Providing all-glass shelters provides safer environments and if an agency is willing to spend a few extra bucks on solar lighting, it helps riders feel safer at night by lighting up an area with glass walls where people can see what’s happening inside.
Changes in designs have also made environments where riders feel safer to stand in the shelters.
“Some of the benches now are made with armrests,” Cohen said. “So if someone is homeless they couldn’t use it as a bed.”
Marc Gagne, associate vice president of business development of rail projects for TDG Transit Design Group Inc., said safety lighting has improved in recent years with a third tier of lighting coming into rail standards where it will still work even in cases of catastrophic power loss. The standard was brought to engineers after the derailment of a Metrolink train in Glendale, Calif.
Gagne said the company uses capacitors for the requirment, which the Soviet Army used for tanks in Siberia.
“I’m not saying they’re taking it more serious now, but they’re certainly taking it to a different level in the industry,” he said.
The advent of LED lighting has also helped manufacturers make the insides of rail cars or buses brighter without added power costs. Gagne said there was little innovation in lighting for 40 years, then about 10 years ago LEDs were able to increase options for agencies to satisfy riders.
He said a railcar builder has even approached TDG about installing lighting using spectrum used to treat seasonal affective disorder inside its cars.
“They’re dubbing it the ‘happy light,’” he said. “It’s really a neat idea and something we had never thought about.”
As transit agencies evolved in recent years, safety harnesses are also becoming more commonplace in buses.
Tony Everett, vice president of transportation solutions for HSM Solutions, said transit, commercial buses and school buses have been the last major segments of transportation offering full restraints, which he said is “scary” given some crashes and testing done in what happens in the event of a crash.
Restraints were resisted for years because of concerns about cost, capacity loss and the small number of people who die in bus crashes per year. However, Everett said it’s a goal to get zero deaths per year and technology and designs have addressed capacity and cost issues.
“A restraint seat today is in essence cheaper — a lot cheaper — today than it was even just four years ago,” he said.
With the evolution of restraints for buses, Everett said the number of operators offering them has gone from 1 percent to 4 to 6 percent, with growth expected to continue annually. Three-point harnesses are getting used a lot on transit applications, he said, saying it allows riders to use a restraint that’s almost as easy to use as a seat belt in a car. Safety restraints on mass transit have an appeal to the younger generation of riders, Everett said, who are more accustomed to using seat belts in cars as opposed to older generations.
Everett said the only difficulty restraint manufacturers have to deal with is the numerous bus companies using different designs. With different flooring materials and designs it has slowed the development of harnesses, but it has significantly improved in the past 15 years.
He said HSM recently launched a new product to better accommodate young children as they ride buses as well. The portable device folds up to the size of a suitcase and can be brought onto a bus by a rider or supplied by a driver upon request in order to make sure children are properly strapped into their seat.
A call for help is answered
David Cook, chief operating officer for Code Blue, said demand for their products continues to grow in the mass transit sector as agencies grapple with ways to protect their customers and make them feel safer. A major advantage to having emergency call units at train stations or in parking lots allows transit riders to know they can connect with police in a quick fashion without having to rely on cellphones working.
“Cellphones are a great tool to keep in touch on Facebook,” he said. “They’re a horrible tool to get help in an emergency response.”