Transport equity: a change of focus

Asking the right questions is the key to getting the right answers. But new questions require a new way of looking at problems. Bridget Doran does that in a white paper on transport equity. She argues that investment in equity will have payoffs for the climate as well as people.

“It is remarkable that in 2023 we do not measure the return on investment in transport by asking who is, and who is not, accessing what they need. However, we are beginning to understand that different people have different needs of transport. An equitable approach is about continuing to learn about who has what needs, and working to meet them.”

Front cover of the A Just Now white paper on transport equity.

New ways to measure progress

Councils spend a lot of money on maintaining streets. Asset management priorities rarely consider who benefits from quality infrastructure. For example, more people who use wheelchairs and mobility devices live in poorer communities. So fixing footpaths in these areas is a good investment in equity. A focused accessibility audit can identify where people can and cannot go depending on their abilities.

Asking people where they are and are not going at a local level is essential. In this way councils can identify priorities for upgraded road crossings and other street improvements. Transport planners use crash data to justify infrastructure investment. Now they should use access data to prioritise investment in equity.

“Strong policy matters. If investment in equity is not made for good reason, it can be delayed, removed or watered-down for political reasons or when other objectives are introduced with stronger rationale.”

Image from the A Just Now white paper.

Image of a pedestrian crossing showing yellow directional and hazard tactile markers on the approach to the crossing which also has a refuge island half way across.

Summary of recommendations

A strong policy vision with equitable participation made an explicit goal of investment is a key recommendation. This is required nationally, regionally and at a local level.

Promoting the needs of people with most to gain from investment, and working to promote low-carbon means of access, will result in the most tangible change. “We have to challenge ourselves to want it.” Image from A Just Now white paper.

A younger woman and an older woman each hold the hand of a small child while walking. An older man is riding a mobility scooter.

The title of the white paper is A Just Now: Equity and transport in a changing climate.

Transport innovation: more of the same?

Front cover of AHURI report on urban transportation.
Front cover of the report

There’s a long gap between new ideas in transportation and when passengers get to experience them. And there are lots of stakeholders within transport systems. Regulators, designers, manufacturers, policy-makers, local and state governments and let’s not forget the travelling public. With so many stakeholders and things to think about, accessibility and inclusion could get missed. So will transport innovation be more of the same?

Apart from interstate trains and buses, public transportation systems are the responsibility of each state and territory. This poses issues of inconsistency, particularly in relation to accessibility. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) recommends greater coordination and national goals for future transport systems. It’s good to see accessibility and inclusion in the mix. 

Different stakeholders want different things

  • Regulators want to see reduced emissions and congestion, increased efficiency, and greater accessibility and social equity.
  • Transport providers want greater efficiency, capacity and market share. 
  • Passengers was increased usefulness, accessibility, inclusivity, comfort, convenience and safety. Then they want reduced price.
Front view of a Queensland Rail train at a station. It says Ipswich on the LED display

Innovation is in the eye of the beholder. The drivers for innovation were identified as, social and environmental, what passengers want, resource constraints, regulatory gaps and political imperatives.

The AHURI research reviews international practice in the context of Australian conditions. Policy discussion in Australia has not moved on from practices set in the late 1990s. Innovation is about emerging modes of transport. These include trying to lessen car dependency by improving public transport, and integrating transport nodes with activity centres. 

The research paper goes on to discuss policy development options, issues for institutions, policy gaps and opportunities, and the role of the state in transport innovation. 

The title of the report is, “Innovative responses to urban transportation: current practice in Australian cities” There are two documents – the 12 page executive summary and the 130 page full report. 

The research questions

Four research questions guided the approach:

1. How are large-scale processes of technological, economic, social and environmental change affecting travel patterns and transport systems in Australian cities?

2. What strategic approaches to configuring infrastructure, technology, regulation and design are Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies adopting?

3. How do Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies compare to relevant international examples in terms of strategic approaches to technological, economic, social and environmental changes?

4. What forward positions should Australian metropolitan transport programs and policies consider in response to drivers of major transport system change and what further research is needed to inform this positioning?

