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Pedestrian Safety Guide for Transit Agencies

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Chapter 2: Approaches to Enhancing Pedestrian Safety and Access

This photo shows people boarding a bus.Transit agencies play an important role in improving the safety of pedestrians. Providing safe and comfortable routes to and from transit improves the passenger experience and helps transit agencies maximize ridership and customer satisfaction. This chapter presents policy and organizational approaches that transit agencies can use to help improve safety and access to transit for pedestrians.

The chapter is divided into two sections. The first section, “Take Internal Action,” describes actions that transit agencies can typically implement independently to improve pedestrian safety and access. The second section, “Develop Partnerships,” describes actions that typically require transit agencies to work in partnership with other organizations to improve pedestrian conditions for their customers. Case study examples are provided throughout the chapter to illustrate how agencies across the United States have successfully undertaken similar initiatives.

All transit customers are pedestrians for some part of their journey to the bus or train. Therefore, there should be safe pedestrian conditions in the areas surrounding transit access points.

A. Take Internal Action

Most transit agencies have the authority to independently implement a number of pedestrian safety initiatives. These actions include making organizational improvements and modifying services and facilities. Even with limited resources, transit agencies can take a number of actions to improve pedestrian safety and access. Other actions may require a commitment of resources that pose a challenge to some transit agencies.

1. Make Organizational Improvements

Transit agencies can make organizational changes that can have long-term positive effects on pedestrian safety and convenience. These actions include reviewing and updating internal policies and procedures, such as:

Screenshot of slide presentation: Cover Slide (left): Pedestrian/Bicycle Component, Spring, 2007 George Branyan & Jim Sebastian DDOT Bicycle & Prestrian Program. Second slide (right): If you see the city on foot or bike, you see motorist violations (picture 1: of pedestrians crossing while car stopped in crosswalk, photo 2: Car turning in front of bus). Third slide (center bottom): If you see the city through a windshield, you see pedestrian and cyclist violations (photo 1: pedestriain crossing on do not walk signal, photo 2: Pedestrain skateboarding in midde of street)

Pedestrian Safety Training for Transit Operators

The safety of passengers is a top priority for transit operators. Maintaining the safety of all pedestrians along transit routes is also important. Transit agencies should ensure that transit operators have received adequate safety training that acknowledges a variety of challenges, including:

The length, frequency, and content of operator training programs should be sufficient to provide in-depth information about pedestrian issues. Training program guidelines and resources are provided by:

2. Update Policies

Transit agencies can also improve pedestrian safety by updating internal policies. Policy actions that can be taken include:

3. Modify Services and Facilities

Transit agencies typically have the authority to modify their services and facilities. These types of changes have the potential to improve pedestrian safety and access.

Service improvements may include:

Facility modifications may include:

4. Identify Additional Resources

Limited resources are a common challenge for many transit agencies; transit providers frequently struggle to provide service and maintain their vehicles. Some of the internal actions suggested above require significant resources, so they can be difficult to enact. While there is no dedicated funding source for pedestrian safety improvements near transit stops at the federal level, there are many funding sources that can be leveraged by an agency in order to achieve these goals.

Some potential resources include:

B. Develop Partnerships

While transit agencies can make improvements for pedestrian access at the transit stop or station, they often need to work in partnership with other organizations to make pedestrian improvements in surrounding areas. Transit agencies can seek partnerships with the following groups:

Working with roadway owners to determine route locations, stop locations and passenger access facilities can yield the solution most appropriate for accommodating all modes of travel.

1. Local, Regional and State Agencies

It is important for transit agencies to coordinate with planning, highway, public safety, and public works departments on pedestrian issues. This coordination is important regardless of the transit agency’s organizational structure (e.g., separate authority or commission; department within a city, county, regional, or state government; subdivision of a larger department; or separate public or private corporation). Issues related to pedestrian safety near transit, such as sidewalk and pathway design, street crossings, and pedestrian separation from vehicular traffic— are typically the responsibility of other local and state agencies.

