the technology already, and the rest will have it installed in the coming weeks.

The “Safe Turn Alert” system is provided by Protran Technology, a New Jersey company, which has served other agencies such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.