Accessible autonomous vehicles

What factors should be considered when designing accessible autonomous vehicles? A collaborative effort by academics and policy makers found some answers. They looked at the data on people with disability to come up with some practical information.

Cumulative disadvantage faced by people with disability affects their physical, financial, health and wellbeing. One particular challenge is easy access to transportation.

Image of a blue autonomous vehicle on a roadway. The passenger seats are empty.

Academics from the Queensland University of Technology and staff at the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads have embarked on a long term project. The first phase is a data review and surveys with disability user groups. The second stage will involve detailed benchmarking of vehicle designs. A vehicle prototype will be developed in the third stage.

Numerical data

Articles relating to human participants gave specific recommendations for the physical measures of a person’s size and functional capabilities (anthropometrics). This information is essential for informing the design of vehicles. The information includes:

  • wheeled mobility percentiles
  • clear floor space requirements
  • recommended ramp angles
  • interior layout configurations
  • door dimensions and placement
  • ceiling heights
Image of a blue autonomous vehicle on a roadway. The passenger seats are empty.

The authors note that this particular study focused on mobility users and explored user preferences for interior layout and configurations. Updating Australian standards and design guidelines is another task to undertake.

The blind and low vision community, people with intellectual disability and older people are yet to be considered. These groups are at risk of being excluded from AV technologies. The interaction between vehicles and infrastructure is another area of research that’s needed.

A conference paper reports on the first stages of the research project. It’s titled, On the Road to Enhancing Transportation Access for People with Disabilities: A Data Review of Accessible Autonomous Vehicles Research.

From the abstract

The overall study focuses on improving transportation and mobility access for people with disabilities (PwDs) by developing design principles for accessible autonomous vehicles (AAVs).

PwDs experience cumulative disadvantage including lack of mobility, social inclusion, and violation of human rights due to barriers in transportation. AAVs can potentially provide accessible transport options, leading to improved access to medical care, employment, social inclusion, and safety.

The data review identifies key information for accessible AVs. These include wheeled mobility user anthropometric percentiles, clear floor space requirements, recommended ramp angles, interior layout configurations, and door dimensions. However, there is a need for more co-design prototyping, analysis of standards, and current design best practices.

This review provides a comprehensive set of design principles for a AVs that caters to the diverse needs of PwDs. The review concludes by discussing clusters of information identified, gaps in data and opportunities for further research.

Technology, transportation and inclusion

One fifth of all car journeys in the UK are taken by people with disability, and one third of those are taken as a passenger. So, connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) provide a great opportunity to create independent travel.

While CAVs are good in theory, there are many pitfalls in making them fully accessible. This is where policy and regulations have a strong role to play.

View through a car windscreen to a country road with one car in front.

A 2020 article on the Open Inclusion website has a podcast and a video of two transportation specialists. One works for KPMG and the other for a digital design agency. They discuss the amount of change going on in the transportation industry. This is good in terms of being able to provide real time data on services, and other information such as station platform lifts being out of order. Electrification and automation are the other major changes, and opportunities for the private sector to provide services.

There is more useful information on this website on practical aspects of inclusion for people with disability: smart cities, inclusive travel, and universal design. It includes a link to the autonomous shuttle bus in an aged care village in Canberra. 

Making public transport attractive

Making public transport attractive is an important aspect of encouraging people not to take the car. But it’s not all about making public transport better. A person’s life situation, family make-up, and age can also influence car use. So it’s not just about the infrastructure or service quality as a Nordic study found out.

The car is the preferred mode of transport by many older people. Unsuitable routes and times, having to stand, crowding and long walking distances are some of their reasons.

An orange tram is arriving at the light rail station. Making public transport attractive.

Younger people are more likely to use different modes for the one journey. They use a mix of cycling, driving and public transport. However, if they have a drivers licence they will use the car more than those without.

Families with young children also prefer the car especially if the transpsort mode is not physically accessible. Older children are subject to parent preferences for driving them to school. This is particularly the case if the distance to school is significant. However, as children grow older, they are more encouraged to walk to school if they feel safe and the area is “walkable”.