Transit operations occur on roads that are maintained and operated by various entities, and often cross through multiple jurisdictions. Typical roadway owners/operators may be state or county agencies, cities, towns or even private organizations (such as toll road operators, retail shopping centers, or homeowners associations). Transit service may have a significant impact on the number of pedestrians walking along the roadway as well as the vehicle capacity of the roadway. Conversely, pedestrian volumes and roadway operations can directly influence the ability of the transit agency to maintain reliable schedules. Working with roadway owners to determine route locations, stop locations and passenger access facilities can yield the solution most appropriate for accommodating all modes of travel.

Case Study: Mariner Park-and-Ride Pedestrian Safety Improvements
Community Transit, Snohomish County, Washington

Existing conditions at Mariner Park and Ride. Project scheduled for completion in 2009.It is often assumed that pedestrian safety is not an important consideration at Park-and-Ride facilities because transit users are typically arriving by car. However, proper facility design and management is important to ensuring the safety of pedestrians walking to the Park-and-Ride.

Several serious pedestrian and bicycle collisions occurred in the area of the Mariner Park-and-Ride facility in 2006 and 2007. There were no pedestrian shelters, a limited loading area, and difficult roadway crossings. To improve pedestrian safety and mobility in and around the Park-and-Ride facility, a partnership between Community Transit, Snohomish County, Washington, and Washington State DOT (WSDOT) was formed. The project received $700,000 in funding through WSDOT’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Grant Program.17

The project is scheduled for completion in 2009. It includes adding pedestrian signals, constructing curbs and ADA accessible ramps, realigning skewed Park-and-Ride entrances to provide more direct pedestrian crossings and slow turning vehicles, and adding new pedestrian lighting and signage. The project also has an education and encouragement component that will expand Community Transit’s ongoing efforts to promote pedestrian and bicycle safety. This includes a targeted pedestrian and bicycle safety media campaign using rider alerts, website information, newspaper outreach and other information outlets. Finally, the enforcement component of this project will provide funding to local law enforcement agencies to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety patrols at the Park-and-Ride facility and surrounding areas.

Contact: Paula Reeves, Community Design Assistance Branch Manager, (360) 705-7258, ReevesP@wsdot.wa.gov.

It is important to coordinate activities between the transit agency and the agency responsible for the roadway. Through regular dialogue, the local public works department or department of transportation may be able to incorporate specific improvements into their projects that could benefit pedestrian safety for transit customers including:

Coordination between transit agencies and local agencies can also ensure that adequate provisions are made for safe pedestrian access to transit during periods of roadway construction.

Actions that transit agencies can take to foster partnerships with local, regional and state transportation agencies to improve pedestrian safety and access include:

Example: Virginia Department of Transportation
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has a pedestrian coordinator who reviews all development projects to ensure the accessibility of pedestrian and bicycle facilities. VDOT conducts periodic workshop programs on pedestrian safe design for local government officials, contractors and consultants. By coordinating with VDOT staff, a local transit agency can establish an advocate in the development process who will encourage designers to account for pedestrian safety near transit.18

Case Study: Interagency Partnerships
Tri-Met, Portland, Oregon19

Tri-Met, the transit agency serving the Portland metropolitan area, has developed a coordinated plan for bus stop management that recommends developing intergovernmental agreements and memoranda of understanding with city, state and county departments and agencies. Tri-Met and the City of Portland now have such an agreement in place that aids in the siting and permitting of bus shelters and other transit facilities. Tri-Met also works with local jurisdictions to review major development plans and request improvements at or near bus stops. Furthermore, if the agency determines that sufficient ridership potential exists at a new site, they can request that the developer provide and maintain bus stop facilities.

The transit agency also developed an agreement with the City’s Project Planning Department and the Bureau of Maintenance. Success lies in clearly defining the role and responsibility of each person and agency. Tri-Met’s detailed recommendations regarding interdepartmental coordination can be found in the agency’s Bus Stop Guidelines 2002. The document outlines responsibilities related to bus stops for each department and position, such as:

Contact: Young Park, (503) 962-2138, parky@trimet.org.

