How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

A train arriving at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City where tests are currently being held to foster inclusive mobility

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many accessibility solutions enable people with disabilities to use public transport.

Because that’s what inclusive mobility entails. It gives people with disabilities more freedom and spontaneity to easily go to work, attend their kid’s recital, have a drink with their friends…

Let’s see what inclusive mobility solutions you can set up for your city’s public transit. You’ll be able to provide users with disabilities with a high-quality service.

What is inclusive mobility?

A concept you must have heard of but you may not have taken the time to decipher. What is the meaning of inclusive mobility?

It consists in creating a barrier-free environment where all types of users, regardless of their capabilities, can easily come and go. 

After all, mobility is the ability to move freely. And inclusion represents the idea that everyone should be able to go to any type of venue, enjoy the same activities or experiences, benefit from the same services…

Of course, this concerns people with disabilities. This means that for inclusive mobility to be a reality for them, public transit needs to be accessible.

Several ideas are at stake with inclusive mobility for people with disabilities:

 ⊗ Improving their independence, autonomy and spontaneity when getting around,

 ⊗ Making sure they don’t have to adapt to public transit. It’s up to public transportation to adapt to their needs and capabilities.

 ⊗ Providing them with the same choices as everybody else: the ability to use public transportation if they want to. 

What solutions favor inclusive mobility at public transit?

Accessible equipment, digital apps, there’s a whole variety of solutions to make public transit inclusive for riders with disabilities:

 ⊗ Elevators,

 ⊗ Escalators,

 ⊗ Stairs with nosings, handrails and a visual contrast

 ⊗ Access ramps,

 ⊗ Lowered counters,

 ⊗ Lowered ticket validity control,

 ⊗ Tactile guide paths,

 ⊗ Pictograms,

 ⊗ Visual and audio announcements… 

By now all these solutions may sound familiar to you but there are others you should particularly pay attention to. They’re a game-changer for the accessibility of a public transit network.

 ⊗ Audio beacons: a solution that helps blind and visually impaired people locate the entrance of a subway station, the elevator, the ticket machine, the counter and any other service available within the network. 

Blind and visually impaired users need to rely on an efficient audio signage system to find their bearings. And also to have access to information. The audio beacon’s message can be about the direction of the line or the timetables.

Audio beacons are very easy to install, maintain and cost-effective. Thanks to this equipment, employees aren’t solicited to guide a visually impaired person. They can focus on helping them by providing the information or services they need. 

 ⊗ Navigation apps: are accessible and inclusive indoor navigation apps really a thing? The answer is yes. Our navigation app Evelity takes into account every type of disability. This means it adapts to the user, regardless of their capabilities.

Blind and visually impaired people: Evelity provides step-by-step audio instructions thanks to a screen reader (VoiceOver for iOS and TalkBack for Android).

Deaf and hard of hearing people: visual instructions with text and icons.

People with physical disabilities: visual instructions. The app provides personalized routes. For example, a wheelchair user is only given step-free routes for their experience to be optimal.

People with mental disabilities: easy-to-read and understand instructions and icons.

This makes Evelity the perfect solution for the inclusive mobility of a public transit network. This is why the Marseilles metro in France has chosen to implement it across its entire network. And it has also set foot on American soil: Evelity is currently being tested at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City.

What is Evelity the perfect solution to make public transportation accessible?

 ⊗ It truly adapts to all types of disabilities.

 ⊗ Its technology enables it to give precise step-by-step instructions. Indeed, its geolocation provides a 1,2 m precision in order to safely guide users in a public transit network.

 ⊗ It enables users to easily find their way around with autonomy. They can use public transportation just like everyone else.   

 ⊗ An indoor navigation app is less expensive than refurbishing works to make old subway systems accessible. That’s exactly one of the reasons why the MTA turned to testing digital solutions at JaySt-MetroTech station. 

Is phygital the way to inclusive mobility?

The combination of both accessible equipment and digital solutions enables public transit to be inclusive and accessible. With phygital, riders with disabilities can better interact with the accessible solutions at their disposal within a public transit network. 

Because that’s what’s at stake here: making sure people with disabilities can easily use public transportation to gain more freedom and more spontaneity when getting around.

A digital solution combined with physical accessible equipment guarantees inclusive mobility for all categories of people. That’s called phygital.

But for a navigation app to properly work, physical accessible equipment is still necessary. Because, of course, a wheelchair user can’t use Evelity if there’s no elevator or access ramp leading to public transportation. 

Public transit needs the best of both worlds.  

What Is a Phygital Experience and How Can It Improve the Accessibility of Your Venue?

Why is it so important to implement inclusive mobility at public transit?

As part of the ADA, public transit has to be accessible for people with disabilities. Paratransit services have been set up when fixed routes aren’t fully or not at all accessible to help people with disabilities get around. But such services are expensive. Plus, they have always intended to be temporary to give time for public transit to be accessible.

Paratransit Services for People with Disabilities: Yes You Can Reduce Their Costs

But the problem is that time isn’t on the side of public transportation. Indeed, a federal court has recently ruled against the MTA because of accessibility issues.

The lawsuit was filed after the MTA renovated Middletown Road station in the Bronx where no elevator was installed for people with disabilities to access the station.

However, the ADA requires the installation of an elevator whenever a public transit network renovates a station in a way that affects its usability regardless of the cost. The only concern remains the technical feasibility of such renovations. 

