SEPTA Buses Are About to Get Even Louder and More Annoying

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Like many Philadelphians, I spent Tuesday reveling in the gorgeous weather. I broke out the grill and cooked up some nice thick steaks. I switched the official house cocktail from our winter comforter the Manhattan to our warm-weather refresher, the gin-and-tonic. And I slept with the windows open — well, that is until I was startled awake by a most unpleasant sound.

“Pedestrians: Bus is turning,” the recorded female voice said, piercing through the prematurely warm air. And then it repeated: “Pedestrians: Bus is turning.”

A moment after turning a full block away from my house, that SEPTA Route 65 bus rumbled down the street in front of my home. By now, we’re used to the sound of buses on our street in Overbrook, which is served by routes 65 and 105. But this unpleasant voice was something new, and I don’t think it’s something that we’ll ever get used to. My neighborhood is actually pretty quiet as far as Philadelphia neighborhoods go, and this new noise pollution is most unwelcome.

So what gives?

According to SEPTA, the blared warning is part of the agency’s Safe Turn Alert program, which it rolled out in 12 buses in a pilot program last year.

“The response from our operators was overwhelmingly positive and we are moving forward with having the system installed in all of our buses,” says SEPTA spokesperson Heather Redfern. She says that SEPTA expects to begin installing the systems — again, in all SEPTA buses — in late spring.

The device is connected to the steering column of a bus, and when the driver turns the wheel enough to trigger it, the voice announcement issues its warning. There are also strobe lights that flash on the side of the bus. Additionally, there is an audio warning inside the bus, in case the driver somehow doesn’t realize that the bus is, you know, turning.

SEPTA says that it instituted the new Safe Turn Alert system to combat the growing problem of distracted pedestrians, folks apparently so caught up in the new Weeknd song or the conversation with their nannies that they don’t realize that there’s a vehicle that weighs many tons and that sounds like a tank about to bear down upon them.

For more on the new system that you’ll get to enjoy this summer, check out this video:

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