Automated, Driverless Cars – a new horizon

graphic of a square car approaching a pedestrian crossing with a person pushing a stroller on the footpathFrom the Editor: I recently attended a workshop jointly held by Transport for NSW, NRMA and the Committee for Sydney. The half day session encouraged us to think 40 years ahead in terms of planning for transportation, particularly automated and WiFi connected vehicles. All seems too sci-fi? Think again. Sitting with experts in the field of vehicle automated technology and transport planning, it was a real eye-opener. Just think what driverless cars will mean for people who cannot currently drive or no longer have a licence. It can mean a whole new world for people with disability – but we have to make sure everything is universally designed – inclusive of everyone.

Discussions revolved around several issues, some positive, some negative. If you can dial up a car to come to your doorstep via your mobile phone any time you need it, you won’t need to buy a car. That frees up your money to be spent elsewhere in the economy. But what if this brave new world means that people give up walking – what will that mean for active travel and the associated health benefits? The design of cars will no doubt change – a box-shape on four wheels will do the job – maybe cars for one person will be quite small and others could be large enough to carry the footy team. graphic of a car, a truck and a section of roadHuman error is the major factor in road accidents. Think how much health money and personal distress could be saved if we reduced the road toll to virtually nil. And could the savings in health costs offset the reduced income from road taxes, and when we go fully electric, fuel excise and taxes?

There were many other discussion points, but I was left with one lasting impression: Automated and connected vehicles are on their way and here to stay. Semi automated vehicles are already here – self parking, cruise control and automated braking, automatic wipers and headlights, and sensors that can tell if the driver is feeling drowsy. We already have automatic pilot on aircraft, agricultural and mining vehicles, and warehouse forklifts and dockside loaders that all operate without human intervention. So if you thought it was just talk, think again.  More importantly, think what it might mean for the universal design of vehicles, transport policy and transport planning. It all needs to be inclusive – everyone has to benefit.

Incidentally, Intelligent Transport Systems Australia is holding a free networking event in Sydney on 4 July.  To find out more about what Transport for NSW is doing on this topic – go to their dedicated website future.transport.nsw.gov.au. There are surveys for community members and business – so you can have your say.

Jane Bringolf, Editor

Sustainable Traffic Signal Development

Abstract: Installing traffic signals today involves a very complex, time-consuming, and expensive process. Signals have always had the primary purpose of getting people safely through an intersection, whether on horse or foot, riding a bicycle, or driving a vehicle. Sustainable traffic signal policies and directives are requirements an agency may have in place to ensure all traffic signals installed are safe, energy efficient, and accessible to all potential users. These documents can take the form of general plans, master transportation plans, bicycle and pedestrian plans, accessibility guidelines, directives, and signal timing and phasing policies. Traffic signals are generally the responsibility of public agencies, and before one is considered for installation, it must meet the policy requirements and follow the necessary planning procedures established by that agency. Most transportation professionals can agree traffic signals are not the solution to all traffic control problems. Alternatives to signalized intersections include education, the installation of roundabouts, and other initiatives.

You can find the article on ResearchGate: Sustainable Traffic Signal Development

 

It’s about the whole journey

Picture showing the level access from the platform into the trainThe NSW Government recently ran a two-day event, Live, Work and Play: NSW State of Inclusion Conference. Fellow Director, Nick Loder, attended and has written an overview of the talk by Gail Le Bransky from Transport for NSW: “Moving beyond rights based legislation: People with disability as mainstream customers.” Read on for the key points and the link to the Australian Government’s guide on this topic. This guide is the result of a consultation process.

Key points from Gail’s talk:

  • The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards) recognised that prior to the introduction of the Transport Standards – “there was no focused effort to remove discrimination from Australia’s public transport systems (including aircraft, buses and coaches, ferries, taxis, trains, trams, light rail, motor rail, rack railways, and other rolling stock (including vehicles and vessels classified as public transport in the Transport Standards).
  • Thus the Transport Standards aimed to provide certainty of DDA responsibilities but importantly a focus on a customers, liveable communities and the uptake of new technologies.
  • Transport for NSW access upgrades requires local council co-ordination, Apps and real time information to give people with disability information about accessible routes and transport, starting from the home.
  • The problem identified with access standards for transport in her view was they were too prescriptive, cobbled together from other standards, with no understanding about transport related issues, and significantly strove for minimums, not excellence.
  • The take home message from Gail was that accessible transport is an enabler, promoting age-friendly cities, with walking as an ingredient, hence the need to look at the whole journey, requiring quality footpaths, kerb crossings, pedestrianisation.
  • The technological revolution is here, and Transport for NSW is embracing this as ‘Packaged Mobility’, recognising that some transport options are out of the financial reach of many in the community.

picture of two Sydney buses side by side waiting at traffic lights.A terrific document referenced by Gail was the Australian Government’s consultation paper The Whole Journey – a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys.”   

