Universal design approach to transportation

Much of our transportation infrastructure was designed last century when the focus was on getting people to work and school. People with disability were not considered as part of the working or school populations at that time. But times have changed and “average” must evolve to “inclusive” because there is no such thing as the average user. The time has come for a universal design approach to transportation.

Universal design makes transit stations more functional for a wider range of people, based not only on disability but also on factors such as age and size. It helps all users navigate unfamiliar environments.

Train station entry hall in China.

A magazine article on inclusive transit systems suggests one way to think about the transit system is to recall an experience in another country. Was it easy to use? Did you feel you could confidently and independently navigate your way to your destination? How was buying a ticket? If you got confused, potentially, new users will be confused at home too. These are good benchmarks for home country design. 

The more intuitive, accessible, language-neutral and understandable the transit environment becomes, the more everyone benefits.

A scene of the station showing people near the ticket barrier gates.

Transit Universal Design Guidelines

The Transit Universal Design Guidelines (TUDG) promote the value of implementing a universal design approach that supports all user groups. And it doesn’t start and end at the station door. The environment leading up to the transit system must be part of the plan. That includes footpaths. The article picks out three key elements.

Key elements

User Groups: consider who you are ultimately designing for. This section includes accommodations required to satisfy the needs of specific user groups. This includes individuals with visual, hearing, speech, or mobility disabilities and needs, among others.

Aspects of Accommodation: identify features and techniques that can enhance the end user experience — from handrails, to hearing assistant systems, to tactile pathways, to mobile ticketing apps.

Implementation: understand the process and approach for implementing universal design through advocacy, engagement, and evaluating and finalizing design options. With this approach, transit agencies can attract new and retain existing ridership and provide solutions that are inclusive and universal from the start.

The Transit Universal Design Guidelines are comprehensive and stretch to 53 pages. The document aims to be a decision-making tool for transit agencies, designers and policy-makers.

The title of the article is, Designing More Inclusive, Accessible Transit Systems for All

For more information on accessible and inclusive transit systems and transportation, check out the the Transportation section of this website. 

A Melbourne tram moves along a quiet street after the rain. A cyclist is in the background.

Accessibility Toolbar