Universal design and future of transport

What will transport in the future look like, and will it be universally designed? Engineers Australia’s new discussion paper takes a fresh look at transport systems and infrastructure. That means taking a long-term view of the relationship with community, government policy and regulations. A big job with lot of dots to join up. 

Front cover of the future of transport discussion paper. Transport systems are designed to move people and freight, but they need different things. If we are to reduce emissions, we need innovative transport options. That means talking to consumers – passengers, pedestrians, drivers, and riders. It also means revising regulations and digital infrastructure. 

The title of the discussion paper is The future of transport. The section on access for all discusses universal access in terms of people with “mobility challenges”. Reference is made to the the Universal design for transport discussion paper and lists the benefits of accessible transport.

Benefits include better access to employment opportunities and participation, and enhancing quality of life. Getting the design right at the beginning saves money, increases patronage and enhances economic activity. The next section has more information on the earlier universal design for transport paper. 

Engineers Australia welcomes feedback on the latest discussion paper to help inform future work. To provide feedback please email policy@engineersaustralia.org.au 

Front cover of the Universal design for transport discussion paper.Universal design for transport

The paper’s purpose commences with disability statistics followed by reference to disability discrimination legislation and standards. There is a list of benefits and some case studies followed by recommendations. Although the document uses “universal design” in the title, it uses “universal access”. Not quite the same thing. 


The recommendations from Universal design for transport are:

1. Recognise that compliance alone doesn’t mean good accessibility – focus on universal access.
2. Support the DSAPT (Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport) modernisation process.
3. Leverage existing programs (fleet purchasing, major projects) to get universal access outcomes.
4. Need for long term program and state commitment to retrofitting existing infrastructure to achieve DSAPT standards – including a funding commitment.
5. Make more use of state-based accessibility groups in understanding solutions and prioritisation of finite funding- i.e., maximise accessible benefits.
6. Need to make sure there is access to public transport for those who are reliant on public transport for mobility due to their disability, including in regional areas.
7. Leverage technological advances including internet of things (IOT) and artificial intelligence into wayfinding, access to services etc.
8. Engineers and designers (and regulators) need to have agile mindset to new technologies and ways of providing accessible transport options.
9. Opportunities for new vehicles to be designed for more accessibility- zero emission busses (ZEBs), new trams and trains.
10. Universal access needs to be a guiding principle through the design process not post-design check.
11. Harmonise public transport and active transport infrastructure design standards and best operating practices.
12. Subject matter experts should be engaged at project commencement to identify appropriate standards that lead to good accessibility outcomes.

Universal design should be part of land-use planning, transport planning, and sustainable development, not just equity and inclusion.

The Universal Design for Transport: Transport Australia Society Discussion Paper was published in April 2022

The future of transport discussion paper was published January 2023. To provide feedback please email policy@engineersaustralia.org.au 


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