Overweight Americans are making city buses unsafe

The federal government has proposed raising the assumed average weight of bus commuters to better meet safety regulations.
Written by Ami Cholia, Contributing Editor

The Federal Transit Authority has proposed to raise the assumed average weight of a bus commuter around the United States to accommodate the increasing waistline of most Americans. The federal agency wants to raise the assumed average weight per bus passenger from 150 pounds to 175 pounds, which could mean fewer people will be allowed to board city buses to meet safety regulations.

The authority has also proposed to add an extra quarter of a square foot of floor space per passenger on buses. With several passengers weighing far more than 200 pounds, the new system seems slightly more realistic.

Currently, the average weight for a U.S. male is 194.7 pounds and 164.7 pounds for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The federal guidelines, however, were based on surveys done in 1960-62.

The FTA’s new assumed weight average for city buses, is still less then the average for passengers used by the Coast Guard or the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which handles airline travel, assumes the average passenger weight at 190 pounds in the summer and 195 pounds in the winter, while the Coast Guard puts the average weight at 185 pounds for boats and ferries.

Even ambulances around the country have begun to expand to keep up with the weight of the patients riding in them. Boston recently spent over $12,000 per ambulance to accommodate more obese passengers. Similarly, Fort Worth, Texas, has spent $7,000 per vehicle.

The changes come as an increasing number of Americans are taking to public transportation because of high fuel prices. An American Public Transportation Association study predicts that $5 gallon gas could add 1.5 billion trips on the U.S. public transportation system.

Leading bus manufacturers, including Daimler AG and Volvo, said they may choose to upgrade their buses to carry more weight. The vehicle upgrades could cost about $25,000, however.

While realigning transit to fit its passenger base makes sense, over a third of Americans are currently obese, and that's a trend we need to reverse.

Via USA Today

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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