Director of Safety and Training/Chief Safety Officer
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
San Francisco, CA
Chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee
While pedestrian safety warning devices for buses are not new, there’s newer technology out there that’s pretty exciting. It’s an audible sound, a voice. While once it was just beeping, now it’s speech.
When the bus is making a turn, systems can start “talking” as soon as the wheel turns because it’s automatically integrated into the steering system. It will work the same in trolleys and diesel buses, and companies are also looking to use the same kind of technology in light rail vehicles.
If this type of technology can prevent one pedestrian fatality, it pays for itself. Look at lawsuits where public transit agencies have had to pay millions of dollars.
Then there’s something we implemented in 2009 in Houston that’s starting to catch on now. We were experiencing too many rear-end collisions, so we installed an LED stop sign at the back of the bus. Then, every time the bus operator hit the brakes, the sign started flashing “STOP.” In short, it worked.
Technology has brought major change to the industry I joined 15 years ago. For instance, we did not have event recorders on buses or trains to count speed or braking distance; now you have them, similar to what you have on an airplane. We didn’t have cameras then either.
In general, technology has helped improve the way we deliver our services, from route planning to scheduling, operations, and safety.