National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. – The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that "saw-tooth" bus station design standards should include provisions for positive separation between the roadway and pedestrian areas to prevent accidents like the one in suburban St. Louis, Missouri last year that killed 4 people.
The recommendation is contained in the Board's final report of the June 11, 1997 crash in which a transit bus, operated by Bi-State Development Agency, jumped a curb at a bus depot in Normandy, Missouri, crushing two pedestrian shelters. Four persons were killed and three others seriously injured.
The bus had just disembarked its passengers and was under the control of a driver trainee and her instructor. It jumped the curb when the trainee attempted to move the bus forward to allow another bus to pass. Routine post-accident toxicological tests on both drivers proved negative for alcohol and other drugs.
There were no mechanical deficiencies found in the bus that contributed to the accident. The Board found that the accident occurred because of the trainee's misapplication of the accelerator, thinking it was the brake pedal. The misapplication of the accelerator, the NTSB said, resulted from the associated effect of numerous conditions, including the inexperience of the driver trainee, the proximity of the pedals to each other, and the pedals' similarity in shape and feel. But it was the absence of effective positive separation between the roadway and the pedestrian platform that contributed to the deaths and injuries, the NTSB said.
The depot featured the "saw-tooth" design that is widely used nationwide to facilitate station access by buses while minimizing interference from pedestrian traffic. They are considered to be an efficient way of providing parking for multiple buses. The Board said that it was concerned that neither the design specifications followed by Bi-State nor the guidelines provided by the federal government or the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials include any type of positive separation that could prevent a defective or poorly driven bus from encroaching onto the pedestrian platform at normal low-speed operating conditions.
It stated, "The Safety Board considers that design guidelines should specify a positive separation barrier between the bus parking bay and the pedestrian platform sufficient to stop a bus operating under normal parking area speed conditions from progressing into the pedestrian area…[T]he current design guidelines for saw-tooth parking bay configurations commonly followed by the transit industry fail to provide adequate pedestrian safety."
The Board issued recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, AASHTO, the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) to work together to revise national "saw-tooth" bus station design guidelines. APTA and CTAA were asked to notify their memberships of this accident and encourage them to retrofit existing facilities.
Following the Normandy accident, Bi-State installed barriers at all four of its "saw-tooth" transit bus facilities. While the Safety Board said that it does not intend to prescribe any particular means of positive separation to the nation's transit systems, had the barriers that Bi-State installed been in place on June 11, the collision with the pedestrians would not have occurred.
The Safety Board will convene a two-day public hearing on the safety of transit bus systems nationwide. The hearing, at the Adam's Mark Hotel, Fourth & Chestnut Streets, in St. Louis, will convene at 9:00 a.m., March 3.
The NTSB's complete report on the Normandy, Missouri accident, HAR-98/01/SUM, is available on-line in the Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, or may be purchased as number PB98-916201 from the National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, Virginia 22161, (703) 487-4650.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.