After much testing, barriers that protect bus drivers from assaults will become the new standard for TransLink’s public transit buses moving forward.
The public transit authority announced today that it has selected a design for its safety barriers for bus drivers after conducting pilot tests over the last two years.
All future buses acquired by TransLink will consist of a pre-installed safety barrier, and the first batch of such buses will arrive in 2018. Additionally, 208 existing air-conditioned New Flyer Excelsior model buses will be retrofitted with the protective barrier, with the anticipation that all retrofits will be completed within two years.
Half a dozen trolley buses will also be retrofitted with barriers as part of a new pilot project. The trolleys are designed with a different ventilation system, which may necessitate a different barrier design.
The equipment and the installation required costs approximately $5,000 per bus.
By 2027, approximately 75% of the entire bus fleet will have safety barriers installed. Currently, TransLink has a fleet of over 1,300 conventional buses.
“The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority,” reads a release from TransLink. “Assaults on operators are unacceptable, and can put the lives of many people at risk. A safety barrier is one of many tools that can help prevent or mitigate assaults.”
In 2016, there were 106 recorded assaults on bus drivers, down from the spikes of 146 in 2011 and 134 in 2013.
Similar safety barriers are also installed on buses on a number of other public transit systems in North America.
A protective barrier that ensures drivers can still communicate
Six prototypes with five different designs were put into service for testing and feedback over various stages of the pilot project.
A potential final design was tested in what would become the last phase of the final project in fall 2016, and it was later determined as the most preferred design by the drivers.
The barriers are transparent but made of plexiglass, which is able to withstand a significant amount of force. While it enables a physical separation between drivers and customers, the barriers still provide drivers with clear sightlines and the ability to communicate with passengers.
The design chosen by TransLink includes a sliding front portion that provides easy customer communication and controls glare while the fixed solid portion extending from behind the driver’s seat prevents blindside punches from behind. Drivers are protected from jumping assailants, thrown objects, spitting, and even hostile individuals from climbing over.
The plexiglass does not extend to the bus windshield due to some issues identified with other prototypes during the pilot project, such as glare, summertime heat, and difficulty with communicating with passengers.