Can everyone benefit from ride-share systems?

Uber driver is pushing a man in a manual wheelchair into the back of the vehicle.Uber is a household name. But can everyone take advantage of ride-share systems? The Living Cities article describes five steps for growing accessible and inclusive transportation systems. There is no one solution: a range of policies and mobility options are needed for low income communities and people with disability. The Movmi blog site extends these ideas for ride-share systems and offers three key elements for inclusion. Both articles have more detail on concepts and solutions. Here are three key elements:

  1. Availability: Good access to public transportation are needed in all areas, as well as car-sharing, bike-sharing and ride-hailing services as a solution for the last mile.
  2. Inclusive design: Ensuring sharing and on demand ride-hailing services are available to people who have limited access to the internet or credit cards. This also includes reducing any physical barriers that may prevent anyone with a disability using these services.
  3. Affordability: Reduced fares and subsidized memberships will ensure everyone has the ability to use public transportation and shared mobility services.

UberWAV is a for riders who use motorised wheelchairs or scooters. Drivers are trained to help with getting in and out of the accessible vehicle. The first UberWAV in Australia was in Newcastle NSW in 2016. The article covers the different services available in the US  for people who don’t have phones and credit cards. The Every Australian Counts website has a 2015 article about UberWAV that provides another point of view.

Report on train station access in Melbourne

Distance view of a major train station showing platforms and trains.Here is a short research paper based on three case studies of train stations in suburban Melbourne. The stations were selected on specific criteria. The results show that in spite of a policy aim of going beyond the Transport Standards to take a whole of journey approach, there is some way to go when it comes to full accessibility.  In the concluding paragraph of the Executive Summary of this working paper, Kathleen Miller writes, “It is recommended that Public Transport Victoria update the information provided through Journey Planner, and on the website, to accurately reflect the accessibility of the train stations visited. This will provide more accurate journey planning information for people in wheelchairs. If this is done across the network it will be a large step towards enabling access to the train system and increased independence for people in wheelchairs to make the decision on what journey is best suited for them”.

A nicely written report with a detailed methodology that can be used as the basis of further studies across Australia. The title is: “Does information from Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner align with real life accessibility for people in wheelchairs?”  

Perhaps another case of bureaucrats not actually knowing what constitutes accessibility? Sometimes it is more than “access”.

Urban design and pedestrian safety

A person wearing a beanie and backpack stands on the footpath. There are people and cars around. It is the evening and street lights are on.Why do people ignore pedestrian crossings and jaywalk instead? Probably because crossings are placed to suit traffic flows not pedestrians. And if every step you take is painful or difficult, a short cut looks even more encouraging. John Rennie Short provides a magazine version of his academic article about how urban design in the US is killing pedestrians and cyclists. In the article he claims, “Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25% since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45%. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. This shifting mix can be deadly.”

The article on FastCo has a video showing how pedestrians are jaywalking across four lanes of traffic. The most worrying of all is a woman using a wheelie-walker. The article sets out the issues and proposes some solutions. Of course, we need universally designed roads, street crossings and footpaths. 

Dangerous by Design

Two ambulance officers push a patient into the ambulance.According to Smart Growth America, pedestrian deaths are increasing while actual traffic fatalities are decreasing. So what’s happening here? According to a report, Dangerous by Design 2019, the numbers of deaths are equivalent of one jumbo jet full of people crashing every month with no survivors. And it seems the problem for walkers is getting worse. The report argues that government policies still favour high speeds for cars over safety for people. The article gives more detailed statistics for various states in the US. It would be interesting to know if this is replicated in other countries. The report was supported by AARP and the American Society of Landscape Architects. It is not clear whether population ageing is a factor.  

Does your access map have the right colours?

A woman holds a tablet with a map on the screen, She is standing in the street.Location is everything – finding it is another.  Being able to find places easily is key to getting out and about at any age or level of capability. Online maps are becoming more sophisticated with interactive content and different layers of information. Graphics and colour are used to emphasise places and attributes. But not everyone can see certain colours. The number of people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) is growing as some people acquire it as they get older. Map Design for the Color Vision Deficient provides a background to this issue and tools for selecting the colours when designing maps. You will need institutional access for a free read.

Abstract: The golden rule of map design states that one should carefully consider both a map’s purpose and its audience. Maps designed for the general public frequently fail to consider the portion of our population with color vision impairment or color vision deficiency (CVD), known more commonly as color blindness. Recent studies indicate that over 5% of our Caucasian male population are susceptible to congenital or inherited color vision deficiency. CVD also can be acquired from chemical exposure, injury, illness, medication, and aging. With the exception of aging, little or no data exists on the number of people impaired by any of these non-congenital causes. The predominant color impairment from congenital CVD is a red-green differentiation problem, whereas blue is considered universally recognizable by the congenital group. However, recent research has revealed that as many as 20% of those studied over the age of 72 suffer from a blue-yellow defect that increases with age to nearly 50% at age 90. This acquired blue-yellow defect also is the predominant CVD for those suffering from chemical exposure. This chapter examines the effects of CVD and attempts to illustrate the impact of color choices on visually impaired audiences. It shows that the acquired CVD population is growing and suggests colors and alternatives in map design to minimize that impact. Finally, it introduces several tools that may be used in selecting appropriate colors or used to evaluate color choices when designing maps.

