Rhode Island State House

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Lauren H. Carson to prohibit the operation of the safe turn alert system on “talking” RIPTA buses in residential neighborhoods will have a hearing tomorrow before the House Corporations Committee.

The hearing is scheduled tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the rise of the House session (around 4:30 p.m.) in Room 203 on the second floor of the State House.

Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) introduced the legislation after fielding dozens of complaints from Newport constituents about the loud warning system installed last year on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s fixed-route bus fleet.

The system issues a loud announcement of “Caution! The bus is turning!” to alert pedestrians and others when a bus begins to make a turn.

Almost as soon as the system went into use, Representative Carson says she began hearing from angry constituents about all the noise they make while operating, which can be as early as 6 a.m.

While using the system might make sense in some busy downtown areas of municipalities around the state, she said, Newport’s compactness means bus routes run through many narrow roads in residential neighborhoods.

“This system is blasting these announcements in neighborhoods right at the second-floor level, into people’s bedroom windows while they’re trying to sleep,” said Representative Carson. “Of course, pedestrian and bicyclist safety is a top priority for Newport, since we are so walkable and have so many tourists. But the negative impact this is having on the quality of life of people who live along bus routes is tremendous. I have little doubt buses can operate safely while turning that system off in residential neighborhoods.”

Carson added that the audio system is also ineffective at alarming the deaf and pedestrians wearing headphones.

“I am so glad that this legislation has created a dialogue both in Newport and in the State House. I hope for a productive conversation at the hearing Tuesday. I am optimistic that we can find a way to keep pedestrians and bikers safe while residents can enjoy peace and quiet in their own homes.”

The legislation (2018-H 7087), which Representative Carson introduced Jan. 10, would prohibit the use of the system in residential neighborhoods. It would not affect its use in other areas.