It’s to be noted that only 25% of New York City’s 472 subway stations were accessible in 2018 thus leaving behind people with disabilities who cannot ride with the MTA.

Fortunately, the MTA is committed to making accessibility and inclusive mobility a reality for them by focusing on digital solutions like Evelity.

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

Bear in mind that in the United States, 45% of Americans have no access to public transit. This means that what happens in New York City could set an example for other major cities in the country. 

With phygital solutions, inclusive mobility is within our grasp. Public transit can truly be accessible and inclusive for all users. The question now is: are you ready for more accessibility?

Want to know more about the accessibility of public transportation? Check out these articles:

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?

Published on November 18th, 2022

© Okeenea

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A blind woman uses Evelity in the Lyon metro for inclusive mobility

The combination of both accessible equipment and digital solutions enables public transit to be inclusive and accessible. With phygital, riders with disabilities can better interact with the accessible solutions at their disposal within a public transit network.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals  Table of contents What are accessible pedestrian signals?Why do cities have accessible pedestrian signals?Who are APS for?How do audible traffic signals work exactly?What is pedestrian detection?Why are...

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Paratransit Services for People with Disabilities: Yes You Can Reduce Their Costs

Paratransit Services for People with Disabilities: Yes You Can Reduce Their Costs

A man in a wheelchair in the streets

Paratransit Services for People with Disabilities: Yes You Can Reduce Their Costs

As a chief executive officer of a transit authority, you know how challenging it is to provide a reliable public transit system to all riders. And how expensive it is to set up paratransit services for people with disabilities.

But you can reduce their costs while maintaining a quality service for all users. How exactly? With an innovative app that can guide people with disabilities within your public transit network. 

Technology, combined with accessible physical equipment, can have a significant change for the everyday lives of people with disabilities. A change towards inclusive mobility. 

After all, paratransit services have only been set up to let public transit systems have time to be more accessible. And it seems this time has come.

Buckle up to find out what the future of transportation has in stock for you. You’ll see this future isn’t that far away…

What solution can be more cost-effective than paratransit services?

Let’s take a look at innovative technologies, more specifically an indoor navigation app conceived for people with disabilities: Evelity.

A single app that can help riders with disabilities navigate your public transit system with autonomy:

Evelity is designed to suit every type of profile:

     ⊗ A blind or visually impaired user has audio instructions thanks to VoiceOver and TalkBack.

     ⊗ A deaf or hard of hearing user has text instructions.

     ⊗ A person with reduced mobility like a wheelchair user benefits from optimized and step-free routes.

     ⊗ A person with intellectual disabilities has simplified interfaces.

⊗ It provides riders with disabilities with more autonomy: they just have to use their smartphone to be guided within your public transit network. 84% of them use a smartphone on a daily basis.

⊗ They can also have more spontaneity. Something they don’t have with paratransit services as they need to book their trip at least 48h in advance. With an app, no more on-demand transportation, they can rely on public transport just like everyone else.

But why is it worth it for you?

⊗ More riders with disabilities who use your subway or your bus means less paratransit services to handle. Consequently, your costs related to these services are reduced by simply making Evelity accessible to your users.

⊗ Less carbon emissions: more people using public transportation means less paratransit vehicles on the roads. Definitely good for the environment. 

⊗ You have a positive impact on people’s lives: thanks to a more accessible public transit, people with disabilities are offered the same choices as other riders. They can choose to go to work by bus or by subway. They can get around with more freedom.

⊗ You can foster inclusion: you give your public transit system a universal sense. All are welcome, regardless of their capabilities. 

⊗ You can improve an existing service and not just for riders with disabilities. It’s not just them that can use Evelity. But also the elderly who may feel anxious in a complex environment, tourists who don’t speak the language, people who have never used your subway before…

Evelity is currently being tested at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City. The MTA is committed to providing an accessible and inclusive subway network. It has perfectly understood that improving the mobility of people with disabilities within their subway is key to enhancing their experience and quality of life.

But the navigation app is fully deployed on the entire subway network of Marseilles, France. It has become the first subway system to bet on this innovative solution. A technology that focuses on users to better meet their needs. 

What should you implement for Evelity to improve the accessibility of your public transit network?

Have you heard of the term “phygital”? The words “physical” and “digital” are blended to combine both worlds.

Phygital can be seen as a bridge connecting technology and physical equipment. The goal is to provide users with a unique and interactive experience. 

As you must have guessed, Evelity represents the digital world. An app that guides riders with disabilities. But for this app to be used, your subway stations or bus stops need to be accessible in the first place.

That’s where accessible physical equipment takes place. People with disabilities need to rely on access ramps, guide paths, audio beacons to locate the subway entrance…

Physical accessibility completes technology. Phygital provides the best of both worlds. That’s how your public transit network can be accessible. Because if it’s more accessible then people with disabilities won’t need to use paratransit services. And eventually, the costs related to them will be reduced.  

How much do paratransit services cost?

According to the National Transit Database (NTD), transit operators spend 5$ on a fixed route bus trip. For paratransit services, its cost goes from $60 to $90. 

Over the years, the costs of paratransit services have kept increasing due to the growing of the aging population. 

Indeed, the average cost per paratransit trip increased by 20% between 2015 and 2018. This represents tens of millions for transit authorities which means a huge portion of their budget is dedicated to guarantee users paratransit services. 

