For those of you who, unlike myself, spend 100% of your professional life in the school bus community, you may be unaware of the emergence of crossover mirrors and compartmentalized seating in the transit and motorcoach industries, respectively. But emerge they have. Frankly, more primitive versions of both technologies have been around for awhile. But the newest versions of both technologies are far superior, and their increased usage is likely to spread far more rapidly, particularly in our litigious society.
Superior Innovation, Spreading Ideas
Our community has known for decades of those features of our vehicles that are genuinely superior to those of any others. The two features noted above are significant examples, and one of them justifies our existence as a crossing bus. I have publically, in presentation, magazine articles and technical papers, strongly advocated for the installation of both technologies on other types of vehicles for decades. And while I would be naÃ¯ve and pompous to take too much of the credit for it, greatly–improved variations of both of these technologies are beginning to show up increasingly on other modes: Two years ago saw the introduction of a truly–integrated, high–back motorcoach seat with three–point seatbelts embedded into it. And at a recent transit industry trade show, I examined Rosco’s new crossover mirror (mounted adjacent to the exterior rear–view mirrors) designed for the transit market.
What is unfortunate is that many members of the pupil transportation community actually resent the spread of such technology to other modes. This resentment presumably reflects a fear that such inclusion will weaken our "safety edge," and possibly justify a "mode–split" of many current school bus passengers to other types of service. I actually understand this sensibility. And to some degree, it is justified: School buses obviously contain many other safety features, and schoolchildren riding on other types of vehicles would be deprived of them. Among them are, importantly, a school bus’ conspicuity, and its crossing devices â which I argued in four previous STN articles in this series should be enhanced by actually expanding them to "12–way systems."
It is obvious that a significant number of schoolchildren are already traveling to and from school on other modes. Realistically, we cannot reverse this trend, and worse, the economics of our nation’s obvious decline are likely to increase this modeâsplit, with little we can do about it other than whine or lament. Given the extraordinary superiority of those safety features which remain unique to school buses, I myself do not think the introduction of two of these technologies to, or even their widespread acceptance by, other modes will significantly effect a mode split of school bus passengers to other types of services. Of course, other forces may do so, and like it or not, economic realities may hasten this trend. This is not terribly significant for high school students, since they are developed, in age, to a point where they can safely cross most streets and safely negotiate most intersections (whereas children below age 13, and particularly below age 10, clearly cannot). But when I and several other members of our community tried to draw a line in the sand on this issue for elementary and middle school students, 37 states’ delegates to the thenâknownâas National Conference on School Transportation refused to permit the 1995 Conference’s Transit Use Committee even present its agenda. The agenda for the Year 2000 Conference’s version of this committee, The NonâSchool bus Use Committee, was squashed into a halfâpage of drivel. These shortâsighted responses prevented us from emphasizing how critical the need for school bus service really is for those schoolchildren below an age where they can safely cross streets, and effectively eliminated what might have become an important institutional tool to prevent their being deprived of it.
Since the dynamics of mode split lie almost completely beyond our control, the question of whether or not we should encourage the sharing of our vehicles’ superior safety features with other modes essentially becomes a moral issue. Frankly, if we really care about the safety of our passengers, we would want every vehicle on the road to resemble ours as much as possible. In contrast, if we care more about simply "protecting our turf," we would not. Where each of us stands on this issue does much to define not only who we really are, but what we really care about. Frankly, if we really "bleed yellow," we should favor sharing the elements of our superiority, rather than trying to keep them a secret â especially since they no longer are.