Saturday, November 27, 2010

Buses can talk

Courtesy WMATA
The throngs of pedestrians in Penn Quarter can be a challenge when you're driving.  During crowded times, they also cause traffic to back up down our two-lane downtown roads as cars wait for pedestrians to cross to be able to turn.

This can be especially challenging--and dangerous--for Metro Bus drivers.

WMATA is now piloting a program with talking buses.  You read right.

As the buses turn into an intersection, the bus sounds an audible alert to pedestrians in the area that says "Pedestrians, bus is turning."

The audible signals sense the noise around them and automatically adjust the volume.  So in a quiet neighborhood at night it won't be as loud as in Penn Quarter after a Caps game.

Don't worry - it also alerts the bus driver.  The audible alert inside the bus says "Caution, look both ways." 

“Accident and incident avoidance is the primary focus of our safety program,” said Jim Dougherty, WMATA Chief Safety Officer. “This warning device has proven to be effective in other cities at alerting pedestrians that a bus is approaching and reminding operators to be aware of their surroundings at intersections. Sometimes a little warning is all it takes to prevent a tragedy.” 

WMATA is starting the program with only 10 buses (will they be Penn Quarter buses?).  The alerts on currently on buses in Cleveland, and pilot programs are underway in Richmond, Toronto, and Nashville.

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