But the problem is that this money isn’t committed to address accessibility issues in public transportation. It’s there to maintain a service that has been created to be temporary.

Why are paratransit services so costly?

The day-to-day operations of paratransit services are extremely expensive for transit authorities: gas for vehicles, the vehicles themselves and their servicing, the wages of the drivers…

⊗ Paratransit services focus on individuals instead of groups of people. They can’t group trips efficiently otherwise people with disabilities would have to wait too long and miss their appointments.

⊗ Depending on the area to cover, a single trip can be expensive as it’s difficult to carry many passengers in a vehicle.

⊗ People with serious disabilities may need to take longer to board and deboard. This affects productivity for a vehicle of paratransit services.

Why does your public transit network need such a service in the first place?

When enacted, the ADA also specifically focused on public transportation. By this, we mean that public transportation has to provide people with disabilities with an accessible network to easily get around: a seamless mobility chain.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, the same holds true for making public transit accessible for riders with disabilities. After all, we know it’s not easy for a subway to be accessible. The refurbishments necessary for a very old system with sprawling stations can be enormous.

That’s why the ADA has set up requirements for paratransit services: they take place within ¾ mile of all fixed routes of public transit for people who cannot use the public bus system or for those who cannot get to a point where they could access it. 

But the ultimate goal is to have a fully accessible public transit system for the aging population and the 61 million people with disabilities in the United States to navigate in their city. This is even more striking when we think about the 45% of Americans who have no access to public transportation. 

That’s why a navigation app like Evelity, combined with accessible equipment, can be helpful. Thanks to this app, your public transit system is more accessible and inclusive to all. 

People with disabilities are ready to use technology to improve their mobility. You can make this a reality by implementing an indoor navigation app suited to meet their profiles. Paratransit services can be significantly reduced. And the same applies to their costs. Now the question is are you ready for more inclusive mobility?

Want to know more about accessible public transportation? Check out these articles:

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

Published on October 21st, 2022

Man in a wheelchair: © Unsplash

JaySt-MetroTech subway station: © Okeenea

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The entrance of the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City with turnstiles

But the ultimate goal is to have a fully accessible public transit system for the aging population and the 61 million people with disabilities in the United States to navigate in their city. This is even more striking when we think about the 45% of Americans who have no access to public transportation.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

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The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals  Table of contents What are accessible pedestrian signals?Why do cities have accessible pedestrian signals?Who are APS for?How do audible traffic signals work exactly?What is pedestrian detection?Why are...

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Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

Riders on a platform are waiting for the train

How Innovation Promises to Revolutionize Accessibility in the New York City Subway

 

With more than 1.5 billion passengers per year, the New York City subway is one of the most used rapid transit systems in the Western world. And it’s also one of the oldest. It opened in 1904, much before accessibility for passengers with disabilities was a requirement. Despite the technical constraints relating to the construction of stations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is committed to making the network accessible to all. It does not hesitate to involve technological innovation to achieve this objective. Let’s look at the strategy adopted by the MTA to offer a better passenger experience to all riders.

70 more accessible subway stations by 2024

The New York City subway system was built in the early 1900s, much before wheelchair access was a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This partly explains that only 25% of the city’s 472 subway stations were accessible in 2018. The MTA is determined to dramatically increase this number by 2024. This is one of the goals of the Fast Forward plan, which was designed after New York governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for mass transit in New York City in 2017. As part of the strategic upgrades, this plan includes adding accessibility facilities to 70 stations, which will improve the user experience for all riders. These 70 stations come in addition to the 100 priority stations already identified by the MTA, which have been or will be renovated according to ADA requirements. To select priority stations for ADA enhancements, the MTA relied on three criteria: high ridership, transfer points and service to major areas of activity.

Accessibility features in New York City subway stations

Fully accessible stations have facilities designed for all categories of people with disabilities throughout the travel chain:

To access down the station from the street level: elevators or access ramps, handrails and tactile indicators on ramps and stairs, accessible service entry gates,

To buy tickets: accessible MetroCard Vending Machines, accessible station booth windows with sills located no more than 36 inches (91 cm) above the ground,

To access transit information: audio and visual information systems, including Help Points or Public Address Customer Information Screens,

To facilitate orientation: large-print and tactile-Braille signs,

To access trains from the platform: platform gap modifications or bridge plates to reduce or eliminate the gap between trains and platforms where it is greater than 2 inches (5.1 cm) vertically or 4 inches (10 cm) horizontally,

And accessible services: telephones at an accessible height with volume control, and text telephones (TTYs), accessible restrooms at stations with restrooms, if a 24-hour public toilet is in operation.

Accessibility in the New York City subway over the long term

But accessibility for people with disabilities on the New York City subway has been a topic for a long time. In 1973, Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act made it mandatory to make all public transit systems accessible. The MTA refused, arguing that making the subway system accessible would cost more than $ 1.5 billion. The MTA advocated instead for a specialized transport service for people with disabilities. In 1984, after a decade of fighting between the associations and the MTA, an agreement was reached which amended New York State Transportation and Building Laws to require the MTA to install elevators at 54 stations. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It required all transit agencies to make their services and facilities fully accessible. They had to provide the list of priority stations to the Federal Transit Administration before July 26, 1992. This list was to be accompanied by the selection criteria used to designate priority stations and the work schedule. Transit agencies were granted a period of up to thirty years to make their stations accessible. The MTA’s plan provided for making 54 stations accessible by 2010. But in 1994, amendments were made to the New York State Transportation and Public Building Laws reinforced the obligations, increasing this number to 100 stations by 2020. The Capital Program 2020-2024 plans ADA-accessibility upgrades to 50 additional stations. This will allow disabled riders to always find themselves at most two stations from an accessible station.

