Bus Operator Barrier Design

The installation of driver barriers in transit buses can help to reduce the risk of assault. Assaults against transit workers pose a serious threat on many levels by threatening the physical safety and emotional well-being of transit workers, endangering passengers, and lowering employee morale. The emotional effects of assault can deter transit employees from returning to work and passengers from using transit, impacting both schedule and revenue. TCRP Synthesis 93: Practices to Protect Bus Operators from Passenger Assault found that "the National Transit Database (NTD) does not capture the true extent of workplace violence" as the NTD "does not accommodate the reporting of minor assaults that do not result in an arrest. Although an assault such as spitting or verbal insults may not cause physical harm to the operator, it can cause significant emotional distress.: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there are additional concerns for bus drivers including protection against direct exposure to the virus from passengers and overall air quality concerns. When addressing the potential for barriers to prevent assaults and improve air quality, other factors should be considered, including: (1) Operator comfort; (2) Vision impacts, including glare; (3) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant access; (4) Emergency egress. Research is needed to provide guidance for efficient and effective actions to protect the health and safety of bus operators and the traveling public. The objective of this research is to give public transportation agencies practical guidance on designing, procuring, and installing bus operator barriers. The guidance should be based on evaluation criteria and performance measures of effective barrier types, taking into account: (1)Prevention of assaults; (2) Air quality/HVAC; (3) Operator comfort; (4) Vision impacts, including glare; (5) ADA compliant access; and (6) Emergency egress; The guidance should apply to both retrofit of existing buses and procurement of new buses equipped with appropriate protection for drivers and passengers. To achieve the objective, it is anticipated that the questions below will need to be answered. (1) What barrier types are used in current U.S. and Canadian fleets and how do they address the following performance indicators? (a) Assault prevention - can assailants reach around them, throw fluids, etc.? Are they sufficiently strong? (b) Are there visual impacts, reflection, masking, distortions? Do optical coatings or other mitigations work if any visual issues are found? (c) Are thermal problems created that need design elements like HVAC retrofits? (d) Are there durability or quality control issues like failing/rattling latches, hinges, support framing, etc.? (e) Are there notable ergonomic successes or problems, such as well-liked features or conversely, push/pull injuries, etc.? (f) How appealing are current industrial designs; do they feel like an inviting space or a dangerous space? (g) What policies and procedures have agencies adopted for operators to deploy barriers? (h) What effects do Buy America and ADA requirements have on barriers in the United States? (2) What global best practices exist outside the United States and Canada? (a) Are there examples of barrier designs with design features that are noteworthy? (b) Are there outstanding examples of industrial design, creating inviting spaces for both passengers and employees, while still delivering excellent performance? (c) Are there any barrier designs offering superior protections against assault? (d) Are there differences in bus configuration that improve barrier security performance or related issues, such as accessibility, ergonomics, air quality, biohazard mitigation, thermal regulation, communication with passengers, etc.? (3) What operator protections against COVID-19 and other pathogens are available? (a) What types of barriers in the United States and around the world provide verified protection against infectious diseases, and what are their characteristics? (b) Is it practical to modify existing partial barriers to provide high-grade isolation for operators? (c) Are there operational challenges added when improving biohazard functionality of partial barriers, such as increased visual, communication, or ergonomic problems? (4) Are current bus designs sufficient for integration of effective barriers or should an alternate design be considered? (a) Can front wheelchair access and space for a barrier that does not impact operator vision be engineered into vehicle designs, and if so, how? (b) Can those solutions also yield customer service improvements and meet other goals for the industry, such as (i) A reassuring space in terms of infectious diseases and getting the public back on board; (ii) Improved access, accommodation, and independence for ADA passengers; and (iii) Lower operating costs, including employee time loss? (5) Do the practices uncovered in this research lend themselves to being submitted for consideration by standards development organizations? (6) Could engagement activities be scheduled with North American bus manufacturers and the solutions they provide for barriers and HVAC in new bus procurements in the United States?


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $350000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project C-25

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Parker, Stephan

  • Performing Organizations:

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Office of Sponsored Programs
    North End Center, Suite 4200, 300 Turner Street NW (MC 0170)
    Blacksburg, VA  United States  24061
  • Principal Investigators:

    Krum, Andrew

  • Start Date: 20220118
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230718
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01741745
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project C-25
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 2 2020 10:52AM