How Cleveland Prevents BRT Bus Mirrors From Clobbering Customers

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It’s also possible to be struck by a bus mirror while waiting for the HealthLine but, thanks to an audible warning, it never happens. Photo: GCRTA

As I wrote this morning, the CTA is currently requiring bus operators to drive no faster than 3 mph when passing by the long, raised Loop Link bus rapid transit platforms. This is to ensure that the buses’ rearview mirrors don’t strike customers who are standing too close to the platform edge. Unfortunately, this has been a big factor in why bus speeds along the corridor, which opened on Sunday, have so far shown little or no improvement over the old 3 mph rush-hour average.

It turns out that the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority had to deal with the same mirror issue when they launched that city’s HealthLine BRT system back in 2008. Mike Schipper, a deputy general manager at GCRTA who was responsible for implementing the route, visited Chicago a few weeks ago, and he said the Loop Link layout has a lot of similarities to Cleveland’s.

“It’s also physically possible to be hit by a [bus] mirror if you’re standing at the edge of the platform in Cleveland,” Schipper said. “I’m tall, so I’m particularly aware of that.” Like Loop Link, the HealthLine platforms have a tactile area by the edge. 

However HealthLine bus operators don’t have restrictions on how fast they can drive past or to the BRT platforms. Rather than slow to sub-walking speeds like their CTA counterparts, they sound a loud electric gong as they pull up to drop off and pick up passengers, according to Schipper. The noise is similar to that heard on a CTA ‘L’ train cars before the doors close.

Schipper said this strategy has been very successful in getting the attention of HealthLine customers, even if they’re wearing earbuds. In the seven years the HealthLine has operated, there have been zero cases of passengers being injured by bus mirrors, he said.

It doesn’t appear that the CTA is currently considering this tactic as an alternative to having drivers slow down to a glacial pace by the platforms, although spokeswoman Tammy Chase implied yesterday that the 3 mph speed limit will eventually be raised.

Today when I asked about the possibility of using a audible warning, CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman reiterated that the agency is looking at ways to educate customers about the importance of staying away from the Loop Link platform edge. He added that BRT operations will improve as all road users become familiar with the corridor.

Schipper said Chicagoans shouldn’t get discouraged by the current sluggish Loop Link speeds. He noted that there was also a learning curve when Cleveland launched its system, and new HealthLink bus operators always drive much slower than veterans while they’re getting used to navigating the corridor. “When you start these new things, there’s always a shakeout period,” he said.

Read more about Chicago’s Loop Link mirror issue here.

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  • JacobEPeters

    This is why I love the investigating you guys do on this site.

  • Chicagoan

    We need a gong, one so loud that even the idiots blaring Lamb of God (or whatever) will hear it. I can’t even imagine how much time they’d shave off if they could eliminate the 3 MPH approaching speed and got pre-paid boarding.

    It’d cut the time in half, I bet.

  • Cars in the red need to get a bus horn every time even if they can’t move. It’s an irritant for them that eventually will sink in and make them think twice before entering the red. It also serves as a warning for those not in the red to not fall afoul of the red or they too will get a horn.

  • Chicagoan

    It’s a ticketable offense, right? The police should just start ticketing people. Give them a week to learn the ropes, and then they need to start setting a precedent that it’s a poor decision to go into the red.

  • BlueFairlane

    The preponderance of horns in this city has effectively shown me that horns are useless. People don’t care about a horn. They care about tickets.

  • Jin Nam

    A gong-like sound would lend a sense of officialness (?) to the bus arrival at the fancy platforms, not just decrease head lopping potential.

  • BlueFairlane

    Judging by the picture above and other pictures on the internet, the Health Line also has different station design that makes it difficult for people to line the curb. I think we’re going to need rails to keep people back.

  • A bus horn immediately behind you you notice believe me. Yes tickets too but everything needs to be done to reinforce the no cars in red culture.

  • Bike cops with handheld ticket cameras.

  • BlueFairlane

    Sure, you notice. You just don’t care.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    The CTA could even host a ’70s-style variety show on one of the platforms. Contestants would sing their rendition of “Feelings” until one of the buses shows up and sounds the gong, and then they’d have to stop.

  • You say you don’t care. But you fume and rage inside at being honked at. You want to honk back and give the finger. All of it goes into a sub-concious desire to avoid getting the situation again.

  • J.B.

    My big idea for the day was thinking they could put up a few warning signs in the “danger zone”, then on top of those a few of those “bendy” sticks that could intentionally whap the mirrors as the bus pulls in and then bend back into place. This would give a sound to get people’s attention, and a visual of what will happen if they don’t look out. Hopefully it’d also be cheap to build.

  • BlueFairlane

    No, I really don’t. It happens so often, it’s all just background noise.

    Know who would fume and rage inside about a bunch of buses honking their horns constantly in the Loop? People trying to enjoy a nice walk downtown, and people trying to work in the offices above.

  • david vartanoff

    Hmmm… No one at CTA checked out the Cleveland setup while planning??? So, add the gongs, and the missing glazing.

  • what_eva

    Even at 40 I’m too young to have seen the originals (went off the air in 1980), but I’ve seen reruns and there was a brief revival in 2008.

  • neroden

    So add the gongs. And also signs saying “DO NOT STAND BEYOND YELLOW LINE” (you know, and a yellow line at the edge of the grey tactile paving section).

    This could be done in a couple of weeks.

  • neroden

    Ditto. It’s good that you go in depth.