In order to increase the number of elevators, the MTA endorsed the law “Zoning for Accessibility” in early 2021. This consists in pre-empting private land located near subway stations to build elevators. In exchange, the owner of the land obtains the right to increase the area of their buildings.

Between 2020 and 2021, there were 42% ADA-compliant stations in Manhattan, 21% in the Bronx, 21% in Brooklyn, and 30% in Queens. 

Information and communication with subway passengers

To coordinate the MTA’s accessibility plan and share with disabled riders, the MTA created the New York City Transit ADA Compliance Coordination Committee (CCC). The MTA attaches significant importance to the training of its staff. They should be able to handle specialized equipment and help riders with disabilities. But it also provides training for the riders themselves and their families, as well as for mobility specialists. The MTA trained 775 passengers between 1995 and 2019. These trainings allow them to use the subway system more independently and more safely.

The MTA is also working to improve information on the operating status of accessibility equipment. As early as 2007, it began to publish a list of broken-down escalators and elevators on its website. It has also allocated an annual budget of $ 1.3 million for their maintenance.

Innovation at the core of MTA’s strategy

The MTA is continuously innovating to improve the passenger experience on the New York City subway system. Jay Street-MetroTech station, located in Brooklyn, near the MetroTech Center, has served since the 1950s as a testing ground for many new developments: yellow raised safety disks as warning indicators at the edge of the platform, first automatic token dispensers, first fare cards, which became later the MetroCards, deployment of agents everywhere in the station, etc.

In 2019, this same station was used to evaluate new accessibility facilities. The MTA unveiled an accessible station lab. The lab comprised over a dozen features including Braille signs, tactile pads, wayfinding apps, diagrams of accessible routes, and floor stickers to guide passengers to the correct routes. 

The MTA is running in parallel the Transit Tech Lab with the Partnership for New York City. The Transit Tech Lab is an accelerator program for startups solving public transportation challenges. This initiative enables the MTA and other public transportation agencies to leverage innovative technology solutions to improve metropolitan area transit, with the aim to make New York the global leader in public transportation. Each year, the Transit Tech Lab launches a new startup competition to address top priority challenges. This initiative gives the selected companies the opportunity to pilot their solutions in real conditions and potentially deploy them. Accessibility was one of the challenges designated by the lab in 2020. Nine tech companies were selected to partner with NYC-area transit agencies. Among them was Okeenea Digital with its audio-based indoor navigation app Evelity. Evelity is a digital navigation system allowing people with all kinds of functional limitations to be guided, step by step, to the destination of their choice, according to their profiles and their abilities, within complex public transit networks. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, user tests have been significantly delayed. The pilot is still underway at Jay Street-MetroTech station. One of the objectives of the pilot is to evaluate the service provided by Evelity for customers with disabilities, and to study the scalability of beacon-based technology.

Other indoor navigation solutions have already been tested by the MTA, e.g., the Navilens app, which is based on colorful QR codes. This technology is still being assessed to inform riders at bus stops and track bus arrivals. These pilots show that technology has the power to improve the transit experience for all riders.

All of the MTA’s initiatives show a real willingness to improve the quality of service on the subway system despite the age of the infrastructures. While the road is still long, the progress is evident. And experience shows that technological innovation can solve many challenges for the accessibility of the New York City subway!

Discover more articles about accessible public transit systems:

How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

A World Tour of Best Practices for a Subway Truly Accessible to All | Summary of a French Study

Published on December 10th, 2021

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An agent of the MTA on a train

The MTA attaches significant importance to the training of its staff. They should be able to handle specialized equipment and help riders with disabilities.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

The hall of the New York Grand Central Terminal

How Can Multimodal Transit Centers Be Accessible for People with Disabilities?

Multimodal transit centers turn out to be major nodes of transportation in large cities that aim at improving transport efficiency. They can easily connect together different means of transportation, thus saving time for passengers who need to commute. Every day, transit centers enable millions of passengers to easily reach their destination regrouping several transport networks like buses or trains under one place. But how can such crowded and complex places be accessible to people with disabilities? 

Getting around spontaneously in a city implies being autonomous, an even more important notion for people with disabilities. However, mobility remains one of the most challenging issues for them. A lot of factors need to be considered for accessibility barriers to be removed. But it doesn’t mean it’s not impossible, even in a maze-like transport hub with connections to railroad and subway trains or city bus services.

Let’s take a look at innovative solutions that help users with disabilities safely get their bearings in multimodal transit centers! 

What are multimodal transit centers exactly?

Multimodal transit centers or transport hubs gather different means of transportation: railroad stations, subway stations, rapid transit stations, city buses, regional buses… Some have a high number of platforms located on ground level or deep underneath like New York Grand Central Terminal and its 44 platforms. Thus transport hubs accumulate a lot of possible combinations. Even airports can be considered as transport hubs since some include international railroad trains and public transit systems such as buses, shuttles and streetcars to connect them to the city on top of national and international airlines. 

