Archives for Articles about Safety Compromises

Safety Compromises, Part 12: Conclusions

The final installment of this series examines the socio-economic dynamics and choices which led to the increasing commission of safety compromises by America’s public transportation services. The trade-offs of safety for other benefits are more common and more severe in some modes then in others. The most common safety compromises also vary from mode to mode. But the same set of dynamics has affected all these modes, and has influenced the tendency to commit safety compromises of all types. Risks and Choices Particularly in our heavily-litigated society, the notion of risk is paramount. A tightrope walker assumes enormous risk. He

Safety Compromises, Part 11: Wheelchair and Passenger Securement

As with most things, the ADA requirement to make all new motorcoaches purchased after 2001 wheelchair-accessible, and the 2015 ruling to install three-point occupant restraint systems, introduced an entirely new spectrum of safety, liability and social concerns to the motorcoach industry. But a couple of responses to these requirements, particularly by one OEM and one supplier, have opened up a whole new set of opportunities for savvy motorcoach operators. For reasons noted below, few motorcoach operators currently transport many (or any) wheelchair users, just as most wheelchair users are reluctant to travel by motorcoach. With conventional coaches and traditional securement

Safety Compromises: Part 1, Introduction

This new National Bus Trader piece is the first installment of likely a year-long series about types of incidents that result from trade-offs of safety for other benefits — adherence to unrealistically-tight schedules (or drivers running behind schedule) being the principal culprit. Frankly, of the more than 600 public transportation-related lawsuits in which I have served as an expert witness, roughly half of all incidents see to be the result of some deliberate safety compromise. Because the characteristics, operating environments, duty cycles and dynamics of every public transportation mode differ, it follows that each mode contains different safety compromises. But

Safety Compromises, Part 10: Passenger Assistance — Standards, Practices and Disincentives

An industry outsider (say, a juror) might consider the variation in passenger assistance within the public transportation industry alarming. Exploring a single theme like boarding and alighting illustrates the extremes: Drivers of MediCare-funded non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services are required, as a regulatory matter, to physically assist every passenger on and off the vehicle. In real life they do not, of course: NEMT reimbursement rates pay service providers only when the vehicle is moving. In contrast, many paratransit companies are paid on a per-hour basis. So they sporadically assist non- or semi-ambulatory passengers on and off, even while they obviously

Safety Compromises Part 9: Rolling Turns and Sharp Turns

It might seem obvious that a bus driver would know how to properly turn a vehicle with a long wheelbase. Yet it is surprising how many are not taught to. More interesting, bus drivers often do not have the time to. In some states, municipalities (e.g., Louisville) and/or transit agencies, bus drivers are required to come to a complete stop before turning left. But with the tight schedules common to most routes of many transit systems, coming to a complete stop before every left turn could consume a considerable amount of running time. This is especially true if the driver

Safety Compromises Part 8: Boarding and Alighting

Given the mass of a bus or motorcoach, the carnage a moving bus or coach can inflict on a pedestrian is not surprising. Yet readers may be surprised by the carnage such a vehicle can cause when it is not moving – or just beginning to move or come to a stop. More importantly, this latter carnage (as well as much of the collision-related carnage) is often the deliberate result of efforts to accomplish other goals at the expense of passenger safety. (See The most typical of these goals is to keep the vehicle on schedule. Often, schedules are

Safety Compromises, Part 7: Stopping on the Wrong Side of the Intersection

For each route in each direction, transit stops are almost always located on one side of an intersection, not both. Stops just before the intersection are referred to as ‘near-side’ stops. Those just after the intersection are referred to as ‘far-side’ stops. For decades, and still-debated, there are trade-offs between these two stop positions, although mid-block stops are nearly taboo for transit service. The “Bible” for evaluating these trade-offs is TCRP Report #19: Guidelines for the Design and Location of Bus Stops.  The latest thinking is that, if all things are equal, far-side stops have more advantages and fewer disadvantages than

Safety Compromises, Part 6: Failing to Pull to the Curb

Other than airport-to-parking lot shuttles, and an occasional tour or charter trip, all public transportation services pickup and discharge their passengers at the side of a roadway. When it is available, they pickup and discharge them from or  onto a curb, sidewalk, platform or other raised surface. Reasons for this practice range from the ease of entry onto or alighting from a stepwell or doorway to protecting the passenger from being struck by another vehicle passing the bus, coach, van, minibus or taxi on the right (to or from which the passengers board or alight). Where a curb or other

Safety Compromises, Part 5 – Failing to Kneel the Bus or Coach

For many passengers, the 14-inch drop from the bottom step of a high-floor transit bus or motorcoach is challenging: • In transit service, drivers do not assist or even spot boarding or alighting passengers • While motorcoach drivers typically assist or spot boarding or alighting passengers at the front door, the drivers of motorcoaches deployed in commuter/express service (provided by transit agencies or companies under contract to them) do not. Nor do scheduled service drivers do so consistently, especially at intermediate stops. • Other than the bi-panel, outward-opening door one occasionally finds on a bus or (more rarely) a coach,

Safety Compromises, Part 4: Speeding

Speeding would seem like the most obvious safety compromise. Speeding would seem like the most natural remedy to a schedule too tight, and the most obvious way to pick up more passengers, increase system capacity and maximize revenue: Just drive faster. In truth, speeding is not the most significant safety compromise, and doesn’t provide the time-or cost-saving benefits of many others in some public transportation sectors. But it can still be significant, and is often combined with other compromises — increasing risk in the process. Otherwise, when employed often and/or excessively, speeding can compromise passenger safety, and that of fellow