MTA Chairman/CEO Thomas F. Prendergast at the symposium held in March.
Photo courtesy MTA_Patrick Cashman
I recently attended, and had the opportunity to be part of a panel of speakers, at the NYC MTA Bus Safety Symposium. A variety of topics were discussed regarding bus and pedestrian safety issues. What was obvious is we all have a common goal to provide the safest transit systems possible, in spite of the possibility of increasing bus/pedestrian and bus/cyclist collisions.
High- versus low-mounted mirrors, flat versus convex mirrors, A-Pillar construction, bus operator training, and pedestrian/cyclist responsibility were just part of what was discussed. It was refreshing to hear the openness of those who shared their many ideas and recommendations for the future.
The statistics that opened some eyes were what is stated by Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The report states that a census of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. from 2010-2014, found there were an average of 35 pedestrian and seven bicyclist fatalities annually involving transit buses.
Also, according to FARS data, “the majority of pedestrians and bicyclists killed by being hit by a bus occurred when the vehicle was traveling in a straight line.” Here are the findings:
- In 48% of pedestrian fatalities nationwide, the bus was going straight.
- 26% involved a left turn.
- 11% involved a right turn.
- 15% of incidents involved pre-crash maneuvers.
For bicyclist fatalities:
- 67% of the buses were going straight.
- 15% were making a left turn.
- 10% were making a right turn.
- 8% of incidents involved pre-crash maneuvers.
Some of us might be surprised that left turns was not number one on the list. Even more so, according to the data the buses were going straight! Yours truly was able to contribute with my opinions and most of you who follow my blogs or attended any of my speaking engagements can predict what I suggested:
- A standardized new candidate bus operator training program is needed with a set number of days established for a candidate to either qualify or be dismissed from the program.
- Classroom training would follow the “front-loaded behind-the-wheel portion” of basic skills curriculum to only those candidates that successfully complete the BDW driving skills portion first. This simple and cost-effective procedure will eliminate those from the training program that would not be in the program any longer to participate in classroom training.
- The industry needs a more uniform curriculum that offers an opportunity for trainers instructors to be tracked on their decision making skills.
- Chief Training Officers and lead bus operator instructors along with bus design engineers should be given the opportunity to sit behind the wheel and drive a bus during the bus design development and testing phases.
All in all, this was a very useful gathering and it appears it’s just the start of good things to come.
Louie Maiello is Advisor/Lead Instructor, Transit Training Solutions.
Soon after reaching my 20th year in the transit industry, back in 1993, after a draining day of addressing routine bus issues, I would cross paths with another employee, who I always remember, seemed to be quietly “doing his own little daily gig.”
Years ago, I was with Louie Maiello when someone walked over and asked him for some advice: “We’re having problems with people remembering to secure the bus before they leave their seat. Do you have any advice? How can we get them to remember?” Without missing a beat, Louie said “PIN it.” The advice seeker happened to be a veteran mechanic, so he understood and walked away to resume his work. I stood there for a while scratching my head. Pin it?
Diagnose, Prescribe & Follow-Up, are the usual doctor’s actions that are utilized when visiting the doctor’s office for whatever is ailing us. This formula should also apply within your training department with regard to the ailment of Bus Collisions.
If we encourage our operators to treat operating a bus as a shift-long Zen moment, we may be able to reduce preventable crashes by a significant amount. The “Zen Operator,” who drives precisely at all times, is also less stressed. The Zen Operator flows through difficult, tight situations easily and their body language and vibe give passengers a sense of confidence. The operator whose passengers have a white-knuckle death grip on the back of the seat in front of them is not practicing “Zen Bus Operation.”
Ah, summer. Pool parties, barbecues, the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of lightning bugs. Or — a rise in crime, agitated riders seeking air conditioning, heat stroke, a new fiscal year, and the necessary, but unpopular, fare increases. However you view the summer months, with a direct correlation between high temperatures and increased crime, it's vital for transit leaders to be asking themselves, "Have we done everything possible to keep our people safe?"