March 2, 2014 in City

TriMet testing ‘talking buses’ in Portland

Joseph Rose Oregonian

PORTLAND – Hoping to wake up the growing number of pedestrians distracted by smartphones and other electronic devices on the street, TriMet will give “talking buses” another try on five bus lines starting Monday.

Currently, audible pedestrian warning systems are used by just a handful of U.S. transit agencies, but bus drivers across the country are increasingly complaining about near misses with distracted walkers glued to their gadgets, TriMet officials said.

With the help of a $400,000 grant, the Federal Transit Administration has decided to use the Portland area as a test market for four emerging pedestrian-alert technologies.

“Very little is known about the effectiveness of these pedestrian warning systems and this lack of knowledge prompted the FTA to sponsor TriMet’s demonstration project,” said Harry Saporta, TriMet executive director of safety and security, in a statement.

During a demonstration at the Gateway Transit Center on Saturday morning, TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said TriMet will be working with the FTA to test the new warning systems and provide information for other U.S. transit agencies interested in the technology.

The agency will now test three onboard warning technologies:

• Dinex Star LED headlight with Pedestrian Crossing Alert

• Protran Technology Safe Turn Alert

• Clever Devices Turn Warning System

The Dinex Star headlight has “an intelligent system that calculates the bus’ speed and steering wheel angle.” It is designed to automatically turn on additional “super bright LED lights” inside the headlight pointed in the direction of travel, TriMet said.

Operators should also have a better view of the road ahead at night, and the headlight has built-in sound and light alert systems during turns.

Both the Safe Turn Alert and the Turn Warning System have audible warnings through external speakers on both sides of the bus, firing when a driver turns the steering wheel.

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