According to the Public Transportation Fact Book published by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), there are more than 750,000 registered transit buses in the United States. These buses transport over five billion passengers from one destination to another every year. To put this in perspective, this means that buses in the U.S. transport approximately 75% of the world’s population in one year. No wonder you can never find a seat on your daily commute!
It makes you wonder—with the number of passengers riding buses and the increase in public transportation, how do buses keep their passengers safe when it comes to overcrowding? Are there regulations pertaining to overcrowding?
Capacity Regulations for Transit and School Buses
In order to safely transport such a staggering number of passengers, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has placed capacity and weight regulations on both transit and school buses. The following regulations keep the ride comfortable and also prevent accidents caused by overcrowding. The regulations also limit injuries in case of a collision.
Seated capacity lettering.
All buses should have the maximum number of seats lettered or posted on their exterior paneling. A bus that has 40 seats must have “40 Seats” lettered on its exterior (If the bus can hold an additional two wheelchairs, the lettering should state “42 Seats”.) School buses are required to have distinct lettering that separately designates child seating, adult seating, standing, and wheelchair capacities.
Standing capacity based on aisle width and seat percentage.
The recommended maximum capacity for both transit and school buses is determined by the size of the aisle and based on a percentage of each bus’s seating capacity. For example, if the standing capacity is rated at 75%, a bus with 40 seats would allow 30 additional passengers to stand (40 seats x .75 = 30). This percentage is calculated by the specific aisle measurements of each bus.
Buses must stay below the Gross Vehicle Weight Rate (GVWR).
Drivers should be equipped to determine if the bus is riding too low with the stated number of maximum occupants. If the capacity maximum is too high and goes over the estimated GVWR, the capacity lettering needs to be adjusted.
Your Safety Shouldn’t Follow a Schedule
Unfortunately, although these regulations are in place to keep you and your fellow riders safe, they aren’t always enforced. Drivers can’t constantly monitor and count how many people are on board, and most passengers just want to get to their destinations as quickly as possible (even if they’re sitting on someone’s lap). This is why it is important to pay attention to the bus’s maximum capacity, as well as gauge the number of riders already on board, before you step on it. If it is too crowded, don’t risk it.
Getting to your destination on time on is not worth risking an injury. Instead of putting yourself in danger, simply wait for the next bus. If you’re already on a bus when it becomes overcrowded, judge the situation yourself and determine if you need to get off early for your own protection. You may also want to speak to the driver or the manager of the transportation system if you notice persistent overcrowding.
Before they board a dangerous situation, make sure your family and friends know the dangers of bus overcrowding and how to determine a bus’s safe capacity.
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