The common goal is to provide multimodal and interchange transportation. Instead of having a point-to-point system, passengers who need to commute benefit from a hub-and-spoke system: they have at their disposal different possible combinations in one place to make their trips more simple. Thus they can easily reach their destination without spending unnecessary time going for example from a subway station in the city centre to a bus stop across. In a world that keeps moving faster and faster, a hub-and-spoke network represents the perfect solution for commuters in large cities. With so many options available, they can use the means of transportation that best suits their journey and their needs.

Penn Station in New York City is a perfect example of a multimodal transit center: it regroups intercity rail with Amtrak, commuter rail with Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and NJ Transit (NJT), rapid transit with New York City Subway MTA and PATH, and bus and coach services with New York City Bus and Intercity coaches. Penn Station results in being one of the busiest transportation hubs in the Western Hemisphere! As such, it sets an example of accessibility by providing accessible restrooms, high platforms, accessible parking…

What’s noteworthy with transit centers is that they’re not just about transportation. Thanks to shops, bars and restaurants, users can fully take advantage of these hubs. In a way, they provide similar services as shopping malls. For example, New York Grand Central Terminal has 60 shops and 35 places to eat. It can even welcome different types of events in the Vanderbilt Hall and contains libraries. This interchange service aims at offering the best possible experience to all.

For more information on transit hubs, you can read Arcadis’ report on mixed mobility: Improving Quality of Life Through Transit Hubs. The design and consultancy firm provides a benchmark with valuable insight on different transit centers across the world.

Even though there’s a constant flow of traffic passengers, transit centers’ infrastructures are designed to make passengers’ journey easier and pleasant. Indeed, architects and urban planners apply the principles of universal design for the comfort of all such as perceptible information, low physical effort and simple intuitive use.

Obviously, passengers with disabilities fully benefit from these principles. They can use any means of transportation that multimodal transit centers dispose of thanks to easy accessible solutions. 

 

How to remove accessibility barriers in transit centers?

As you can see, there are so many transportation combinations that it’s easy for anyone to feel overwhelmed. For people with disabilities, this may cause a lot of stress and anxiety. How can they easily find their bearings in a loud and busy transport hub? 

First things first: using public transit means having a seamless mobility chain to go from point A to point C. This means that point B needs to perfectly link together point A and point C. The mobility chain actually concerns any passengers, not just those with disabilities. Our article How to Guarantee a Seamless Mobility Chain to Users with Disabilities? will shed some light on this key notion. 

Obviously, removing accessibility barriers is what provides a seamless mobility chain. It implies being aware of the difficulties met by people with disabilities. This can happen at any stage of their journey. Let’s review the obstacles met by people with disabilities during each stage of their trips and the solutions that network operators can implement to help them get around!

Preparing your trip

Having a smooth trip strongly depends on this first stage. People with disabilities need to make sure they know everything about the route to take according to their needs, traffic…

ObstaclesSolutions
Not knowing the best route to take according to their needsUsing a journey planner online or via an app that calculates journeys including transfers
Lack of information on trafficAudio and visual real-time information 
Lack of information about elevators and escalatorsReal-time information about the location of elevators and escalators and their working order

The MaaS (Mobility as a Service) is a great innovative solution that integrates different means of transportation and can help users plan a trip. Our article Maas: a Solution for Tomorrow’s Mobility deciphers this technology perfectly suited for smart cities.

Finding the entrance of the transit center

Transit centers being a hub-and-spoke system, they can have several entrances and exits. This also demands good preparation. But once people with disabilities are in their vicinity, they may need extra help to find the exact location of the entrance.

Category of people with disabilitiesSolutions
People with a visual impairmentAudio beacons like NAVIGUEO+ HIFI: they can be activated on demand thanks to a remote control or the smartphone app MyMoveo
An efficient signage system with tactile guide paths, visual contrast and detectable warning strips
People with a mental disabilityUsing universal pictograms that are easy to understand


Going inside the transport hub

The implementation of elevators and escalators is crucial for people with reduced mobility such as wheelchair users, the elderly, parents with strollers… 

Category of people with disabilitiesSolutions
People with reduced mobilityElevators and escalators
Access ramps
Large automatic doors
People with a visual impairmentSecured stairs: handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs

Elevators and escalators need to be in enough numbers, perfectly located and visible to all of those who would like to use them. Plus, maintaining their working order is key to ensure a seamless mobility chain.

Buying a ticket

Even a trivial thing such as buying a ticket can be challenging for people with disabilities whether they use the ticket machine by themselves or they ask a staff member at a booth station. Nowadays, more and more people buy their ticket via their smartphone. Users can thus easily do it at home.

Category of people with disabilitiesSolutions
Wheelchair usersLowered counter
People with a visual impairmentEmbossed buttons or Braille on the ticket machine
Tactile guide paths and audio beacons to find the locations of the booth and the machine
People with a hearing impairmentAudio induction loops at station booth
People with a mental impairmentUniversal pictograms that are easy to understand
Accessible vocabulary (easy-to-read)

One of the most important things when assisting people with disabilities is knowing how to behave around them. A trained staff is key to ensure passengers with disabilities have the best customer service possible. That’s how transit centers can retain customers. 

 

Going through the turnstiles

This stage can be stressing since passengers with disabilities may lack time to cross the turnstiles. Sometimes, the closing mechanism is just too fast. Plus, other passengers behind them may be impatient. 