Distance between home and workplace or the city centre impacts travel choice. The probability of using public transport increases when living five minutes or less from a public transport stop. But this was when the frequency was no more than 20 minutes between departures.

Travellers dislike walking, waiting, and transferring more than spending time in their car. This is especially the case if the wait takes place in an unpleasant environment. Having to transfer more than once was also unattractive.

A young woman is sitting in a bus shelter and looking down the road. The shelter is lit and has an information board.

Station facilities were more important than on-board comfort for shorter trips. Unexpected and unpredictable delays were not viewed well, which means reliability is a key factor. Overall, travellers should be seen in their sub groups because their preferences are decided by different factors. This should be reflected in any marketing campaigns for active travel.

In essence, reliability and frequency are important attributes for making public transport attractive. After all, the car gives both. Car users need to be persuaded that there are benefits for them.

For people unable to afford a car, or physically unable to drive a car, public transport is essential. Norway has made considerable efforts to make their public transport system accessible.

The title of the article is, Factors that make public transport systems attractive: a review of travel preferences and travel mode choices.

From the abstract

Background: Many regions worldwide are struggling to shift from private cars to more sustainable transport modes. There is a lack of a comprehensive overview of the factors that make public transport systems attractive.

Aim: This review aims to offer insights into factors influencing travel behaviour and demand for public transport. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first review with a Nordic focus regarding public transport preferences and travel mode choices. The focus on these countries is because they have ambitious policies for reducing emissions in the transport sector.

Methods: The literature review encompassed international literature reviews and included an examination of results from the Nordic countries.

Findings: Reliability and frequency are important factors for creating an attractive public transport supply. However, there is only limited evidence about the impact of improvements in these attributes on public transport demand. This needs more research. This review highlights the importance of understanding the underlying motivations for choosing travel modes. Recommendations include further investigation to understand the attractiveness of public transport supply.

Benefits and costs of footpaths

Footpaths are an essential part of any travel chain – walking and wheeling are the most basic and universal form of travel. But do we invest enough in footpaths? Compared to investment in roads and cars, probably not. That’s according to an article by Todd Litman. His recent study examines the benefits and costs of footpaths as a sustainable form of travel.

Improving walking conditions can provide many benefits. However, many streets lack footpaths and those that do exist are sub-standard.

A group of people waiting to cross the road on a a sunny day. Footpaths benefits and costs.

Litman’s article looks at cost studies in the North American context. In summary the data indicate that typical U.S. communities spend $30 to $60 annually per capita on footpaths. But footpaths only appear where there are laws to mandate them. That means that not every street has a footpath or has one on only one side of the street. This is an underinvestment in footpaths that needs to be remedied.

People who cannot drive and must use public transport and need a footpath for mobility, are seriously disadvantaged. The article compares infrastructure spending on walking (1%), cycling (2%), public transit (7%), and roads (90%). Comparisons with other factors provide more information in the article and potential funding options are discussed.

Some of the benefits

Other studies showed that increasing walking reduced vehicle miles and reduced crash rates. One study estimated that completing footpath networks would reduce vehicle miles by 3%. This would provide, per capita, about $30 in annual roadway savings, $60 in annual parking savings $180 in vehicle cost savings. Reductions in traffic congestion, pollution and health benefits add to the benefits.

Although the article calls for a significant increase in footpath spending, compared to what is spent on roads and parking, this is a small amount. Completing footpath networks also helps achieve social equity goals. The most physically and economically disadvantaged groups tend to rely more on walking including walking to transit stops.

The title of the article is, Completing Sidewalk Networks: Benefits and Costs.

From the abstract

This study examines the benefits and costs of completing urban sidewalk networks. Most communities have incomplete or lack sidewalk networks. Many of those that do exist are inadequate and fail to meet universal design standards. This is unfair to people who want to walk, and increases costs by suppressing walking and increasing motor vehicle traffic.

Recent case studies provide estimates of sidewalk expenditures and the additional investments needed to complete sidewalk networks. North American communities typically spend $30 to $60 annually per capita on sidewalks. However, they would need to double or triple these levels to complete their networks. Compared with current pedestrian spending this seems large. But it is small compared with what governments and businesses spend on roads and parking facilities, and what motorists spend on their vehicles.

