Archives for National Bus Trader

Drivers v. Robots, Part 9: Speed Inflation

There are many dangerous transportation practices (or malpractices) which robots could help prevent or discourage. It is important to acknowledge when these deterrents are not employed. One failure is the refusal to control vehicle speed and the spacing between vehicles. Another is the socio-economic, institutional and/or political failure to employ a decades-old technology that would put a stop to this practice. These practices have been compounded by other developments in recent years. During my decade in paratransit operations, my company deployed vans and minibuses: Relatively high centers-of-gravity and lots of surface area along the sides. As a formal contract provision,

Bad Regulations and Better Responses Part 3 – Invasion of the TNCs

These past five years, practically unnoticed until this last one, have witnessed the most radical change in public transportation since the introduction of scheduling software in the Early 90s: The invasion of traditional, analog services wallowing in their nostalgia by hyper- [or uber]-digital counterparts big on access, low on some concerns, and flying beneath virtually every City’s and State’s regulatory radar. The new kids on the block, self-proclaimed Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), began in taxi form roughly seven years ago, as a vision in Paris. In September, 2013, New York City’s Uber fleet contained only 500 vehicles. Last year –

Negligent Filing: Sloppiness or Spoliation?

In the planning, design and operation of public transportation systems, the spectrum of decisions and functions that can be performed negligently or recklessly is vast. One function rarely if ever characterized as negligent is filing. But it might as well be. Many defendant’s lawsuits turn sour when their management cannot prove things that they claim occurred because they did not maintain the documentation associated with it. Without proof, defendants are left with testimony and speculation. Much of the testimony between plaintiffs’ and defendants’ witnesses is referred to as “he said/she said.” The value or credibility of testimony so characterized can

Tight Schedules, Part 3: Fixed Route Transit Service

For reasons different than those of other modes, transit schedules are often tight. In many urban systems, all or most schedules are tight. When schedules are tight, drivers compromise passenger, pedestrian and motorist safety to comply with them. A number of common safety compromises are summarized below. A deeper treatment of those compromises typical of fixed route transit service may be found on, and in the 12 National Bus Trader articles published on this subject in September through December, 2017 and April through December, 2018 issues. That series was organized by type of safety compromise. This series, organized mode

Tight Schedules, Part 2: Lessons from the NEMT Sector

How much a transportation provider is paid has an obvious impact on safety. But more important is the rate structure by which that provider is paid. Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) service is a poster child for the dysfunctional consequences of a hapless rate structure and compensation formula. Insights Squandered In 1964, President Johnson created the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) to support the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Model Cities Program. UMTA capital funds paid for 80 percent of buses, trains and other capital improvements. In 1967, when Johnson created the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), UMTA (now

Tight Schedules, Part 1: The Other Achilles Heel

Early in my 42 years working in the public transportation field, I learned that the industry’s Achilles Heel is negligent monitoring. Almost no one knows how to do this effectively. Few agencies or companies do this at all. Most of their officials do not care. So the industry is rife with crossing accidents, negligent retention, wheelchair tipovers and passenger molestation, among other common accident and incident scenarios. (See From years observing patterns of failure, I’ve come to recognize that  a second Achilles Heel in public transportation is tight schedules. In my examination of evidence in more than 600 public

The Folly of Fake Facts, Part 2

In Part One of this short series, we explored the rudiments of reaction time and braking distance. The arithmetic for understanding both concepts was learned in the third grade (multiplication), fourth grade (long division), seventh grade (fractions) and eleventh grade (drivers’ education). Most bus and motorcoach drivers have high school educations, during which time they presumably learned the four processes noted above. But they often do not retain these processes, and cannot convert them into safe driving practices. And their training rarely acknowledges the existence of these disciplines, much less their importance, much less the need to integrate them into

The Folly of Fake Facts

Thankfully, mowing down pedestrians in a crosswalk is not yet commonplace. But it is also not rare. This incident scenario is most common to transit buses making left turns (see “The Danger Deterrent,” National Bus Trader, April 2016)  But it happens occasionally with almost every transportation mode. Yet the defenses almost always cited by the drivers are no match for someone with a high school diploma. Pencils and Erasers A driver or motorist requires some time to recognize that something bad is about to happen. Most drivers or motorists need roughly ¾ of a second to recognize this. It then

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