Bus Stop Selection and Positioning

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Certain types of bus services, such as fixed route transit and school buses, employ “designated stops.” Particularly when schedules are too tight and stops lay on one side of a signalized intersection, drivers either “caught in the light” or who “make the light” do not wish to stop twice, and simply discharge passengers on the side at which they are stopped by the traffic signal — often onto surfaces like cracked curbs, freshly-poured cement, snow banks, or into trenches at construction zones.

Bus Stop Selection and Positioning 04

Otherwise, many designated stops are poorly selected, while on those modes without designated stops, drivers often make poor choices — including selecting stops that force passengers to cross at un-signalized intersections, particularly at poorly-illuminated, mid-block positions in the dark. Terrain, illumination, surface condition, accessibility and similar factors all affect a stop’s safety and security. Otherwise, at large facilities, the appropriate entrance to board or alight passengers is not always known to drivers, and they fail to contact dispatchers for clarification.

Even when stop locations are clear and their conditions are safe, drivers do not always position their vehicles properly with respect to the stops. Not pulling to the curb (compounded by failing to kneel the bus) is a common problem for large vehicles, particularly where curb areas are blocked by parked cars. One common error is “nosing in” — positioning the bus on an angle. This positioning places the area directly below the rear door several feet from the curb, in the “gray zone,” where the alighting passenger is tempted to reach for or leap to the curb, or otherwise must step down into the gutter (most transit buses are not configured to “kneel” at the rear door). Further, when a vehicle “noses in,” its “tail” sticks out and blocks the driver’s view, through the street-side, rear-view mirrors, of vehicles approaching behind it, and compromises a safe pull-out, often resulting in a rear-ending (or forcing an approaching vehicle or bicycle to suddenly change lanes — sometimes into lanes in the oncoming direction).

One unsettling development is the increasing selection of bus stops performed by routing and scheduling software — particularly for school bus stops. The fact that I have served as an expert in more than 60 crossing-related incidents largely reflects the fact that no live Earthling ever selected or evaluated many of these stops. The school bus industry — which misleads our entire population about the volume of crossing-related incidents — executes crossing at virtually the crayon level (one reason for the several years of my monthly 5th-grade-reading-level articles on the subject in School Transportation News). Among other near-universal practices, the school bus community makes no distinction between the bus stop and the “waiting area” across the street from it — and often instructs students to cross to the stop before the bus, with its crossing devices, arrives — effectively the principal justification for school buses in the first place (apart from the 52,800 non-family abductions that occur in this country each year). Similarly, almost no driver’s schedule bothers to notate which of the students needs to cross to or from the bus — a seemingly important piece of information, particularly for a substitute driver.