2. Residents and Community Groups

Transit agencies can take advantage of relationships with citizens and community groups to improve pedestrian safety for their customers. Several strategies for enhancing these relationships are described in this section:

Work with Residents to Identify Pedestrian Issues

Positive relationships with community members enhance the public image of a transit agency. This can also help increase transit ridership and lead to increased funding.

Transit agencies can take advantage of partnerships with community groups to gather important information about pedestrian access issues and needs. Agencies can assess existing conditions for pedestrian safety near transit stops and stations by doing the following:

Positive relationships with community members enhance the public image of a transit agency.

Case Study: Community Pedestrian Safety Committee
Brookline, Massachusetts20

In October 1987, an elderly pedestrian was killed by an automobile while she was trying to access the Beacon Streetcar line in Brookline, Massachusetts. Immediately following the incident, community advocates worked with town officials to install a pedestrian signal at the site of the crash. However, many of the 12 other heavily-used surface stops in the corridor still had no pedestrian signals. By 1994, another seven people had been killed trying to access these surface stops. When activists again demanded action, they learned that Beacon Street was being redesigned by the state highway department. The highway department agreed to fund 90% of the replacement cost for the street’s old traffic lights contingent upon the town addressing the high pedestrian and automobile accident rate. The town created a 20 person committee comprised of residents, members of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Chamber of Commerce and the Transportation Board, a pedestrian safety advocate, and a planner from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA). The committee met bi-weekly to make recommendations on design aspects of the project. Key design features for safe access to the streetcar included:

By the end of the design process, the committee was able to get almost all recommendations implemented, balancing the needs of pedestrians, transit users, and vehicles.

Many of the improvements recommended by the committee were installed at stations in 2007. The pedestrian signals (many equipped with a countdown) and signal preemption system have improved pedestrian safety and transit operations. However, obstructed sightlines and inconsistent signalization can still make crossing the street to access the streetcar line challenging.

Contact: Dorthea Haas, WalkBoston, (617) 232-0104, dhaas@walkboston.org.

Case Study: Pilot Bus Stop Audit Program21
Boston, Massachusetts

WalkBoston, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving walking conditions in cities and towns across Massachusetts, launched a demonstration program, the Neighborhood Bus Stop Program, in Roxbury/Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1998. The program was designed to improve access to transit, walking conditions, lighting, street crossings, signage, bus stop amenities and landscaping with the ultimate goal of increasing bus ridership.

The Neighborhood Bus Stop Program included a comprehensive audit of bus stops in Roxbury/Dorchester and recommendations for improvements that would enhance pedestrian safety and increase ridership. WalkBoston presented results of the audit and potential improvement strategies to the transit agency to demonstrate program feasibility and cost effectiveness. Key lessons learned from this effort include:

Based in part on the efforts of WalkBoston, the project has grown into a system-wide program throughout the metropolitan Boston area. Over the past several years attractive glass shelters have been installed throughout the region, especially at stops in low-income and minority areas. Using an innovative public/private partnership, these bus stops are installed and maintained by a private firm that finances the effort through advertising sales.

Contact: Dorthea Haas, WalkBoston, (617) 232-0104, dhaas@walkboston.org.

Educate Community Members about Transit and Pedestrian Safety

There are a number of programs that transit agencies can initiate or participate in to provide pedestrian safety education to community members. These include:

Successful educational outreach programs increase pedestrian safety for existing riders, and can also serve as orientation programs for new riders.

Work with Community Members to Solve Pedestrian Issues

Leveraging community resources has proven to be an inexpensive and effective method for improving conditions for pedestrians accessing transit. Transit agencies can involve community members and groups in developing policies for improving the design and siting of transit stops. These activities allow residents to have input into how transit is integrated into the community as a whole.

