The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded TriMet a $400,000 grant to increase pedestrian safety around buses in Portland, Ore. TriMet has begun conducting a comprehensive analysis of pedestrian warning systems that alert people when a bus is turning. The systems have been installed on 45 buses that will run on five bus lines. TriMet, AEM Corp. and Portland State University will evaluate the performance of the “talking buses.”
Currently, three onboard systems and one fixed-location device will be studied. Protran Technology Safe Turn Alert combines an audible and visible warning. When the steering wheel is turned a minimum of 45°, an audible alert outside the bus declares, “Pedestrians, bus is turning” and LED strobe lights on the side of the bus flash. The Clever Devices Turn Warning uses a sensor inside the steering column, and when the operator turns the steering wheel at least 45°, an audible alert, “Caution, bus is turning” sounds outside the bus in the direction of the turn. The Dinex Star LED headlight with pedestrian crossing alert uses 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. The fixed location device utilizes a static “BUS” warning sign that lights up when a bus is approaching.
Talking buses and other pedestrian warning systems are not being widely used in the transit industry, but with “distracted walking” on the rise as the popularity of smartphones and other electronic devices soars, more agencies are considering adding them to their fleet.