The MTA is testing two new technologies on city buses that could help keep bus drivers, riders and pedestrians safe.
The transit agency is currently in a 60-day test of two systems —a pedestrian turn warning system that audibly warns pedestrians that a bus is turning, and a smart sensor technology that flashes to alert drivers to movement on the front and sides of the bus.
The turn-warnings are currently on four buses — two in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens. The driver-alert system is on two buses out of Brooklyn.
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The results of the 60-day test could turn into a pilot program on 200 buses in 2016, according to the MTA. The estimated cost of installing the technology on the total bus fleet is $20 million for the turn warning and $57 million for the driver alerts.
“Unfortunately, the world has gotten more automated and with that automation you’ve got a lot more distractions,” said Stephen Vidal, VP of transportation safety and training. “We’ve done an awful lot on training on our drivers on the hazards of being distracted while driving, and we can’t train the pedestrians … people are on their phone, they’re reading or typing a text message or email, and we’re hoping this will give us an additional advantage of controlling that environment.”
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“We like this technology, we’re in the early stages and I think everyone is trying to figure out how pedestrian alerts can further Vision Zero,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
But White said that placing the blame on pedestrians for their own “demise” is “reprehensible” and unfair to New Yorkers on foot, and the families of pedestrians killed in crashes.
White said MTA drivers killed nine pedestrians in crosswalks last year, and eight of those pedestrians had the right-of-way.
“So far this year zero pedestrians have been struck in the crosswalk [by MTA drivers],” White said. “While there is room for technology to advance safety, what seems to be working now is drivers knowing how to yield to pedestrians.”