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Buses and Railroad Crossings

July 25th, 2017
buses  [html]

A while ago I proposed that we not require buses to stop and open their doors at railroad crossings. This is something I had thought was universal in the US, but is actually state-specific. In MA this is a regulation issued by the Department of Public Utilities' Transportation Oversight Division:

The driver of a motor bus, upon approaching a highway-rail crossing at grade, shall bring the bus to a stop at a point clear of the railroad track, but not more than 50 feet or closer than 15 feet from the track. The driver shall open the door while the bus is stopped and determine whether the way is clear before crossing. Before proceeding, the driver shall close the door.
  — 220 CMR 155.02 (19) via 220 CMR: Department of Public Utilities

I think we should remove this restriction. At a distance of 15-50ft from the crossing, opening the door to look or listen for a train doesn't generally give additional information on whether a train is coming. Having to stop and open doors slows the buses down, which leads a small number of people to drive instead of taking the bus on the margin, and cars are much less safe than buses. Overall this regulation reduces safety.

(The same effect also increases traffic and pollution.)

What would be the right way to get this changed? The staff contact list indicates TransDivision.Complaints@state.ma.us is how to email them; maybe that woiuld be useful?

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