This month, I will be addressing a question asked of me a few weeks ago at APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference in Long Beach, Calif. I would also like to thank those who took a moment to introduce themselves as followers of this blog page in Metro Magazine.
While at the coffee bar, I was approached by a transit professional who asked where I thought it was safer to place bus stops, at the nearside or farside of an intersection? We agreed that agencies, over the years for safety reasons, have been favoring the farside bus stops as opposed to the nearside stops. For those who may be unaware of the meaning of farside vs. nearside stops, farside are those placed on the far side of the intersection and nearside stops are at the near side of the intersection.
One of the main reasons, if not the main reason for relocating bus stops from the nearside to the farside of the intersections, was the increase in the number of collisions that occurred at nearside stops due to vehicles along the left side of the bus moving left to right in front of the bus in an attempt to make a right turn. This usually resulted in a collision and/or onboard injuries as a result of a heavy brake application by the bus operator to avoid contact with the left front side portion of the bus and the vehicle sweeping from left to right to attempt the right turn. Many times, this also occurred as the operator was attempting to move straight/left to depart the bus stop.
Below I have listed a few pros and cons for both nearside and farside placement of bus stops. Remember, most stops were moved and are still being moved due to the belief that farside is safer than nearside. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Bus Stop placement, wherever it may be, brings many challenges to a bus operator. Next time you are on a bus, see how many hazards the bus operator has to deal with entering and exiting. Adding to these two types of bus stops are stops in mid-block and after a right and left turn — a whole different set of challenges with these types. Thought it was easy, eh? Here we go:
- Transferring customers from a crosstown bus coming from the front, visible to the operator.
- Entering at a slower rate of speed, increasing the time to take corrective action to deal with someone stepping from the curb.
- Pedestrians waiting to cross do so while the bus is already standing and not moving into the stop.
- Vehicles that are moving from same direction left of bus, attempting to turn right at the cross street in front of bus.
- Operators having to maneuver around and merge between vehicles that are attempting to turn right into cross street from left and front of bus.
- No cross street in front of bus to contend with, therefore, no vehicles attempting to turn right in front of bus.
- Bus moving at a greater speed through the intersection, increasing the chance of a collision with a vehicle moving opposite direction of bus that attempts a left turn in front of bus.
- Pedestrian stepping out from the right corner curb as the bus approaches the bus stop.
- Pedestrian(s) stepping from the bus stop (horseplay).
- Second bus entering an already occupied bus stop, causing a portion of the bus to overhang into the intersection. (Extremely dangerous and highly unprofessional!)
- Vehicles occupying dedicated right turn only lanes, instead of turning, decide to proceed straight, and have come between the bus and the approaching farside bus stop. (Happens all the time, and not a good feeling having the right side of the bus exposed to moving vehicles.) A training bus no-no.
What are your thoughts? Please add to my list and state your opinion.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Is your agency ready for the ‘big one’?," here.
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!