RVA Pulse Points: Are Faster Buses More Dangerous?

Richmond’s GRTC Pulse, the long-awaited 7.6 mile rapid transit bus system, is scheduled for launch on June 24, 2018. The new system is designed to increase efficiency of buses while having a minimal impact on the flow of automotive traffic along its east-west travel route. However, one design characteristic implemented for bus efficiency may have hidden dangers for passengers and pedestrians.

GRTC Pulse

Faster is Not Always Better

According to the GRTC, its Pulse system will increase bus speeds by approximately 65%. While this increase in speed will benefit many commuters by providing travel times similar to driving your own car, it is a cause for concern for many who hope to use the new system as well as those living and walking along its route.

A study from Accident Analysis & Prevention concluded that buses operating at higher speeds are much more likely to contribute to the injury of passengers who are elderly or who have challenges with mobility. The force of acceleration to normal operating speed for a rapid-transit bus and its subsequent deceleration for transit stops are energetic enough to cause falls for standing passengers and those who are unable to firmly grip safety rails.

Lower Speeds and Lower Fatalities

While public transportation is regarded as one of the safest transportation methods available, it still has its flaws. A research project conducted over a six year period by Buses Involved in Fatal Accidents (BIFA) revealed that more than 63,000 buses in the U.S. were involved in traffic accidents that resulted in 14,000 injuries and 325 fatalities each year.

A closer examination of the factors that contributed to bus accident injuries and fatalities found that crashes with injuries occurred more often at higher speeds and during off-peak travel times. Heavy traffic during peak times was actually found to help reduce the number of injuries in bus-involved collisions by reducing travel speed.

Drivers of fast-moving buses, just like the drivers of cars at higher speeds, have less reaction time to avoid unexpected hazards like non-yielding vehicles or jaywalking pedestrians. However, unlike with cars, a bus driver also has to factor in the mass and the lack of maneuverability that affect his vehicle’s momentum.

Slower speeds can allow a greater opportunity to stop quickly in the event of an emergency, resulting in fewer injuries and deaths.

What You Can Do to Improve Your Safety

A few simple precautions can help you ride the Pulse more safely:

  • Upon boarding, find a seat or a standing position near a secure handhold as quickly as possible. You want to be sure you are braced for acceleration before the bus leaves the transit stop.
  • Reserve open seats and accessible spaces for wheelchairs near the front of the bus for elderly passengers and those with mobility concerns.
  • Keep all backpacks, packages, and purses secure during your ride. Don’t leave bags or packages on seats or unsecured on the floor where they may shift or fall and cause an injury to others during acceleration or sudden deceleration.
  • Always use the handrails and seat bars to stabilize yourself while the bus is in motion. If the driver has to make a sudden or defensive maneuver, you’ll be less likely to fall or strike the seat in front of you.

Other Pulse Safety Precautions

In order to raise community awareness of the changes we all need to make to help the GRTC Pulse launch safely and successfully, Allen & Allen has initiated a campaign to share tips for bus riders, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians throughout May and June, 2018.

Be sure to check our blog every Monday for new and informative articles that can help you stay safe and improve the quality of your commute when sharing the road with Pulse. If you have specific questions or safety concerns, please let us know! Reach out to us on Twitter at @allenandallen for answers, quick tips and helpful infographics. Share your own recommendations for Pulse safety with us by using the hashtag #RVAPulsePoints.