National Academies Press: OpenBook

Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops (2017)

Chapter: Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Summary ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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SUMMARY Transit agencies of every size and geographic region across the country are managing extreme weather events at their bus stops. This includes managing snow, ice, heat, wind, rain, and mudslides while keeping transit stops and their associated infrastructure functional. Although extreme weather is by no means a new problem, agencies are witnessing an increase in snow events and in extreme heat (daytime temperatures of over 90°F). The extreme weather creates not only a major inconve- nience for riders, but also safety hazards and accessibility barriers. It is important to remember that bus stop customers are pedestrians first. This synthesis provides a state-of-the-practice report on the extreme weather transit systems are managing; how they plan for it; who is responsible; what they do and where they do it; the standards and specifications they follow; associated legal claims; and how they communicate information to customers. Funding and/or associated costs were not part of this study. Forty transit agencies were contacted to participate and were sent an electronic survey. They were chosen based on size and geographic region. Thirty-two transit agencies responded, yielding an 80% (32 of 40) response rate. Based on the survey, literature review, and in-depth interviews conducted after the survey, ten agen- cies were able to provide information on the specifics of their practices for case examples. Specific practices are also documented in chapter two, the literature review. Overall, the agencies reported that extreme weather at bus stops is an area of growing concern. There does not appear to be a definitive response to the issue, and agencies are discovering that they have to adapt to extreme weather to protect their infrastructure and their customers. The adoption of new policies, for example, closing agencies, and coping with ice, snow, and heat, has an impact on infrastructure and train and bus customers. Managers of transit agencies face the added stress of climate change, as well as accommodating bus operators who are concerned about driving conditions and customer safety. As a result, standards for coping with extreme weather are not fully developed and continually changing. As this is a growing and unresolved concern, there are a limited number of practices in place that focus on bus stops. The literature review, therefore, provides some of the most up-to-date information on agencies’ priorities as they adapt to extreme weather conditions. Recent research is provided on climate change and adaptation guidance from the federal government, U.S.DOT, and reports and pilot programs provided by various other agencies that are planning for the challenge of extreme weather. As extreme weather becomes more common, many agencies are scrambling to adapt and develop plans to protect their bus fleets and infrastructure, so that they can ultimately provide uninterrupted service to their customers. The key conclusions from this research included: 1. The increasing problem of extreme weather at bus stops. Snowfall has increased and tempera- tures are getting higher and lasting longer. 2. Agencies are not consistent in their approaches for protecting their customers from extreme weather at bus stops. Most agencies (26 of 32) reported that they have extreme weather plans in place. MANAGING EXTREME WEATHER AT BUS STOPS

2 3. The rights-of-way for vehicles and buses are cleared of snow before bus stops, leaving custom- ers unable to access those buses that are providing service. 4. There is often a disconnect between governance and within the agency that is responsible for clearing the bus stop. 5. Public service announcements are an effective way to communicate the accessibility of bus stops during and after extreme weather events. 6. The lack of access at bus stops during extreme weather events has a disparate impact on the ADA population. Clearing snow and ice at bus stops is the most common problem at transit agencies surveyed. This type of work requires significant coordination between the transit agency, municipality, contractors, and property owners. In the largest agencies, it requires coordination between the agency and the municipality. At large agencies, the responsibility of clearing bus stops shifts from the agency to the municipal- ity as the roads are cleared for bus service and other road traffic, including emergency vehicles. After the roads are cleared, the focus is on the bus stops. However, a greater problem is that the bus stops get plowed in and are inaccessible during the first significant round of snow clearance. Bus stops then become a secondary consideration; although where they have time standards and expectations, snow must be removed within 2 days. Small and medium agencies have similar problems despite not sharing responsibility for clear- ing the bus stops. Providing bus service, however, appears to be a priority over clearing individual bus stops. As high temperatures become more extreme, more frequent, and longer lasting, some transit agen- cies are supporting their customers by providing shade, whereas others continue to grapple with the issue. The survey showed that agencies that confront snow removal issues are not immune from extreme heat events; however, the focus of the agencies in the northern United States and Canada remains on snow removal more so than the effects of heat, as that can affect customer accessibil- ity more directly. Across the country, agencies identify certain bus stops as priority during extreme weather in the same way as they identify bus routes as priority routes. The agencies have various criteria with the most common reasons including: • Number of passengers served; • Interconnectivity to other buses and trains; • Population dependent on public transit; and • ADA accessibility. Agencies are grappling with new ways to address extreme weather at bus stops and how to pay for it. The larger agencies and municipalities are able to sell or lease the construction and mainte- nance of bus stops, including snow removal, to private advertising companies. Although not wide- spread, others have implemented the Adopt-a-Stop practice for collecting trash and extending it to snow removal. Although millions of people use and pass through bus stops every year, relatively few agencies noted that they have had legal claims associated with general accessibility or ADA accessibility to bus stops. Only the larger agencies reported such claims. Agencies work in concert with their municipalities to prioritize snow routes and, hence, their cor- responding bus stops. They are using many communications tools to keep their customers informed and have designed web pages specifically for this practice. In addition, they reach out by radio, televi- sion, text message, social media, e-mail, signs at bus stops, agency bus arrival information platforms, and cell phone alerts.

3 Managing extreme weather at bus stops is an ongoing challenge that is expected both to grow in frequency and increase costs. Opportunities for future research associated with this synthesis include: • Use of cameras to monitor conditions at bus stops. • Paratransit access during snowstorms and extreme heat. • Disparate treatment of disabled transit users. • Managing extreme weather at rail stations. • Information technology/bus arrival time methods to reduce waiting time during extreme weather at particular bus stops. • Information technology for stops not routes. • Universal accessible design and path of travel issues. • Best practices for coordination issues during extreme weather events.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 129: Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops documents current practices of transit systems to determine methods and procedures used for maintaining transit stops and associated infrastructure during and following such weather events. This synthesis provides a state-of-the-practice report on transit systems' management of extreme weather events; associated planning; management responsibilities; efforts to respond; standards and specifications; associated legal claims; and communication with customers.

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