Self driving cars: trust and inclusion

Self driving vehicle on the road.The race is on for designing a self driving car that everyone trusts. While this is essential, it also needs to be a car that everyone can use. Mark Wilson writes for FastCompany about his test “drive” experiences of these vehicles. Reading his detailed experiences from a universal design perspective, there is still a way to go in the overall design. The developments so far show much thought about convenience, such as your smartphone linking to the car so it knows it’s you. They are using the phone to give instructions. This is a technology that needs to be followed closely as it has the potential to improve inclusion or inadvertently cause more exclusion. A very interesting article; “The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem“.

Tactile ground markers vs wheelchairs: A solution?

Train platform showing wheelchair crossings across a strip of yellow tactile markers.One paper that sparked the a lot of interest at the UDHEIT conference is the thorny issue of pedestrians and wheelchair users negotiating those yellow strips of tactile markers. Tactile markers, known as Braille Blocks in Japan, cause problems for wheelchair users, pram pushers, and others with mobility difficulties. Based on research by Yoshito Dobashi in the context of public transportation, the solution seems simple. Create small breaks in the line of tactile blocks to make wheelchair and baby buggy crossing points. These crossing points are now installed in Fukuoka city and in some airports, but not yet on a national scale. Dobashi cautions that, “…improvements need to be made in response to the voices of visually disabled persons who note that the crossing points pose a hazard to them. In his latest study, Dr. Ito of the University of Yoshito Dobashi pointing to his slide at the UDHEIT conference showing wheelchair crossing points, one with a man wheeling a suitcase.Tokyo proposes a new braille block system that incorporates an improved version of braille blocks with wheelchair crossing points upon verifying its feasibility with wheelchair users and baby buggy users. As the press release of this study was published in nationwide newspapers, widespread dissemination can be expected hereafter. It is worth keeping an eye on future developments of this new system.” Good research paper by a man passionate for his topic and keen to find solutions. The title of the paper is, Re- examining the Creativity of Universal Design Initiatives in Public Spaces in Japan.  

The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.

Work, transport and wheelchair users

Picture showing the level access from the platform into the trainHow many jobs can a wheelchair user reach using public transport? Combining accessibility with potential jobs for wheelchair users is a useful way to show how access is good for individuals and the economy. We can add in anyone with difficulty walking, and also people taking their children to childcare near their workplace. In a Canadian study, the authors evaluated public transport networks in Montreal and Toronto, where both cities are retrofitting their networks to ensure that all individuals can use the public transport system. The objective was to create a method to identify gaps in accessibility by public transport to jobs for wheelchair users. Once the method was devised, they applied it to both cities, to calculate the number of jobs that can be reached within 45 minutes of travel by public transport by a wheelchair user compared to the number of job a non wheelchair user can access. In Toronto, wheelchair users have access to 75% of jobs compared to non wheelchair users. In Montreal this figure drops to 46%. The main reason for the difference is that Montreal has less accessible subway stations than Toronto. The title of the article is, Comparing accessibility to jobs by public transport for individuals with and without a physical disabilityThe article covers the development of the methodology, the results and analysis. It is worth noting that if wheelchair users can get out and about easily, others with mobility issues will also be served. So it is not just about a niche group particularly as our population ages.

Transportation futures for all

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelterHere are three book chapters on universal design in transportation from Towards User-Centric Transport in Europe. From the perspective of inclusion they cover research, policy development, and new technologies.

Mainstreaming the Needs of People with Disabilities in Transport Research argues mainstreaming disability should not exclude conducting disability-related transport research.

Universal Design as a Way of Thinking About Mobility  looks at the use of UD as a policy objective for transport policy using the Norwegian experience as an example.

Bus driver helps woman with her wheelie walkerOlder People’s Mobility, New Transport Technologies and User-Centred Innovation reports on findings from four focus groups examining mobility challenges. Automated vehicles were also discussed. 

Abstract item 1. Mainstreaming disability aspects following the universal design concept guarantees that the deliverables of a transport-related research project do not result in new barriers for people with disabilities and they can enjoying the benefits of the innovation and development on equal basis with other passengers. Using the method of mainstreaming disability does not exclude the necessity of conducting special disability-related transport research. This twin-track approach can significantly increase the accessibility of transport for all.

Abstract item 2. This paper will look into the use of UD as a policy objective for transport policy, using Norwegian experience as an example. UD was adopted as one of the four major policy objectives in Norwegian transport policy in 2009. However, from 2018 onwards UD is no longer a main policy objective. This experience with UD as a policy objective is used as an empirical backdrop for a more principal discussion on the usefulness of UD in transport and mobility. I conclude by pointing at UD as a useful vision, but difficult policy objective.

Abstract item 3. This chapter examines findings from four focus groups with 36 older people examining the importance of mobility and future changes in mobility and transport. Older people were generally sceptical of potential transport futures, though they welcome technologies that reduce physical difficulty in mobility, gave real-time information, and reduced issues with interchange. There were mixed feelings of automated vehicles, often dependent upon the individual’s willingness to accept technology taking over their own skills and abilities, trust in the technology and concerns over future built environments.

Look at me!

An orange automated vehicle has eyes that appear to be looking at a pedestrianWorried that a driverless car won’t see or detect you? With a driver you can check to see if they are looking your way, but if there is no driver, that can be a worry. Autonomous vehicles are posing many problems for designers who are grappling with most of them quite successfully. So for this problem Jaguar has come up with a car with googly eyes. The “eyes” don’t “see” you, but it can give confidence that you have been detected because the eyes follow you as you cross the pedestrian crossing. I should think that once we get used to automated vehicles, eventually eyes will be phased out. Amy Child from Arup gave an entertaining presentation on this and other aspects of the move to driverless cars, including the googly eyes. The transcript of Amy’s keynote presentation can be downloaded in Word.