March 2, 2011

TriMet pilots audible pedestrian warning system

On Tuesday, TriMet began testing a system that makes automatic announcements when a bus is turning. Ten buses have been equipped with the external audible warning system. When the operator turns the steering wheel to enter a turn, an external announcement is triggered, announcing “Pedestrians, bus is turning.” The announcement will be made in both English and Spanish.

This test will help the agency determine if an automatic audible warning will make it safer for those near a turning bus. It was recommended that TriMet explore the technology as part of the comprehensive safety review initiated following the fatal bus crash last April. A few transit agencies, including Baltimore’s Maryland Transit Administration, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority have experimented with similar systems.

The 10 buses will be put in service on routes that will allow TriMet to test the warning device in commercial, industrial and residential environments. The buses will be rotated to other lines for additional testing. The announcement will be activated if the steering wheel is turned one revolution to the right or left. Buses changing lanes should not activate the system. The audio level is set at 100 decibels (dB), which is the same level as TriMet’s external automatic stop announcement (ASA).

The use of this system does not change TriMet’s legal and professional obligation to operate safely, be alert and scan the intersection before turning.

Part of the evaluation includes feedback from people living, working, walking, biking and driving nearby, as well as TriMet operators. In addition to on-street surveys to be conducted by TriMet, the public can also provide feedback on the pedestrian warning system.

The 10 devices were purchased from TranCert Marketing of Point Roberts, Wash., for $46,000.

METRO TV: View a video demonstration of the system here.

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