ObstaclesSolutions
Not enough width for wheelchair usersDedicated airlock for them
Ticket validity control too high for wheelchair usersLowered validity ticket control
Difficulties to insert a ticketContactless validation
No clear distinction between entry and exit gatesVisual contrast, universal pictograms and tactile guide paths
Fast closing mechanismPresence detector

 

Finding the platform

Depending on the transit center, passengers with disabilities may need to use a bus, a train or a subway train. In such gigantic transport hubs, finding their bearings can be difficult for them since they contain so many different means of transportation and connections. Going through the different concourses can feel like quite the expedition.

A clear audio and visual signage system such as the one previously mentioned remains essential for passengers with disabilities. 

But there’s also another solution that’s both simple and innovative: an indoor navigation app! The wayfinding app Evelity was developed by Okeenea Digital and especially created to guide people with disabilities step by step inside complex venues and public transit systems. That’s one of the reasons why the New York City subway chose Evelity for a test in real conditions! This solution is tailor made to fit any profile of disabilities and provides more autonomy and spontaneity to users with disabilities. In crowded and multimodal transit centers, this app is more than relevant!

Getting on the bus or train

For wheelchair users to get on a bus, bus drivers need to pull up to the curb or to lower or “kneel” the bus. Getting on a train means having an accessible boarding area at the centre of a platform with the smallest gap between the platform edge and the subway train. In New York City, MTA conceived a Guide to Accessible Transit on Buses and Subways that provides users with all the necessary information.

Accessible seatings aboard buses and trains enable wheelchair users to safely travel.

Getting off at the right station

The navigation app Evelity can of course alert users they’ve reached their destination. Even if their smartphone is in their pocket, the app still functions and gives them the necessary information. This enables vulnerable users to feel safe using their smartphone in a public space, without any risk of theft.

Visual and audio announcements allow passengers to constantly know where they are. Thus they have enough time to get ready to get off. 

 

Although multimodal transit centers may seem at first complicated to use for people with disabilities due to so many combinations of transportation, there are a lot of solutions that are implemented to make their trips easier. Getting around spontaneously and autonomously is essential for all passengers, regardless of their profile. Accessible transport hubs help them save time while having the best experience possible. 

 

For more information on accessible public transit systems, you can read the following articles:

How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

media

An airport that serves as a transit center

In a world that keeps moving faster and faster, a hub-and-spoke network represents the perfect solution (…) With so many options available, people can use the means of transportation that best suits their journey and their needs.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

Inside a metro wagon

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

With 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966 and is operated by the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM), has 68 stations on 4 lines. In 2009, the STM embarked on the path to universal accessibility. Even if there is still a long way to go, many initiatives deserve to be highlighted. Installation of elevators, adaptation of infrastructure, staff training, improvement of passenger information and signage, modernization of the ticket sales system, all stages of the customer journey are covered with projects to improve the consideration of the specific needs of people with disabilities or reduced mobility.

Since sharing positive initiatives is in our opinion an excellent way to advance accessibility for all, we suggest that you continue our world tour of best practices in the subways in the largest city in Canada.

Who are the disabled or reduced mobility users in the Montreal metro? 

Universal accessibility allows everyone to access, navigate and move around a metro station in order to make full use of all the services offered to the population. The Quebec survey on activity limitations, chronic diseases and aging 2010-2011 (EQLAV) made it possible to estimate the population living with an activity limitation that results from a long-term health condition or disability. The figures compiled by the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec (OPHQ) for the Montreal region, allow us to establish that: 

⊗ Almost a third of the 1.6 million targeted Montrealers aged 15 and over, living in a private or institutional household, have a disability, i.e. 528,385 people. It is a slight disability for the majority of them (67%). 

⊗ The rate of disability increases with age, especially from the age of 50.

⊗ Disabilities related to agility and mobility are the most common.

However, the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) does not have statistics on users with disabilities or reduced mobility traveling on its metro network. The only known data concern people who use the adaptive transport service. 73% of them have a motor disability, which shows that they are the most penalized in accessing the regular transport network. 

 

Access to Montreal metro stations for people with reduced mobility

Accessing metro stations from the street today remains a major difficulty for people with motor disabilities. In July 2020, Omer Juma, an entrepreneur committed to a more inclusive city, launched the 4 days 4 lines project, a complete audit of vertical accessibility to metro stations in Montreal. He covered the 68 stations and more than 8,600 steps in 4 days. His results, which he readily shares with the general public, show that:

⊗ 76% of stations (52) do not have an elevator at at least one of their entrances;

⊗ 47% (32) of them have at least one entrance without an escalator;

⊗ 26% (18) of them have an entrance with a staircase doubled by an ascending escalator but none descending.

A single station out of the 68 of the subway network offers the possibility of a continuous journey from the upper level to the platform by taking the escalators. In 58 of them, even if escalators are present, there is still a break in the path, where travelers must go up or down steps. The 9 other stations do not have any escalator.

In 2017, the Superior Court authorized a $ 1 billion class action lawsuit against the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) and the City of Montreal on behalf of people who had had their access to public transport restricted due to their disability.