Accessible transport paves the way for increased social inclusion

Street with footpath in a new developmentSze and Christensen’s study on accessible transportation compares transport access standards in USA, UK, and Hong Kong. According to the authors, minimum requirements are supplemented with criteria for desired requirements in all three access standards. This study provides technical information, dimensions and design improvements as well as discussion and conclusions. One interesting finding is that improved accessibility not only saved travel time, it also encouraged more social activity, particularly in older people. This was the case even where they had significant health issues. Accessibility is also associated with safety and this could have a significant effect on travel behaviour. It would seem that transportation planners should commence their planning with accessibility for people with disability in mind – that way they can be sure the benefits will apply to everyone. The article can be accessed online or by downloading the PDF version. 

Shows the street of a new housing development with driveways for cars but no footpath for peopleEditor’s Note: I recently attended a symposium on healthy built environments and transportation was a major part of the discussion. However, the conversation was largely about encouraging cycling and reducing road use by private vehicles. The focus for public transport was on working age people. Footpaths did not rate a mention until I raised it. I was told that footpaths on both sides of the street were not economically viable and that before laying a footpath a study should be done on how much use it might get. Studies have shown that lack of good and even footpaths are a major reason older people will choose to take the car for all trips. Yet the people with the most time to undertake incidental and social walking are older people as well as non-working parents with prams and people with disability.

From the Abstract:

Safe, efficient and accessible transportation is a key component of community integration. This study attempts to review the current practices and guidelines for accessible design of transportation, both access to and within transport facilities, based on the information from the United States, United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. Besides, the effects of accessible design of transportation on perceived level of service, accessibility, safety and travel behavior would be examined. Therefore, good practices of accessible design that could address the needs for all, especially the elderly and individuals with different types of disability including visual impairment, hearing difficulty and reduced mobility, could be recommended. Hence, quality of life of vulnerable group can be enhanced, and community integration will be achieved in the long run.

Accessible Transport: The economics

Aerial view of a railway line, main roads and suburban streetsInaccessible transport can be a major barrier to participation in social and civic life, and this has a knock-on effect for the economy. Transport is not usually something we do for its own sake. We use transport in one form or another to achieve something else, such as shopping, going to work or school, or for social activities. It is the glue that holds together the many activities people undertake in their daily lives. But not all transport systems and facilities are accessible to everyone – and it is not just about users of mobility devices. 

A discussion paper from New Zealand recognises that some disabilities are invisible, “… given that arguably everyone is a beneficiary of universal design some of the time; that many factors influencing participation are invisible, such as mental illness or hearing difficulty, for example; if an observational measurement method is going to be used, then it must necessarily involve a proxy measure for ‘beneficiary of universal design’.”

This is an encouraging approach because many studies measure ability and disability of individuals at one point in time, and not across the lifespan. The paper includes a road crossing case study from Hamilton in New Zealand. It concludes with the need for mutual understanding between those who plan and build transport and those that use it. The discussion paper on estimating the costs and benefits of participation was prepared by the Roundtable on Economics of Accessible Transport, part of the OECD International Transport Forum.

International transport forum logoThe OECD website has an iLibrary of discussion papers for this Forum. Filtering for “accessibility” brings up several papers, many of them recent.   

Accessible Transport: Good practice guide

Front cover of the report. shows people boarding a tramImproving Transport Accessibility for All: Guide to Good Practice, covers transport information, the road and pedestrian environment, infrastructure, vehicles, private cars, and emerging transport services. The information is detailed and specific. For example, in the first section on information, text size and font are discussed in relation to printed material, websites and the spoken word. The road and pedestrian section is also detailed and begins with footpaths – the widths, gradients, crossfalls, surfaces, paving jointing, seating and tree plantings. Examples from different member countries are provided. Although the Guide was published in 2006, the information is still relevant as progress has been slow, particularly in Australia. The Guide is published by the OECD and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport. You can download the guide in PDF from the OECD International Transport Forum website. It is interesting to note that the guide is following its own advice on best practice in the presentation of information.

The European CInternational transport forum logoonference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) is an intergovernmental organisation established by a Protocol signed in Brussels on 17 October 1953. It comprises the Ministers of Transport of 43 full Member countries: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, FRY Macedonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. There are seven Associate member countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States) and one Observer country (Morocco).

Transport and Health

Newsletter front cover showing a wide pathway with trees and shrubs on either side.The Professional Association for Transport and Health (PATH) newsletter has information for people interested in healthy transport and transportation. This quarterly newsletter has the following topics:

  • In the Know: What’s Happening Globally
  • A European Cycling Trip
  • Publications & Articles of Interest
  • Doctoral/Post-Doctoral & Employment Opportunities

Front cover of the journal: mostly green with some blue shading and white textOf most relevance to universal design is the special issue of the Journal of Transport and Health, Built Environment, Transport and Health. At the end of the newsletter there is a list of open access articles. One of interest to UD is Older People’s Experiences of Mobility and Mood in an Urban Environment

 

Editor’s Note: I have suggested that they might review the font type and size, and format for easier reading for their next issue.