Sidewalk funding increases are justified to satisfy ethical and legal requirements, and to achieve various economic, social and environmental goals. There are several possible ways to finance sidewalk improvements. These usually repay their costs through savings and benefits.

Teenagers and transport

Transport, both public and private, is the glue that holds our everyday lives together across our lifespan. Consequently, it is expected that inability to get to places and activities will have a negative effect on our lives, physically and mentally. One group that is often left out of transport studies is later age teenagers. So researchers in New Zealand decided to look at the issues for teenagers and transport.

The rate at which young people are getting their drivers licence is reducing in developed countries. Walking, cycling and using public transport are all good for physical health. But if social and economic life is restricted, how does this affect mental wellbeing?

The researchers wanted to find out how transport impacted the wellbeing of students aged 16-18 years. They used the photovoice method which puts cameras into participants’ hands to help them document and communicate issues of concern. This participatory method puts the power with those who usually have little power to generate new knowledge.

Teenagers photographed their feet to document walking as the key aspect of getting around. They all walked at some point in their journey.

Image from ScienceDirect

A montage of teenagers feet documenting the transport mode of walking.

What teenagers said

Regardless of the destination, photos and narratives of those who lived close to town and were able to walk displayed independence, happiness and positive aspects of wellbeing. The key themes emerging from the study were financial, social and mental wellbeing, safety, and barriers to choice.

The financial aspects included the cost of getting a licence and the cost of fuel when a car was available to them. Getting to sport without a car was difficult. According to one participant, even if the bus ran regularly, rugby gear wasn’t allowed on the bus.

Social and mental wellbeing was enhanced by walking and for some, listening to music at the same time. Those who lived out of town did not walk as much due to distance, but they were willing to walk to school or to a friend if it was less than an hour.

Safety for cyclists was based on infrastructure where they were competing with pedestrians or vehicles. Safety for pedestrians was related to cars and the worry about whether they would stop for crossings. Pedestrians felt more unsafe at busy times when cars are coming and going with pick ups and drop offs. Out of town there are no footpaths and the hilly terrain reduces visibility for cars.

Barriers to choice and feeling trapped at home. Weather and the dark early mornings restricted choices of how to travel. Female students said wearing skirts prevents them from cycling. The public bus system is considered inadequate and perceived by all as a major barrier.

Walking is good

Delaying licencing and driving due to financial costs had the benefit of encouraging walking and therefore improved wellbeing. However, not having a licence was an obstacle which had a negative impact on wellbeing. Safety featured prominently in the photographs especially the dilemma of whether cars would stop for them on crossings. Complicated trip chains discouraged the teenagers from making the trip.

The title of the article is, The influence of transport on well-being among teenagers: A photovoice project in New Zealand. There is partial access, but you will need institutional access to read the whole thing. Or you can read the article on ResearchGate.

There is no reference to teenagers who are unable to walk or walk long distances. Perhaps they self-selected themselves out of the project.

From the abstract

Transport mobility greatly affect teenagers׳ ability to independently access their social networks, key activities and destinations. Consequently, it makes sense to consider the role that transport plays in influencing well-being among older adolescents. The aim of this study was to investigate how older teenagers perceive the impact of transport on their well-being.

“Photovoice” uses photographs to enhance assessments of community needs, to empower participants, and to provide a comprehensive description of an issue. This method was utilized among senior secondary school students aged 16–18 in Southland, New Zealand (n=18; 50% male). Group discussions concerning transport and well-being provided richness and depth to each photograph displayed.

Transport infrastructure played a key role in supporting well-being among participants. Regardless of the destination, photos and narratives by participants who lived close to town, and who were able to walk to destinations as part of their daily trip chain, displayed independence, happiness and positive social aspects of well-being. Living farther away from town elicited photo stories of loneliness and decreased autonomy, with respect to transport.

Photovoice projects are a valuable way to engage youth and provide context for new research topics such as this. New knowledge generated by this project will inform future research focused on transport and the well-being of young people.