 

A universal accessibility development plan for the Montreal metro

Pursuant to article 67 of the Canadian Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration, the STM implemented in 2007 its first development plan for universal accessibility. The 3rd plan for the period 2016-2020 setting the objectives for 2025 is articulated in 3 parts:

⊗ Strengthen the implementation of universal accessibility;

⊗ Speed up the accessibility of metro stations;

⊗ Expand the fields of intervention for universal accessibility.

The universal accessibility team is part of the Planning and Network Development Department. They work in close collaboration with three committees: the sub-committee, the associative committee and the technical committee for universal accessibility.

 

41 metro stations equipped with elevators in 2025

When building the subway in 1966, the elevators were not planned. It is now a challenge to integrate them while hindering passenger service as little as possible. It is often necessary to acquire new land, modify existing buildings, move equipment… Several projects are underway to reach the number of 41 stations equipped by 2025. Today, there are 16 to be equipped, 9 of which are fully accessible.

Elevator installations are prioritized according to various criteria in order to optimize cost-of-investment to service-provided ratio. These criteria are:

⊗ The technical complexity of the installation;

⊗ The geographical distribution of the stations equipped in order to fairly serve the various districts of Montreal;

⊗ The category of stations: priority goes to transfer stations or terminals;

⊗ Proximity to schools, health institutions or transit centers;

⊗ The possibility of combining the installation of an elevator with other infrastructure works.

25 additional stations will be equipped with elevators by 2025, including the 5 new ones on the blue line. In addition, the 26 stations of the Metropolitan Express Network (REM) which will be partially operating from 2022 will all be equipped with elevators and will be fully accessible.

The elevators are open to all passengers: people with reduced mobility, but also elderly people, parents with young children, passengers loaded with bulky luggage… Wheelchair users may ask staff for help to use them and navigate the station. The elevator service status is available in real time on the homepage of the STM website.

 

Motorized butterfly doors

The butterfly doors, which are typical of the Montreal metro, are designed to limit the piston effect, i.e. the air pressure differential due to speeding trains in the tunnels. These double doors pivoting on an axis were originally made entirely of stainless steel, which makes them heavyweight and difficult to open for people with disabilities or reduced mobility. Lighter models were introduced from 2010. In 2020, 22 subway stations were equipped with motorized butterfly doors with a push button to control their opening. The STM plans to double this number by 2025. An enlarged motorized butterfly door has been designed to be installed on the entrances equipped with elevators to accommodate people using strollers or wheelchairs.

 

Platform screen doors for the safety of all

All of the Montreal metro platforms are equipped with tactile strips to prevent the risk of falls, in particular for people who are blind or visually impaired. Platform screen doors are glazed walls installed along the subway platforms, which open automatically once the train is stopped. Already present on the Paris, London or Tokyo networks, these platform screen doors increase the safety of travelers by avoiding the risk of falling on the tracks.

By 2026, platform screen doors will be installed on the orange line of the Montreal metro. The new REM stations will also all be equipped with such doors.

 

Accessible solutions for purchasing tickets

Providing several options for purchasing tickets is the best way for people with special needs to find one that suits them. The STM offers its customers various means of purchasing transit tickets: from home through a dedicated card reader, on a smartphone, from partner shops, from station agents, from vending machines and recharging stations. 

Ticket vending machines and recharging terminals are equipped with an audio navigation system. The bank keypad is equipped with tactile cues and the screen has improved contrast and readability. 

By 2025, the STM plans to further diversify the possibilities for purchasing tickets and to facilitate access to selling points for people with disabilities.

 

Passenger information for all

Since the end of 2014, MetroVision information screens have been installed on the platforms of all stations. They inform passengers in real time about upcoming departure times, the weather and STM news. A new sound system has been installed in the stations to improve the audibility of voice announcements. The voice announcement of the next station in the trains is automated. Actress Michèle Deslauriers is currently the voice of the Montreal metro.

All the subway signage has been revised taking into account the principles of universal accessibility: visual contrast, clearly legible fonts, use of colors, symbols and pictograms. The STM is also carrying out several projects aimed at making passenger information available to their customers on as many platforms as possible: web, mobile, print, telephone, etc. In addition to information on schedules, connections and network disruptions, the STM also intends to provide all the information necessary for planning a route taking into account the specific needs of passengers. Real-time information regarding the operation of elevators, escalators and motorized butterfly doors is expected to be available on all platforms in the years to come.

 

New more accessible trains

The layout of the new AZUR subway cars put into service in 2018 takes into account the principles of universal accessibility:

⊗ Color contrast to facilitate object identification,

⊗ More ergonomic seats,

⊗ Adjustable suspension to adapt to platform level,

⊗ Wider doors,

⊗ Wheelchair spaces in each car,

⊗ Automated visual and audible information indicating stations, connections, opening and closing doors,

⊗ Accessible call points.

In MR-73 trains, only the lead car of each set of three cars has a wheelchair space. Audio information is present in all cars and visual information about connections in almost all of them. 

By 2025, an emergency call system accessible to all should be present on all trains. Audio and visual announcements will also be modified to make them easy to understand.

 

Special support for people with disabilities 

Wheelchair users as well as people with visual or intellectual disabilities can ask to be accompanied by an STM agent to facilitate their navigation within the stations. In most stations, it remains difficult for a person using a wheelchair to cross the gap between the train and the platform independently. The help of an agent is then necessary to unfold the access ramp. 

Agents trained on accessible customer service

The training programs for STM staff include modules devoted to universal accessibility, welcoming and support to people with disabilities. Employees are particularly trained in the handling of accessibility equipment such as access ramps. 