Barriers to public transport use

picture of two Sydney buses side by side waiting at traffic lights.Norway has gone to great lengths to create an accessible transport system, but the use by people with disability has not risen significantly. So it was time to find out why. The answers are not what you might expect. Indeed the experiences of non-users reveals that the actual design of a bus or a train is not enough to ensure accessibility – the system itself needs to be universally designed.

You can read more in the article, Public Transport and People with Disabilities – the Experiences of Non-users There are valuable lessons here for transit designers in Australia. You will note that the authors refer to people with “impairments” and having “deficits” rather than people with disability – the preferred term in Australia. Part of the abstract is below.

Abstract: Society should be designed so that its infrastructure is accessible to all, as much as possible without special solutions and despite differences in level of functioning, to the point where disabilities are rendered irrelevant. Universal design or accessibility for all is high on the agenda in Norway, but despite years of focus on design in public transport, it seems that the number of people with disabilities actually using it has not increased significantly. The aim of this paper is to add to the knowledge of why non-users with disabilities refrain from travelling by public transport. The authors’ research question is: “Why do people with impairments avoid travelling by public transport even when it is readily accessible, and are there any further measures that could lead to improvements?” … [T]he authors made certain assumptions which were tested in qualitative studies on people with impairments who seldom or never travel by public transport. These were: 1) that insecurity and expectations lead to seldom or non-use of public transport; 2) that the triggering factors causing seldom or non-use of public transport are different from the issues that users experience; 3) that lack of knowledge among (and help from) drivers and personnel is a considerable barrier to non-use; 4) that a ‘travel buddy’ might help increase the use of public transport among non-users; and 5) that some impaired people do not use public transport because they have alternatives that work better for them in everyday life. … The findings indicate that insecurity while travelling on public transport and expectations that problems will be encountered along the way are significant barriers to non-use. For many with deficits, it is the sum of all these challenges combined, real or anticipated, that leads to them refraining from using public transport. The findings also point to a ‘travel buddy’ as a measure that might encourage some non-users to use public transport more often and help make actual availability of the system more visible. Finally, the authors question whether universal design is the solution, or whether individualized solutions provide a sense of freedom, of participation in working life and of value added in society among those who do not have physical and/or mental premises for travelling by public transport.

Prams versus wheelchairs: Who wins?

Bus driver helps woman with her wheelie walkerThis item comes from the UK and raises the issue here in Australia – what are the rules for pram users and wheelchair users, and also older people, when there is only one wheelchair bay on the bus? 

In Leeds, a wheelchair user boarded a bus, but a woman with a stroller was occupying the wheelchair bay. Complying with company policy, the driver asked her to move but she refused. The wheelchair user had to wait for the next bus, which meant he missed his train. On the grounds of discrimination, the wheelchair user took the matter to the Supreme Court. The ruling was that drivers are not legally obliged to force someone with a stroller to give up the space. A spokesperson for the bus users organisation said that ultimately everyone should have equal access to public transport, which means the designated wheelchair bay is not protected for wheelchair users only. The spokesperson added that, “we would like to see bus designers, manufacturers and operators thinking more creatively about how buses can meet the needs of all passengers.” 

Transport for NSW has a webpage of information for people with mobility aids and for prams, strollers, and buggies. Basically, a pram user is expected to fold the pram and take a seat in the main section of the bus if a wheelchair user or older person boards the bus after them. But have they seen the size of some of prams? Perhaps it is time for a review of bus design as many policy makers and healthy built environment advocates are pushing for us to use public transport more often – they call it “active travel”.

Intelligent Transport Systems: Planning for a smart Auckland

Picture of a bus stop and bus shelter and footpathHow can you avoid digging up a new footpath to lay a conduit or cable? Answer? Better long term planning.

In his “Auckland Conversations” presentation, Roger Jones, Chief Technology Officer at Auckland Transport, talks about how he is leading the implementation of a digital approach within the organisation and preparing a new technology strategy for Auckland’s transport system.

While the presentation does not specifically mention universal design, there are elements of design thinking that will be advantageous to a diverse population. One of the issues Roger talks about is how they have to think at least 10 years in the future. For example, nothingBus driver helps woman with her wheelie walker annoys residents and visitors more than having a newly paved street dug up a year later because someone forgot to lay a conduit during construction.
Real time information and wider use of CCTV will be the key to our transport futures in both the construction of infrastructure and improved customer experiences. This video is 30 minutes long and will be of interest to transport planners, local government IT and database professionals.

Roger Jones is the Chief Technology Officer at Auckland Transport, where he is currently leading the implementation of a digital approach within the organisation and preparing a new technology strategy, which incorporates digital, ITS and traditional IT. Roger has been active in the implementation of Smart City technologies within Auckland Transport (AT), and as a result, AT has been included as part of Microsoft’s Smart Cities programme and is also one of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s strategic partners for Smart Cities.