Tag Archives: omnitrans bus safety

New Omnitrans Buses Talk to Pedestrians

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 )

Omnitrans' new buses talk to pedestrians in English and Spanish

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.

Triple bike racks will be installed on all new buses.

Triple bike racks will be installed on all new buses.

Wheelchair Securement
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.

RearFacingWCsbX

Vehicle Diagnostics
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 mirrorspots.  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.

Omnitrans welcomes 15 new additions to its fleet

Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with the latest New Flyer  bus to be added to the Omnitrans Fleet.

Maintenance Director Jack Dooley

Last week, Omnitrans got its first look at one of its next generation of fifteen New Flyer buses that will be added to the fleet over the next two months. These vehicles are customized with new features and state of the art technology that will enhance passenger and operator safety and reduce down time due to mechanical failure. Because these buses also come fully painted, the need for a bus wrap is eliminated. This means they can be put into service almost immediately.

All of the new buses will come equipped with triple bike racks to better meet the needs of our multi-modal passengers.

The bus also features a new brake monitoring system, which offers an additional layer of safety. Currently, we schedule buses for bi-weekly brake inspections. With the new monitoring system, we will know immediately if the brakes are out of adjustment, or if there is a problem that needs attention.

“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, air-conditioning or on-board computer, we’ll be able to communicate with that bus in real time. We’ll have software on our shop computers that will allow us to actually track what is happening.

“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. For instance, if I see that a particular issue occurred before an engine failure, I can set up parameters on the computer to notify me when that same issue occurs in the future. This way we can look at it, diagnose it, and try to prevent a major problem before it happens.”

One of the new 1300 series New Flyer buses

One of the new 1300 series New Flyer buses

The new buses will also be better equipped for quick diagnosis, Jack points out. “There is an LCD screen on the dash that allows us to easily access the engine, the transmission, the air conditioning—the entire computer system—without hooking up a laptop. The screen is smaller than a typical cell phone, but it will still allow mechanics to go through the codes and pull up diagnostics on the spot. This is a huge benefit, because we have a limited number of laptops available. If one of them is not working or they are all in use, one may not be one immediately available when it’s needed. This will allow us to speed things up and have fewer breakdowns on the road.”

Additionally, the new buses will eliminate a common problem resulting in road calls.

Jack explains. “We’ve made a change to heating and air conditioning system, specifically the defrosting area.  Sometimes operators turn off the fan but forget to shut off the heat valve, which circulates hot water to the front. Then later the bus would come in because the AC wasn’t working due to it being so hot in the front. Now the water will only circulate if the fan is on. This is another way we will lessen road calls and bus exchanges.”

Omnitrans Operations Director Diane Caldera (left) and Trainer Christina Diaz  with the rear-facing wheelchair securement

Operations Director Diane Caldera and Trainer Christina Diaz with the rear-facing wheelchair securement

Additional safety measures are also in place for our passengers with mobility devices. Each new bus will now have one rear-facing securement and one forward-facing Q-Pod securement, like those on our sbX vehicles.

The rear-facing system gives passengers with wheelchairs more independence. They back themselves into the area, pull the arm down and set their own brake on the mobility device without the need of the operator.  It also helps reduce dwell time.

The forward facing wheelchair securement has a three point safety belt, something none of the other buses have. When the mobility device is in place but still rolled slightly forward, the coach operator will press a lever to the side of the forward-facing securement that controls the bottom harness. The lever has a 15 second delay that allows the coach operator to easily reach back and hook both straps of the mobility device onto the harness at the same time. The harness then retracts, pulling the mobility device securely against the back wall. This also prevents the coach operators from having to squeeze into a very tight space that could cause potential injury.

The forward facing wheelchair securement area

The forward facing wheelchair securement area

The third securement harness is in front, and is hooked to the inside of the mobility device. Once tightened, it pulls up against the side of the bus. This ensures the mobility device will not tip over because it is snugly attached to both the back and side of the bus. This is especially important with scooters, which have limited or no securement areas for the operator to latch onto.

Finally, the passenger will click together the lap belt to secure themselves to the mobility device. This way, should the operator have to make a hard stop for any reason, the person will remain safely attached to the mobility device.

Coach operators will also see changes in the front area of the bus. The driver seat now features an orange, three point safety belt. The belt is equipped with an alarm that goes off if the operator is not wearing it.

Triple bike racks will be installed on all new buses.

Maintenance Manager Oscar Tostado demonstrates the triple bike rack

Another important safety feature on the new buses are the audible turn signals on the outside of the bus. A voice will warn pedestrians “Caution. This bus is turning left” or “Caution. This bus is turning right.”

“I’m very excited about the audible turn signals,” says Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera.  “I’ve been doing research on it. It’s a new technology, but transit agencies who have installed them are seeing good results so far. We always want to be proactive in our safety measures.

