National Academies Press: OpenBook

Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops (2017)

Chapter: Chapter Seven - Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Research

« Previous: Chapter Six - Survey Results: Legal Claims and Communications
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Research ." 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:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Research ." 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:"Chapter Seven - Conclusions and Suggestions for Future Research ." 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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Page 32

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31 CONCLUSIONS The problem of managing extreme weather at bus stops is a highly charged political issue and affects millions of people every year. This synthesis documents the current state of the practice and demonstrates current practices at transit agencies throughout the country by focusing on extreme weather planning, governance, standards, legal claims, and communications. In general, managing extreme weather at bus stops is a new idea for most transit agencies as they grapple with the problems associated with more snow, higher temperatures, and more frequent and longer heat waves. As this is a new concept, it was found that standards for coping with extreme weather events are not fully developed and appear to be evolving. For snow removal, priority is given to clearing streets and providing service from priority locations, while many bus stops are left unplowed or “re-plowed” in. Coordination between snow removal on the street and at bus stops is not consistent, creating a situation where individuals, particularly the disabled are denied access to the bus stops and buses they depend on. Nevertheless, transit agencies are not insensitive to the issues that extreme weather presents. They are scrambling to adapt and develop plans to protect their fleets, infrastructure, and customers. Agencies are providing shade where shade has never been accessible. They are using the most up-to- date research on climate change and adaptation guidance documents from the federal government, U.S.DOT, and reports and pilot studies that are identified in the literature survey. The key points from this study include: 1. The problems with extreme weather at bus stops are increasing; the snowfall levels are greater and the levels of heat are higher and last longer. 2. Agencies are not consistent in their approaches for protecting their customers from extreme weather at bus stops. Not all agencies have extreme weather plans. 3. The rights-of-way for vehicles and buses are generally cleared before bus stops, leaving cus- tomers unable to access buses. 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 has a disparate impact on the ADA population. Extreme weather becomes a barrier for people seeking to access buses. Transit agencies have been attempting to cope with extreme weather events for decades. Storms are becoming stronger and more frequent and the levels of heat have become more intense. Accord- ing to the agencies surveyed, individuals are increasingly unable to access bus stops for days because of snow and ice and must stand in high heat with no shade during heat wave. Transit agencies must contend with snow, ice, heat, flooding, rain, wind, and extreme cold and combinations thereof. Of those agencies surveyed, most are responding to snow, ice, and heat events with increasing frequency. However, it is important to note that transit agencies do not count all extreme events the same way. High heat events are counted by day (i.e., each day in a heat wave is counted as an event), whereas each snowstorm is counted as an event (i.e., a blizzard and its ensuing snow and ice cleanup is considered chapter seven CONCLUSIONS AND SUggeStIONS fOr fUtUre reSeArCH

32 one event). Every agency surveyed that experiences high heat reported more than 20 events per year. Half of the agencies surveyed experience snow and ice from one to ten times each year. Although some of the agencies surveyed are proactively planning for extreme weather and estab- lishing procedures to provide and/or restore service and accessibility as quickly as possible while protecting their bus fleets and infrastructure, others do not have extreme weather plans for bus stops. Inadequate planning results in a haphazard approach to clearing and maintaining bus stops during extreme weather and a lack of accessibility for customers. Transit agencies require that streets be cleared and available to accommodate bus service before, during, and after storms. Clearing streets is the first priority and clearing bus stops is second, result- ing in a delay between bus service and bus access from stops and sidewalks. Several agencies have written plans for snow and ice removal at bus stops; however, success depends on where the respon- sibility lies and bus stops suffer from streets being re-plowed, where stops are cleared and then plowed in again when a plow takes a second pass. Although there is a consensus that bus stops should be accessible, there are times when there is no room for all the snow and, therefore, bus stops become and remain unreachable. Agencies across the country identify certain bus stops during extreme weather as priority bus stops in the same way that they identify bus routes as priority routes. The agencies have various criteria, with the most common including: • Number of passengers served, • Interconnectivity to other buses and trains, • Population dependent on public transit, and • ADA accessibility. The primary responsibility for managing bus stops during extreme weather is generally held by the transit agency itself or the municipality. When agencies work with the municipalities, however, there is often a disconnect between clearing the streets and clearing the bus stops. Study findings show that the size of the agency matters; the larger the agency, the more likely it is that the bus stops are cleared by the municipality. This is also a reflection of whether or not the agency is run by the municipality. A handful of agencies hold outside advertising vendors responsible for maintaining bus stops and shelters. Where transit agencies have standards and time expectations for snow removal, it is typically within 2 days. Snow and ice removal is performed by transit agencies, municipalities, contractors, and property owners. The larger agencies depend on the efforts of the municipalities and others to clear the streets and bus stops. Medium and small agencies are responsible for their own snow removal. The small agencies that provide intercity bus service work with the collective municipalities to ensure access. Most agencies self-monitor access to bus stops both formally and informally. Crews will survey stops and identify those in need of clearing. Bus operators will report areas that have not been cleared and/or those that were once cleared but became inaccessible again following a new round of plowing or shoveling. Although agencies struggle with snow removal and high levels of heat at bus stops, the transit agencies surveyed did not report a high number of legal claims filed against them resulting from uncleared bus stops. Only large transit agencies reported such issues and they were all associated with negligence. Only one agency surveyed reported a claim based on ADA non-compliance. The policies for maintaining bus stops after the streets are cleared were consistent among the agen- cies surveyed; however, this results in a disparate impact on individuals with disabilities, seniors, and low income individuals who are disproportionately dependent on public transportation services. As the frequency in extreme weather events increases, people also have increased access to com- munication of information about their bus routes and corresponding bus stops before, during, and

