Boarding and Alighting

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Boarding and Alighting, hight to front running board
Boarding and Alighting angled bus steps

Mishaps during boarding and alighting are among the most common public transportation accident scenarios. They encompass a number of errors and omissions, the most common being the tightness of the vehicle’s schedule (as a result of which doors are prematurely closed on boarding or alighting passengers). Many incidents involve the failure of the driver to “kneel” the bus’ right-front corner when the bus and its entrance door are not pulled close to the curb — leaving the bottom step 14 inches above the ground — too high for many types of passengers to step up to or down from. Many boarding and alighting incidents involve passengers, such as walker users, who should not be boarded via the stepwell or regular entrance door at all, but rather, via the wheelchair lift platform. Drivers who fail to “clear their mirrors” also contribute to these incidents, an omission often compounded when they alight passengers at either non-designated stops or otherwise poor choices for stops. Further, when “sensitive edges,” interlocks or other door elements are poorly-maintained, drivers cannot control them properly, and doors close on passengers and cause them to fall out of the bus. Some drivers actually raise or lower the bus via its kneeling feature when passengers are still on the front stepwell, an unexpected movement that understandably throws passengers off balance.

Boarding and Alighting, bus door closed on foot

Many or most of these problems are compounded by poor handrails and other deficiencies in vehicle stepwell design, particularly with van- and minibus-conversions with high floors, no stepwells, poor handrails, and/or narrow or otherwise poorly-designed running boards substituted for genuine stepwells (see “Stepwell and Handrail Design”). And on those modes where it is the industry standard to do otherwise, many drivers do not physically assist passengers off the vehicle, and particularly with smaller vehicle “conversions,” fail to deploy purpose-built industry footstools.

Finally, in a surprising number of often serious incidents, drivers open the doors and allow the passengers to alight while the vehicle is still moving.

For more on this issue, please visit a featured article on our companion website, Safety Compromises