Inclusive Design Wheel for transport

The University of Cambridge’s Inclusive Design Team, have applied their Inclusive Design Wheel to transport. As with many frameworks, it lists a step-by-step process, but with a twist. It is a co-design process. The key principle of the Inclusive Design Wheel is that the process is highly iterative and involves users.

The Inclusive Design Wheel for Transport consists of four phases of activity: Manage, Explore, Create and Evaluate

The Inclusive Design Wheel for transport showing the four phases of the framework.

The Wheel is flexible and it is not always necessary to carry out all activities in every iteration. Successive cycles of Explore, Create and Evaluate are used to generate a clearer understanding of needs.

Each of the four phases is broken down into guiding tasks. For example, in the Explore phase, engage with users, examine user journeys, and capture wants and needs. In the Create phase, involve users, stimulate ideas, and refine ideas. In the Evaluate phase, agree success criteria, gather expert feedback and gather user feedback.

The Inclusive Design Wheel is a detailed online toolkit. While some of the steps appear obvious, the step-by-step process keeps you on track. This is a useful tool which can be applied in other contexts.

The underpinning research

The Inclusive Design Team completed their Dignity project on digital access to transport. They worked in four European cities to see how best to help travellers and providers. The aim of the project was to see how all stakeholders can help bridge the digital gap. They did this by co-creating more inclusive solutions using co-design methods. Their Inclusive Design Wheel is the result and is applicable to all aspects of public transport.

The evolution of paper-based train and bus timetables to digital formats has benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, digital formats offer more detailed information to help plan journeys. On the other, the amount of information can be overwhelming – that is, if you can find what you are looking for. And if you don’t have access to digital services then this format is of no use at all.

At first glance the Inclusive Design Wheel looks complex. The research team used feedback from the research project to fine tune the framework to its current form.

A graphic showing a complex circular chart with many elements. It looks very academic and take time to read and perhaps understand.

The Dignity report is long, comprehensive, and uses academic language. It details the methods in all four cities: Ancona Italy, Barcelona Spain, Flanders, Belgium, and Tilbug Netherlands.

Digital first and last mile

A young woman is sitting in a bus shelter and looking down the road. The shelter is lit and has an information board.

Many car trips in Australia are less than 2km. So there is room for a re-think in personal e-mobility and digital solutions.  The Future of Place organisation recently ran an online workshop on the digital last mile. It drew together technology and data solutions to support first and last mile experience. The key question was what does the last mile of the future look like? It therefore follows: will everyone be included in the digital first and last mile solutions?

Four guests gave their expertise to the workshop. Katherine Mitchell reminded us that regular commuters have high levels of digital literacy. But not everyone has a smart device. She focused on accessibility, safety, confidence and wayfinding.

Damien Hewitt posed the idea of bus stops offering more local information, not just about transport or timetables. Stephen Coulter discussed the opportunities for micro-mobility and e-mobility. With 12 billion car trips of less than 2km made each year it’s time for transformation.

Oliver Lewis advocated for a greater level of digitisation to manage assets for real time experiences for users. He also introduced the idea of “Digital Twins”. An example of a digital twin is a digital 3D model of a real physical object or process. It helps predict how a product will perform.

Workshop participants gave their ideas via a process of “card-storming”. The results were captured in a document on the Future of Place website. 

Public transport: Trips not made

It’s easy to measure the trips made on public transport and produce statistics as a guide to transport planning. But what do you do about trips not made – how do you measure them? The only way is to ask people for their public transport stories about trips made or foregone. Qualitative research is as valid as any other method, but it doesn’t give simple answers in the form of statistics.

Iutruwita/Tasmania has no passenger rail services apart from scenic train trips for tourists. The bus is the main public transport service. Otherwise it is taxis or rides from friends and family.

Two yellow buses.

A qualitative study of 30 young people with disability in Tasmania reveals the importance of public transport in everyday life. Without access to it, people with disability are unable to work, get an education, and choose where to shop. Getting to medical appointments are difficult or missed unless someone drives them.

The researchers used community chats, World Café methods, and individual chats to gain information from participants. The research team recruited young people with disability as researchers as well as participants.

