MTA experiments with new tech to prevent bus crashes

Thomas Peracchio
The MTA is taking steps to reduce the number of crashes caused by buses.

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero traffic safety initiative, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has begun a 60-day pilot program testing new safety technology on buses.

Two systems will be deployed on six buses. The first is designed for pedestrians. Buses are outfitted with speakers which warn of turns at intersections. If fully implemented, the Clever Devices arrangement is projected to cost approximately $20 million.

The second system is a series of sensors installed around the vehicle that relays potential collision alerts to the driver. Manufactured by Mobileye and Rosco Vision Systems, the system would cost $57 million over the entire fleet.

Several NYU students agree with these measures. Stern freshman Liam Kelly said he supports the programs because of the difficulty of bus driving.

“I think bus drivers have a lot of trouble actually seeing where the people are,” Kelly said. “The blind spots are huge and pedestrians aren’t always where they’re supposed to be. I think that if speakers were used, pedestrians and cyclists would be more likely to obey the law too.”

The MTA’s technology deployment comes at a high profile time for the City’s buses. On May 23, 2014, the New York City Council passed the right of way law, which makes it a criminal misdemeanor to kill or injure a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. Previously, the charge was often little more than a traffic violation.

This summer, however, the New York State Senate passed a bill providing omnibus drivers with an exception to the law. Supported by the Transport Workers Union 100, the bill would negate much of the right of way law.

Currently, the organization Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit working to get few cars on the road, is petitioning New York State Assembly Member to stop the bill.

According to the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan released last year, pedestrians make up 56% of traffic fatalities in NYC. Commercial vehicles, buses, taxis and trucks account for 20% of crashes in which pedestrians are severely injured or killed.

Yesterday, an NYU bus struck a woman as she crossed the intersection of Third Avenue and 10th Street. While the identity of the woman is unknown, she had the right of way according to witnesses. The right of way law might not have been able to prevent the collision, but it will make sure that the driver will face consequences.

For now, though, NYU spokesperson Matt Nagel said the university is focused on the injured woman and not the politics of moving violations.

“Our primary concern is the health of the pedestrian involved in the accident,” Nagel said. “NYU officials are aware of the situation and cooperating fully with the NYPD.”

Stern freshman Aditya Mehra, who takes the same route as that of the aforementioned NYU bus, said he thinks the new MTA programs are a step in the right direction.

“I take Route F coming back from classes, and I definitely believe buses could use more safety features,” Mehra said. “Drivers are too aggressive at turns, and bikers and pedestrians are often at risk”.

Email Thomas Peracchio at [email protected]

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