The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will award (FTA-2012-010-TRI) up to $400,000 for one or more pilot projects to increase pedestrian/cyclist safety through demonstration of advanced pedestrian warning system on transit buses.
As background for the award, FTA notes that pedestrians represent a considerable portion of traffic-related (cars, trucks and transit) injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways. In 2008, 4,378 pedestrians were killed and 69,000 were injured in traffic crashes in the United States. This represents 12% and 3% of all the traffic fatalities and injuries, respectively. The majority of these fatalities occurred in urban areas (72%) where pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicular traffic, including transit buses, commingle.
Although the pedestrian injuries and fatalities are few in number relative to other collision types, bus collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists usually carry very high cost (injury claims), attract negative media attention and have the potential to reduce public perception of transit safety.
A Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) study indicated that of all the collision types involving transit buses and pedestrians, turns at intersections was the problem most frequently reported. Of these, the data show that 60% occurred while the bus was turning (left-turn collisions were more common than right-turn collisions: 69% involved a left turn, while 31% involved a right turn). The other two common collision types were buses pulling into bus stops (15%) and buses pulling away from stops (10%).
A key factor influencing the occurrence of bus collisions (while turning) with pedestrians might be that pedestrians have difficulty recognizing that buses are about to turn, FTA noted. When buses turn, they pivot on the rear axle, moving forward and then sweeping an arc as the bus follows through the turn. At first glance, it may appear to a pedestrian that the bus is moving straight forward through the intersection when in fact the operator is initiating a turn. In addition, reduced visibility of the pedestrians, failure to scan, and attention to opposing vehicular traffic by the bus operators are other reasons why bus-to-pedestrian collisions are more prevalent in crosswalks.
The win, a proposal will need to define clearly the uniqueness of the pedestrian warning system and the associated technologies and how the system would be integrated into existing transit buses, as well as the collision scenarios (left turn, right turn, bus pulling into station and out of station) in which the system is designed to mitigate and prevent.
The projects are to identify and to characterize the effectiveness of the proposed system and how the system would:
- alert pedestrians and cyclists under different collision scenarios;
- prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes;
- minimize bus operator workload;
- ensure no increase to operator distraction; and,
- ensure warning system cannot be turned off or overridden.
The selected project(s) will need to include a demonstration of the proposed pedestrian warning system in revenue service with a US transit agency.
The FTA’s research activities are authorized by 49 USC 5312, Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment Projects. Safety is one of the US DOT’s five Strategic Goals. Under this goal, FTA has set forth the objective to improve safety by reducing transit-related injuries and fatalities.