The verbatim accounts provide good insights into the importance of public transport in everyday living. This was especially the case for people who do not drive or own a car. And of course, if it is difficult for people with disability, it is likely difficult for many other people. For example parents with young children and older people.

Key points from the study

People with disability find using public transport difficult. Across the system there were tension points in physical, cognitive, digital accessibility, reliability and affordability. Briefly, the themes emerging from the study were:

– Difficulty planning the trip – confusing and poor access to information.

– Difficulty getting to the bus – unsafe surface, poor lighting, long distances.

– Nervous/uncomfortable wait for the bus – lack of real time information, no shelters or seats.

– Being vigilant on the bus – crowding, bullying, driver-passenger interactions, not knowing whereto get off.

– Stuck getting home – unpredictability of services and lack of real time information.

The sum total of the stories resulted in a refrain of “I can’t do anything”. There was a sense of restriction and missing out. “Unless you have someone to take you, you can’t go.”

The article is titled, “I have mentally cancelled a lot of trips”: Trips not made by disabled people due to public transport inequity in lutruwita/Tasmania.

There is a summary report on the Anglicare Tasmania website.

From the abstract

People with disability of all ages continue to experience transport disadvantage. Barriers to transport have been well documented. However, less is known about the consequences of journeys not made because of these barriers.

In this article, we share the trips not made and their impact on the everyday lives of 30 disabled people. The participants were disabled young people, from lutruwita/Tasmania, Australia.

Health, work, education, seeing friends/family and leisure trips are forgone due to public transport not being inclusive of disabled persons. Their stories suggest public transport use is still dependent on who you are, where you live and the complexity of the journey.

For transport equity, substantial change is needed in how the transport user is considered in transport planning and network delivery.

Put pedestrians first

Transport planners and engineers will be familiar with both the Safe System approach and the Movement and Place framework. The implicit assumption is that these approaches will put pedestrians first. But will they? The quest for reducing car use is focused on people walking and cycling more. Bike riders have successfully advocated for better cycling conditions in major cities. But has the infrastructure been beneficial for walkability and wheelability?

A universal design approach takes and inclusive whole of population view. It acknowledges that pedestrians are diverse and have varying abilities in negotiating street infrastructure.

A busy intersection in Sydney showing pedestrians, a cyclist and a bus. Put pedestrians first.

Transport planners and engineers are guided by regulations related to the concept of mobility. However, this means things like transport demands, traffic impact and land use. A pedestrian’s view of mobility is more about moving around easily, safely and without impediments.

When the issue of equity arises, it is often framed from a transport disadvantage view. That means identifying specific pedestrian groups who need special treatment or accommodations. A commonly used collective term for all these groups is “vulnerable pedestrians”. But all pedestrians are vulnerable in the presence of motor vehicles. This terminology implicitly perpetuates negative stereotypes which lead to planning assumptions that are not necessarily accurate.

Older pedestrians are not all “slow walkers” and not all slow walkers are older. Given that most older people live in the community, it is a nonsense to just do special pedestrian treatment around aged care facilities. Same thing for children – they do more than just go to school.

See more on this discussion in Jane Bringolf’s article in Sourceable titled, Planning for walkability: Put pedestrians first. If we are serious about encouraging people to get out of their cars, it’s time to put pedestrians at the top of the road user hierarchy.

Walking and wheeling not equitable

A survey of people with disability in England found that getting out and about in their neighbourhood difficult if not impossible. Two not-for-profit organisations ran a six month inquiry which revealed waking and wheeling is not equitable for all. Similar experiences have been identified in Australia. Footpaths and time to cross the road feature strongly.

“We believe everyone should have the right to walk or wheel around our neighbourhoods with ease, independence and confidence.”

Front cover of the report on walking and wheeling. It shows people with various mobility devices walking along a neighbourhood street.

Transport accessibility gap

Physical barriers to wheeling and walking are only part of the issue. Participants said they are afraid of negative comments from other people when walking or wheeling. Not having the right mobility aid was also an barrier to traveling safely and independently.

Disabled people take 38% fewer trips across all modes of transport than non-disabled people.  This pattern is similar for walking and wheeling. In England, for example, disabled people take 30% fewer walking trips than non-disabled people. ”

Image from the report showing a man in a wheelchair and a woman walking across a zebra crossing.