Volunteer bus stop maintenance programs are another way to involve the community in improving transit. These programs can be established between transit agencies and businesses, commercial centers, volunteer agencies, youth programs and even citizens in exchange for various incentives. Programs can increase community involvement in transit and encourage citizens to take ownership of their local bus stops. In addition, they can reduce agency maintenance costs and improve safety by alerting transit agencies of special maintenance needs, vandalism or suspicious activities. Many transit agencies have developed these types of programs including:

Transit agencies can also involve community residents and organizations in pedestrian safety by inviting them to participate in safety workshops. These meetings allow citizens to highlight problem locations for pedestrians, brainstorm ideas for improving rider safety, and have open discussions with agency staff about pedestrian safety policies.

Case Study: Regional Pedestrian & Bike Safety Workshop26
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington DC

In 2006 and 2007, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) hosted a series of regional workshops focusing on pedestrian and bicycle safety issues related to transit access.

Amenity Customer Boarding Activity per Day   Screenshot: WATA MAP
< 50 50-
Concerte pad [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]
Safe access [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]
Adequate lighting [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]
Accurate bus stop signs [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]
Accurate bus stop signs [X] [X] [X] [X] [X]
Standard shelter   [X] [X] [X] [X]
Trash receptacle   [X] [X] [X] [X]
Detailed schedule     [X] [X] [X]
Larger/Multiple shelter(s)     [X] [X] [X]
Benches in shelter     [X] [X] [X]
System map       [X] [X]
Real time travel info       [X] [X]
Potential conversion to transit center         [X]
WMATA staff presented an example of bus stop facility standards based on boardings per day. Source: DDOT and WMATA.   WMATA staff discussed new bus route maps provided at rail stations to encourage riders to use local buses.

The workshops brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss important pedestrian and bicycle safety concerns. Participants in the workshops included WMATA and other transit agency staff, pedestrian and bicycle advocates, engineers and public works staff from several Washington area jurisdictions, as well as members of and advocates representing the interests of people with disabilities in the community. Elected officials and decision-makers at the highest level of WMATA took part in the events. Committees were established to develop recommendations and priorities for improving pedestrian and bicycle access to transit. The overarching goals of the plan included safety, sustainability, and partnerships.

These workshops represented one of the first times that officials for WMATA, the Metro Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), and from almost all of the local jurisdictions in the DC region worked collaboratively to address issues of transit accessibility and safety. In the spring of 2008, WMATA and MWCOG will undertake a joint project to identify and address obstacles to transit access for disabled users of the regional transit system. Additionally, WMATA and local governments are providing safety training for transit operators in a series of workshops held throughout the region.

Contact: Kristen Haldeman, WMATA Office of Business Planning & Project Development, (202) 962-1848.

3. Land Developers

These two photos show examples of development guidelines and standards that should be provided to developers by transit agencies to ensure that the development is transit-oriented.Transit agencies should provide developers with development guidelines and standards prior to any project’s design phase to ensure that the development is transit-oriented. A good working relationship between the transit agency and the planning and zoning department and/or planning and design standards committee is critical as well. Transit agencies can provide developers with the following tools:

Case Study: Agreements for Bus Stop Placement32
Pierce Transit, Takoma, Washington

The jurisdictions in the Takoma, Washington region have given Pierce Transit the opportunity to review most major new development and redevelopment projects within its service area.33 Each jurisdiction served by the transit agency has established guidelines whereby the developer may be required to provide transit enhancements when specific criteria are met. Additionally, the agency can recommend infrastructure changes such as sidewalks, through-streets, or other enhancements for improving pedestrian safety and access to transit when a site is developed.

Pierce Transit has also developed a standard agreement that gives the agency the ability to locate bus stops on private roads.34 Pierce Transit signs this agreement with the owners of private property on which they would like to locate a stop. These agreements allow the agency to locate the bus stop in the most accessible location for pedestrians.

Contact: Linda Shaffer, Planner Construction Projects, (253) 983-2714, lshaffer@piercetransit.org.


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Page last modified on January 31, 2013
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