33 after storms. Transit agencies have become increasingly successful in providing PSAs identifying snow routes and bus stops during extreme weather events. The PSAs are provided through the agency website, radio, television, text message, social media, e-mail, signs at bus stops, bus arrival informa- tion platforms, and cell phone alerts. Agencies have access to technology and are using it to provide customer-focused information. Formerly, shutting down a transit agency during a severe weather event was not an option. Certain roads may have been closed and snow covered roads may have denied access but shutting down an agency is becoming an option for the largest transit agencies. These agencies are protecting their fleets and infrastructures as the cities call for states of emergency and attempt to keep people off the street and away from bus stops. When the buses return to the streets, the public is made aware; however, as Cherriots’ website states so well, “If you use these bus stops, it’s especially important to make a plan in advance; walk to the next closest bus stop, arrange other transportation options on snow days, or if possible, arrange to telecommute and work from home.” fUtUre reSeArCH To continue to better serve customers at bus stops during extreme weather, future research could include: Use of cameras to monitor conditions at bus stops—Transit agencies use personnel and bus operators to monitor bus stop conditions during extreme weather. They also use cameras at rail stations and inside and outside buses to monitor the passengers for safety and security reasons. This study as well as the review completed in 2016’s TCRP Synthesis 123: On-Board Applications for Buses did not indicate that cameras are used to monitor bus stops for passenger accessibility. Is it feasible for cameras on buses to be used to monitor bus stops for the clearing of snow and ice and inclement weather conditions? Paratransit access during snowstorms and extreme heat—The paratransit community is par- ticularly vulnerable during extreme weather events. These customers are frequently in need of medical care and often stranded from access to professional, work, educational, and entertain- ment activities. Are paratransit vehicles accessible during these events? How are transit agen- cies responding to individuals during these events? Managing extreme weather at rail stations—Customer access to rail stations is becoming increasingly difficult during extreme weather events such as snow, ice, and flooding. What are transit agencies doing to minimize the impact to customers? Disparate treatment of disabled transit users—Disabled transit users rely on both paratransit and regular service. Are disabled users of transit facing a disparate impact when there are extreme weather events? Information technology/bus arrival time methods to reduce waiting time during regular ser- vice and extreme weather at bus stops—Transit agencies throughout the country provide customers with real-time bus arrival information at bus stops and on personal devices. What technologies are transit agencies using to provide customer information to transit riders? How does this information reach the customer? Information technology for stops not routes—Transit agencies are increasingly providing PSAs, messages, and other information during extreme weather events on bus routes. They inform customers in advance and in real time of bus routes that are not in service. How can agencies supply information regarding individual bus stops that are not clear because of extreme weather? Universal accessible design and path of travel issues—Bus stop design ranges from bus shel- ters with shade, benches, lights, and curb cuts to a sign on a pole. What would be a universal design and path of travel between the bus stop and the bus that would be accessible to all transit passengers? Best practices for coordination issues during extreme weather—Transit agencies coordinate snow and ice removal both within and outside of the agencies leaving them to grapple with the issues at the time of the event. Meanwhile, extreme weather events are increasing in frequency. What are best practices for this coordination?

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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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