What to do about it?

The Executive Summary of the report lists 9 solutions with recommendations. First on the list is to involve people with disability in walking and wheeling policy and practice. Dedicated and well maintained footpaths are another key feature for improvements.

“It’s very frustrating seeing beautiful smooth roads for cars whilst walking on pavement surfaces that are falling apart.” Workshop participant

Image from the report showing a broken footpath. The text reads, Create dedicated pavement funding to maintain and improve pavements.

Footpath clutter, bollards, outdoor dining, and electric vehicle chargers need to be managed better. Some people don’t leave their homes on garbage collection days. Then comes the issue of interacting with cycle paths and cyclists. More formal crossings, kerb ramps and tactile paving would encourage them to walk or wheel more.

We need more time to cross the road

Transport engineers use a standard walking speed to time traffic signals at I.2m per second. UK transport guidance updated this to 1.0m per second but this is still to quick for slow walkers and people wheeling. This makes people feel unsafe and limits their ability to get out and about. Research cited by Australian researchers found that people using a cane or crutch walked 0.8m per second and people using a walker 0.63m per second.

The blog article with an overview is titled, Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry: Giving disabled people a voice in walking and wheeling policy and practice. You can also download the Executive Summary and the Full Report of the Inquiry. The report comes in alternative formats too.

Although this is report is based on English conditions, the findings support other research in Australia and elsewhere. The section on Transportation on this website has more.

Maintaining dignity on buses and trains

“Mind the Gap” on public transport has an additional meaning for people with disability and other marginalised groups. It’s not just the barriers and inconveniences, it’s also the indignity that people experience. Gaps result from barriers in infrastructure, communication systems and attitudes. Consequently, not everyone is able to maintain their dignity on buses and trains.

More than 30% of people with disability in Australia experience difficulties using public transport. Consequently, this impacts on their ability to participate in the economy and society.

A boy in a powered wheelchair is mounting the ramp into the Queensland Rail train. A woman stands behind him and the station guard looks on. A man with a baby stroller and boy wait nearby to enter the train carriage. The image is from the Access and Inclusion webpage.

Image from Queensland Transport’s Access and Inclusion Strategy.

Perceptions of dignity are about not feeling discrimination, shame or humiliation. Positive experiences of acceptance and inclusion help maintain dignity even when things might not work well. A research study in Queensland explored these issues with people with disability.

The researchers found that dignified mobility experiences were not isolated or momentary. Rather, entire travel journeys that were accessible, inclusive, equitable, promoted independence and enhanced self-worth contributed to dignified mobility experiences. And it wasn’t all about infrastructure.

Interpersonal interactions experienced in physical, digital and communication spaces across travel journeys were just as important as physical barriers. A sense of dignity came from feeling respected, appropriately helped and being treated like anyone else. Both tangible and intangible aspects of the whole journey need consideration. The researchers point to a universal design approach.

Universal design, access to accessible and inclusive information, and empathic attitudes help create dignified mobility experiences for people with disability when using buses and trains.

Picture of the Esplanade Busport showing the stop sequence of the trains from the adjoining train station

The research paper provides key information for a universal design approach to dignified journeys. They include detail on accessible and inclusive information and the need for empathic systems and staff.

The title of the article is, The dignity experience of people with disability when using trains and buses in an Australian city.

From the abstract

When transport systems are accessible and inclusive, people with disability experience dignity. When personal mobility is constrained by physical, social and/or communication, barriers, people with disability experience exclusion and risk to their dignity.

This study explored the role of trains and buses in an Australian city in supporting access, inclusion and dignified mobility experiences for people with disability. Twenty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants with diverse visible and invisible disabilities.

The findings highlight the complexities involved with navigating public transport systems while maintaining dignity. Accessible and inclusive information, infrastructure, and interactions with staff ensured dignified mobility experiences.

Dignified mobility experiences represent a complex and dynamic interaction between personal experiences and preferences, impairment-specific requirements, transport infrastructure, interpersonal experiences, and information inclusivity.

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