Question: What is the difference between a poorly-selected and -designed bus stop and a land mine? Answer: Very little. When you step on either of them, your ankles, knees and hips are likely to explode. The genuine difference is that the carnage from land mines is intentional, whereas that of poorly-selected and -designed bus stops usually reflects incompetence and, often, indifference.
In past articles, I have described stops that became dangerous because of errors and omissions created by bus or coach drivers - as, for example, when a driver "makes the light," ignores his or her near-side stop, and discharges passengers on the far side of the intersection. Similarly, drivers "caught in the light" and not wanting to stop twice at the same intersection, discharge their passengers on the near side - sometimes informing them that they "better get off here because I'm not stopping in this intersection again." I have written about failures to position the bus or coach properly (see "Controlling the Gray Zone" in July, 2008, NBT, "Parking on the Hillside" in June, 2003, NBT, "Precision and Virtuosity" in March, 2008, NBT, and "Repositioning and Regret" in August, 2008, NBT). I have explored cases where drivers have deliberately maimed their passengers (see "Smiting the Passengers" in May, 2005, NBT). And I have discussed dangerous stops created when drivers were simply lazy or thoughtless (see "Clearing the Mirrors" in March, 2006, NBT).
One characteristic of these incidents is that their stops were rendered dangerous largely by driver errors and omissions, and the underlying factors that typically induce them. Many or most of these errors and omissions are really symptoms rather than problems --.the core problems being either the lack of running and recovery time in the schedules (see "Running Time and Cycle Time" in November, 2004, NBTand "The Mysterious Force in November, 2005, NBT), and/or the fact that the stops were selected by software programs instead of live human beings (see "The Price of Digital Madness" in August, 2001, NBT, and "Evaluating Bus Stops" in May, 2007, School Transportation News).
There is another class of bus stop deficiencies that lay apart from those alluded to above - stops that are deficient statically - simply the result of the nature of their design or concern (or lack of concern) for it:
There seems to be almost no end to the variation of stupidly- and recklessly-designed bus stops - including some involving motorcoaches (although none of the examples above included any of these) where there is nothing that either the drivers or passengers can do to mitigate the risks faced by the latter in boarding, alighting or crossing to or from them. Admittedly, every choice of a bus stop involves some sort of tradeoff. These considerations were systematically identified, explored and organized in a superb 1996 publication by the Transportation Research Board titled TCRP Report #19: Guidelines for the Location and Design of Bus Stops. To my surprise in one case where I served as the plaintiff's expert, the defendant actually cited this document as one that its planners relied upon for stop selection guidance. Otherwise, the awareness of this document or others like it seems almost non-existent among stop selection personnel in virtually every sector of the industry.
In our often frantic modern lives, particularly in a collapsing economy where cuts in our already-thin management staffs are increasing, we cannot seem to find the time to do the litany of things necessary to keep our passengers safe. But when choices must be made, it is evident that common sense and digital paraphernalia do not suffice for bus stop selection.
It is also a shame that reading has become one of the functions squeezed out by these dynamics. This is because a knowledge of certain principles, and a familiarization with key documents, are essential to the consistent making of safe choices. The price of our failure to make time for such enlightenment is the killing and mutilation of our passengers, pedestrians and fellow-motorists. Constantly examining the consequences of these failures, I cannot begin to describe how sick I am of seeing bus and motorcoach passengers referred to, in operating manuals, as "our most precious cargo."
Ned Einstein is the President of Transportation Alternatives, a passenger transportation and automotive consortium engaged in consulting and forensic accident investigation and analysis (more than 350 cases). Specializes in elderly, disabled, schoolchildren. Mr. Einstein has been qualified as an Expert Witness in accident analysis, testimony and mediation in vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving transit, paratransit, schoolbus, motorcoach, special education, non-emergency medical transportation, taxi, shuttle, child transport systems and services...
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