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. 


Driverless cars: Who really benefits?

An aerial view of a car manufacturer's parking lot showing rows of white carsThe concept of driverless cars excites some and terrifies others. But it is the technology and big business behind it that perhaps we should be concerned about. David Wilson writes in The Fifth Estate about this issue. He alerts us to the size and influence of tech giants and how they can utilise the data they can collect. He provides a table of vehicle enhancements and the time it took or is taking for the market to fully embrace them. The other factor is that vehicle components will change from the current 90% hardware and 10% software to 40% hardware, 40% software, and 20% app providers that link the two together. The article goes on to the important issue of governance. He concludes the article with, “The question is: will the loss of our familiar manual cars be a benefit for humanity, or are we heading towards an Orwellian future where a concentration of high-tech global “fangs” manipulate and control our lives, minimising government regulators to toothless tigers?”  Worth a read because this is part of the AI revolution that we will all have to deal with sooner or later and we need to make sure it is inclusive.The title of the article is, Driverless cars: benefit to humanity or road to an Orwellian dystopia?


A train that flies?

TShows a white set of plane wings with a fuselage pod underneath aking off for a new adventure or a new adventure taking off? The latest idea could make accessing aircraft so much easier for everyone, especially smaller ones.  An article in the New Daily explains this sci-fi idea. Imagine boarding the aircraft body at a train station and then being transported to the wings of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac. Time would be saved as passengers could be processed on the go. There seems to be no shortage of ideas now that disrupt the way we think about everything we do.  The article has a mock up video of this Link & Fly idea. You can see it below. There is no narration, only music, so no captions.

Futuristic flying trains could be on their way


Driverless vehicles: Will they be inclusive?

Graphic showing an orange vehicle on a dark blue background with circles indicating the vehicle is communicating with the environment Discussions about automated vehicles often include comments about improved mobility for people currently unable to drive. It is assumed people with disability, older people and children will have improved mobility options as this technology is rolled out. But is anyone seriously looking at this aspect? In the excitement of embracing this technology, as with many new developments, there is no guarantee that this group will be considered in the early development phases. So should this aspect fall under the responsibility of the National Disability Strategy to make sure all citizens are included in this major technological change? Two reports explaining the pros and cons of automated vehicles and the issues yet to be solved mention social equity issues, but have little to say about it otherwise.

The Landcom report on page 10 comments that issues of inclusion are talked about but no one has yet looked into it properly. According the report, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative is looking at people with a ‘minor’ impairment as a start point. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report gives this idea a brief mention on page 14. Both reports give detailed information and cover all the issues well in terms of technology, infrastructure, policy and regulation. Worth a read, or just a browse, if you want to get across the issues.

Amy Child, Associate Transport and Cities at Arup, will give an overview of future transport at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference in Brisbane 4-5 September 2018.

The Landcom report is a literature review and is titled, Urban Policy Implications of CAV in Bays Precinct. The Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report is titled, Automated Vehicles: Do we know what road to take? 


Apps, activities and travel

A man stands on a train platform looking at his smartphone. He is wearing a hat and has a bright yellow backpack.There are many map apps and trip advisor ICT sites currently available and emerging, each with their own focus. But how can we better understand how people will use the apps? And how do the apps impact on activity and travel behaviour? This is an issue researcher Dick Ettema is keen to investigate. Apps, activities and travel: an conceptual exploration based on activity theory, is a very thorough piece of work for anyone with the time to read through it. Activity theory is used as a systematic way of investigating the effect of ICT on travel behaviour, and also how this links with maintaining social relationships.The author argues that with so many apps/ICTs we need a classification system  based on the objectives, practices and embeddedness in community. This would make it easier for researchers to identify differences in the way people use of ICTs/apps, and to identify inequalities in the use of apps. This leads to better understanding equity issues in terms of access to the technology and who profits from them. The full article can be found in Transportation, Special Issue: ICT, Activity Space-Time and Mobility: New insights, new models, new methodologies. March 2018, Issue 2, Pages 267-701. 



Making transport work for people

Front cover of the reportIt seems the more disadvantaged a community or individual is, the less likely they are to access public transportation systems that work for them. This is the argument posed in a report based on research in California that looked into the issues. The outcome of the research is a Mobility Equity Framework based on two principles: social equity and community power. The pose a three step process that serves as a guide to elevate community engagement in planning and decision-making. This is followed by 12 mobility equity indicators under three goals: Access, Clean Air and Economic Opportunity. It also provides a mechanism to evaluate the equity in transportation modes. The Greenlining Institute introduces the Framework:

“For too long, transportation planning has focused on cars rather than people while neglecting communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This framework offers planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making.


Sticky problem for driverless cars

Front of a black car with soap suds and someone with a pink gloved hand is washing itThe revolutionary concept of calling up a driverless car on your phone is appealing to some, especially people who cannot drive. But before all this happens there are some details that need fixing. Big ideas such as better broadband so the vehicles can talk to each other is one thing, and getting regulations in place is another. But what about the finer details of the everyday? For example, can we rely on previous riders leaving the vehicle clean? Who will clean that sticky seat? Who is going to refuel or recharge the vehicle? How does vehicle maintenance happen? This is where innovative partnerships come into play. Avis in the US is partnering with Waymo to do their dirty work. Avis has the infrastructure for cleaning and maintaining vehicles, so it makes sense. What other partnerships will be needed I wonder? You can read more about this on the Co-Design website: The self-driving car revolution needs… rental car companies?  


Good example of a step free transport map

Bottom right hand corner of the tube map showing the legend of all the different level of accessThis isn’t something from Transport for London, it’s from a blog site, Step Free London. It shows what can be done with transport maps when users know that attention to detail is everything. The personal experience sets it apart from other maps. An access icon can mean so many things, and this is shown in the legend of the map. For example it could be either: Full step-free access; Step-free access via ramp; Step-free access towards one direction; Out-of-station interchange; and Separate entrance for each direction, plus other combinations of partial access. The blog site has good information for map designers. It also contains all the latest information about travelling by train in London. There are similar maps available in Australia, such as City of Sydney accessibility map. The Citymetric site shows two tube maps for Paris – one for the general public and another with all the stations taken out that are not accessible. Then you see what a map really looks like to a wheelchair user or pram pusher for that matter.