“We’re incorporating the audible turn signals as a way to heighten awareness among pedestrians. It’s very easy for people to be distracted because they are busy talking on a cell phone or texting a message. You’ll see them walking with their heads down, sometimes even tripping because they’re not paying attention.  Or they might be listening to music with ear-buds, not fully aware of their surroundings. The main purpose of the audible turn signals is to grab their attention and keep them safe.”

The new buses will have Euro style mirrors that hang from the top of the bus.

The new buses will have Euro style mirrors that hang from the top of the bus.

We have also added a special feature which allows the bus to be more accessible to our law enforcement partners in the event of an emergency situation.

Side view mirrors on the bus have been changed to a Euro style. They now hang from the top instead of coming up from the bottom, which helps to alleviate blind spots. The Mobile Data Terminal,  which is part of the radio system, now sits on the left side of the dash.

The cameras, radio system, and automatic passenger counters come fully installed, which is something the agency has never done before. Previously we handled the installations ourselves, taking the equipment from and old bus and installing it into the new. Because of the immense preparations needed, buses were held back from service for longer periods of time.

The sunroof has been eliminated due to excessive heat from the sun, and a light has been installed over the fare box. At night, when the headlights are on and the operator opens the door, the light will automatically illuminate that area for better visibility.

Omnitrans is proud to usher in this latest addition to our fleet, which underscores our commitment to safety and service. With these solutions, we will be retiring our remaining 500 series coaches as well as a few of the 2001 New Flyer buses. Some will also be added to our contingency fleet.

The new 1300 series New Flyer buses will be based at the Omnitrans East Valley facility in San Bernardino.

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Omnitrans Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with CEO P. Scott Graham (seated)

Omnitrans Maintenance Director Jack Dooley with CEO P. Scott Graham (seated)

Omnitrans places 10th in International Bus Roadeo

On the APTA International Roadeo obstacle course

The annual APTA International Bus Roadeo took place May 3-7 this year in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sixty transit agencies from across North America participated in this prestigious competition designed to test the skills of both bus operators and mechanics. Awards are given in each area, and there is an overall grand prize for the transit system with the highest combined score for the bus operator and bus maintenance team. 

Coach Operator Ricardo Alvarez

Our maintenance team, Archie Rockwell, Phillip Sanchez and Alex Hernandez earned 6th place in the competition. Coach operator and 14-year veteran Ricardo Alvarez placed 23rd. The combined maintenance team and bus operator scores earned Omnitrans an impressive 10th place overall ranking.

“I am very proud of our team,” said Omnitrans CEO, Milo Victoria. “The competition is fierce, so for us to have placed in the top ten is a real accomplishment. What a great example of our team’s top skills and dedication to excellence!”

Front to back: Archie Rockwell, Alex Hernandez & Phil Sanchez

“The top ten winners truly are the cream of the crop in our industry,” said Omnitrans maintenance supervisor and APTA Roadeo judge Vicki Chesney. “The competition can be especially challenging because standards and vehicles tend to vary between agencies. For example, in this year’s competition we used 42-foot deisel buses supplied by the host agency, IndyGo. Here at Omnitrans, our guys are used to 40-foot CNG buses. They really have to prepare and be on top of their game for this event.”

In the Bus Operator Roadeo, judges scored competitors on the safe, smooth and efficient navigation of a challenging obstacle course which included serpentine turns, rear duals clearance, a left and a right hand reverse, diminishing clearance, customer stops and more. Drivers also had to pass written test and complete a timed pre-trip inspection by finding 8 equipment-related defects and 1 security hazard that had been planted on and in the bus within 7 minutes.

The Maintenance Competition event  included a written test, a Fraser Gauge Vehicle Inspection, an Allison Transmission/Cummins/EMP Power Train Event, an AxleTech/Bendix Air Brake System (ABS) Event, a Cummins/Voith Power Train Event, a Thermo King HVAC IntelligAIRE Event, a MCI Multiplex Module and aVapor Door Systems Exhibition Event.

 

2o13 APTA INTERNATIONAL ROADEO WINNERS

Grand Champion Award – Highest combined scores of bus operator and maintenance team

  • Winner – Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

40-foot Bus Competition

  • 1st Place – Paul Kilmesh of Ames Transit Agency (Ames, IA)
  • 2nd Place – Daniel R. Schmidt of Ben Franklin Transit (Richland, WA)
  • 3rd Place – Zenon Rinylo of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia, PA)

Maintenance Competition

  • 1st Place – Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
  • 2nd Place – Orange County Transportation Authority
  • 3rd Place – Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans to install 100 new solar lights at bus stops

Omnitrans has purchased 100 solar light fixtures to install at selected bus stops throughout its service area.

The lighting fixture attaches to the top of an individual bus stop pole and illuminates an area of about 6 feet around the base.  No push button activation is required.  It comes on automatically at dusk and turns off in 6 hours.  Each day it recalibrates itself to turn back on about 2 hours before sunrise.

If you know of a particular stop where lighting is need, please let us know by posting the location and stop number in the comments below.