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. 


Award winning wayfinding design

Deborah Abidakun, recently won an RSA Student Design Award for her wayfinding system design. As a person who is just below average height she found herself on tiptoe trying to understand 3D graphics and at night the lack of lighting made reading difficult. So Deborah started to wonder how others found these signs. This led her to carry out research around the existing pedestrian wayfinding system. Deborah’s winning design was based on enhancing the Transport for London system. Find out more by going to the article – the illustration below has two more screens that help with the explanation.a prototype accessible wayfinding post and panel

Note: John Evernden will be presenting on the new Sydney wayfinding system and signs at the Universal Design Conference and will do a short walk-and-talk around the local streets during the Table Topics session.

Able to Fly: Boeing gets going

front cover of handbook of anthropology for businessOne of the first centres for universal design was set up in Japan, so it is no real surprise that Japan Airlines is pushing Boeing to re-think aircraft and air travel design especially as they not only employ many older workers, they also want to appeal to the older traveller. Anthropologist Kenneth C Erickson writes a very interesting chapter on this in Handbook of Anthropology in Business, which is available from Google books. He covers the whole travel experience from a user perspective using ethnographic techniques. It seems that Boeing, in trying to make the flight experience more convenient, might be adopting universal design principles without perhaps realising it. Here is an an excerpt from the latter part of the text:

“Boeing knows how important it is to see where you are, where you are going, and what things look like outside the airplane window. They’ve reconfigured the interior of the new Dreamliner so that windows are … roughly eye-level. The carbon-fiber fuselage allows greater structural strength and affords bigger windows, while light-sensitive glass obviates the need for those window shades that used to be difficult for passengers to manage […] And although we think of Boeing as making only the airplane, they also make jet-bridges and some of the display technology that shows seat availability for passengers waiting at the gate. This is evidence that Boeing already knows that air travel does not begin when passengers enter the plane; it is not inconceivable that they may broaden their view of travel further and include the entire process of baggage handling, making it, too, more transparent. […] And the work of flight attendants on the ground and in the air … can be made visible and appreciated, so they in turn may see and appreciate those whose bodies – and luggage – they care for. That’s where universal design fosters a good kind of globalization: through it we recognize our common, traveling humanity, and the difference between the temporarily able-bodied and the other dissolves, for a time, into thin air.”

The title of the chapter is, Able to Fly: Temporality, Visibility & the Disabled Airline Passenger, in Handbook of Anthropology in Business, 2016

Curitiba Bus System: Good planning in action

Picture shows a bus offloading passengers at a raised tube shaped bus stop. The floor of the bus stop is level with the entry to the busThirty years ago, Curitiba’s forward-thinking and cost-conscious planners integrated public transportation into all the other elements of the urban planning system. They initiated a system that focused on meeting the transportation needs of all people. Consequently they claim to have a system that is both efficient and accessible.

While the tube shaped bus shelters seem a little cumbersome being raised up to be level with the bus entry, they shelter travellers from the weather and create a relatively level entry to and from the bus. They also claim that time spent at each stop is less than 30 seconds. Read more about the planning of this rapid transport system in southern Brazil. It should be noted that this is not common practice in other parts of Brazil. See this paper for the other side of the story and for a case study on the accessibility (or otherwise) of a local hospital.

Picture shows a person in a manual wheelchair entering onto the short yellow ramp into the bus from the tube shaped bus shelter

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelter

A citizen’s guide to better streets

8 80 cities_entry_pedestrians-blog-postThis publication is aimed at citizens wanting to gain a better understanding of how transportation is planned so that they can contribute to better street and road planning. While this extensive handbook does not focus on universal design per se, it does focus on greater inclusion, activity and participation in public areas. Published by AARP, it is specific to North America in some of its advice, but the handbook should be of interest to anyone interested in transportation and street planning and community engagement. The many photos in the publication show some good examples.880Cities-logo

Download the publication from 8-80 cities website 

The main website also has many other resources.

Achieving full participation through UD

Achieving participation thru UD front coverThis European report sets the scene for promoting universal design and setting an action plan in motion. Universal design is viewed as a strategy to ensure equal and democratic rights in society for all individuals. It covers participation in: political and public life; cultural life; information and communication; education; employment; the built environment; transport; community living; legal protection; research and development; and awareness raising. Examples of good practice are also included. It links well with the eight domains of life outlined in the WHO Age Friendly Cities and Communities program.

Universal Design and Visitability: from Accessibility to Zoning

universal design and visitability front coverThis publication contains a chapter on page 97 by Olav Bringa. His work is the forerunner to the landmark document “Norway Universally Designed by 2025“.  It gives an overview of the change processes needed to bring about a change in attitude from inclusion being a “social services job” to “everyone’s job”.  Other chapters cover different areas. Although it was published in 2007, most topics are still current due to the slow movement on the issues. Included within the 9 chapters are: The Seven Principles of Universal Design in Planning Practice; Universal Design in Transportation; and Inclusive Housing and Neighbourhood Design.