Audible turn signals among numerous enhancements on 15 new transit buses
Today’s proliferation of smart phones doesn’t just lead to distracted driving. Pedestrians often are texting, listening to music or watching the latest cat video on their phone instead of paying attention to surrounding traffic. Omnitrans is making an extra effort to get their attention by incorporating audible turn signals in 15 new buses going into service this month. (View: Talking Bus Video )
The caution announcement, given in English and Spanish, is triggered automatically when the driver turns the steering wheel. Omnitrans will evaluate the effectiveness of the new safety feature before considering a retrofit of the rest of its 177 bus fleet.
Triple Bike Racks
In response to customer requests, the new buses are equipped with front-mounted bicycle racks that hold three bikes at a time. This brings the number of 40-foot buses with triple bicycle racks up to 37 while the remaining buses have racks that hold two bicycles. All buses on Omnitrans two freeway express routes offer 3-bike racks. The sbX 60-foot rapid transit buses accommodate up to four bicycles inside the vehicle. Omnitrans carries about 350,000 bicycles every year.
After getting positive marks for new generation wheelchair securement devices used on the agency’s sbX bus rapid transit line, Omnitrans will phase them into the rest of the fleet. New buses have one rear-facing securement and one forward-facing securement. The rear-facing system gives passengers with wheelchairs more independence. They can back their mobility device into the area, pull the arm down and set the brake, without assistance from the operator. This also helps reduce dwell time at bus stops.
The new-style forward facing wheelchair securement allows the coach operator to more easily secure mobility devices with minimal reaching and bending. Passengers then click together a lap belt to secure themselves to the mobility device. Omnitrans buses transport about 120,000 customers with wheelchairs each year.
The new buses also offer improved diagnostics for maintenance. “It’s this kind of technology that our guys in the shop are excited about,” says Maintenance Director Jack Dooley. “These buses have an extensive health monitoring system. If there are any problems with the transmission, engine, brakes, air-conditioning or on-board computer, we’ll be able to communicate with that bus in real time.
“If we receive a call that a vehicle has broken down, we will be able to tell what engine code came up, what the temperatures and pressures were. We can even look back further and see what was going on with the vehicle just before the
problem occurred. This allows us to anticipate potential problems before they happen,” said Dooley. The result is fewer road calls and less down time for buses.
Additionally, the new buses include Euro style side view mirrors that hang from the top instead of coming up from the bottom, which helps to alleviate blind spots. The sunroof was eliminated to reduce solar heat gain. A light added over the fare box automatically illuminates at night when passengers board, for better safety and visibility. Operator seat belts offer three-point securement instead of just a lap belt.
The 15 new buses, manufactured by New Flyer of America, Inc. will replace three 35-foot 2003 model year coaches and 12 40-foot model year 2001 and 2001 coaches. All are powered by compressed natural gas.