Companion card

People with visual or intellectual disabilities who have difficulty accessing the regular STM transit system independently may request a companion card. This card allows the person accompanying them to travel for free on the whole network.

Guide and service dogs are of course admitted free of charge within trains and stations.

 

Workshops to learn how to use the metro system

In order to improve the independence and safety of travelers, STM teams provide awareness and training workshops on the use of the metro system. These workshops are aimed at school groups, newcomers, the elderly, people with disabilities, etc. In 2015, more than 42,000 people attended one of these workshops. People with visual disabilities also have access to workshops offered by the Institut Nazareth et Louis Braille (INLB) as well as the Metropolitan group of the blind and partially sighted of Montreal (RAAMM). This learning program integrated into a rehabilitation course allows the identification and memorization of the routes to get more independent. 

Although universal accessibility was not taken into account when the Montreal metro was built in 1966, there is no doubt that substantial efforts have been made over the last decade. Today, universal accessibility standards and criteria are embedded in all metro design and renovation projects. This also involves raising the platforms, realizing yellow stair nosing, installing double-height handrails, ischial supports, seats with armrests, call points, etc. One thing is certain: the Montreal metro is progressing well on the way to universal accessibility!

Would you like to know more about subway accessibility? These articles are made for you:

How to Help People with Disabilities Get a Better Experience on the Subway?

A World Tour of Best Practices for a Subway Truly Accessible to All | Summary of a French Study

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for Physical Disability?

media

Inside the Montreal metro where we can see elevators for PRM

When building the subway in 1966, the elevators were not planned. It is now a challenge to integrate them. (…) Several projects are underway to reach the number of 41 stations equipped by 2025.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

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Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Subway Accessibility: London Goes Above and Beyond for its Users with Disabilities

Subway Accessibility: London Goes Above and Beyond for its Users with Disabilities

A train at a platform in London

Subway Accessibility: London Goes Above and Beyond for its Users with Disabilities

Having an accessible subway means taking into consideration the difficulties met by several categories of users like the ones with disabilities. We’d previously seen what New York City undertakes to provide proper subway accessibility to its riders, now let’s focus on another great example with London!

In terms of subway accessibility, London is committed to best serve people with disabilities making their getting around in the city easier. First opened in 1863, the London underground now has 11 lines, 270 stations deployed on 250 miles and is used daily by around 5 million passengers. Being the 12th busiest subway in the world, the Tube needs to constantly rethink its whole system network comprising lines above and under the ground in order to meet the needs of its users with disabilities. It turns out that 45% of its system is located above ground reaching the outer environs of the capital city. 

Why is London’ subway accessibility such a good example for other cities to follow? How can public transportation enhance inclusion? Riders, get ready for a great trip! 

What does subway accessibility entail?

Mobility represents one of the most challenging issues concerning people with disabilities. A seamless mobility chain is key to ensure they can remain autonomous in their trips whether they’re visiting a museum, browsing at shopping malls or using the subway. Every step of the way, all the links have to be connected for them to go from one place to another, no matter how many links in between.

Although the subway may be the fastest and easiest way for anybody to reach their destination, it can be difficult to apprehend for people with disabilities being such a crowded and congested place. Especially when it’s not thought to welcome users with disabilities in the first place. What does it mean to use the subway for people with disabilities? Where can accessibility take place? Let’s take a look at 6 major stages:

1. Preparing the trip: the most important step for people with disabilities. It’s best they look into the route to take online or via an app. Checking beforehand which stations are accessible and real-time information about traffic and the functioning of escalators and lifts enables them to have a smooth trip. 

2. Finding the station entrance: it can be quite difficult for blind or visually impaired people. They need to have an adequate signage system to find the exact location of the station:

 

⊗ Audio beacons like NAVIGUEO+ HIFI that can be activated on demand thanks to a remote control or a smartphone with the MyMoveo app (available on both iOS and Android),

⊗ Visual contrast signage,

⊗ Tactile guide paths,

⊗ Secured stairs: handrails and contrasting non-slip stairs.

3. Buying a ticket: it’d be easier for people with disabilities to do it online but some may need to buy a ticket directly at the station either with the help of a staff member or using the ticket machine by themselves. Solutions exist for both options:

⊗ Lowered counter for wheelchair users,

⊗ Staff members trained to deal with users with disabilities,

⊗ Embossed buttons or Braille on the ticket machine,

⊗ Simplified presentation or information with the use of pictograms.

4. Going through the turnstiles: it can be stressful for users with disabilities especially when they lack time to cross and other users behind them are impatient. But subway network operators can implement easy solutions to help them:

⊗ Dedicated airlock for wheelchair users and parents with strollers,

⊗ Lowered counter when validating the ticket,

⊗ Contactless validation,

⊗ Visual contrast and pictograms to differentiate between the entry and exit turnstiles,

⊗ Presence detector to avoid any fast closing mechanisms.

5. Finding the platform: some stations are huge hubs with many connections so it can be difficult for users with disabilities to find their bearings. A signage system providing audio and visual information as mentioned above is necessary. But using a navigation app such as Evelity within the subway can relieve stress and be very helpful. This app guides users step by step inside complex environments and fits any profile and disability to best serve them. The New York City subway even chose Evelity to be tested in real conditions!

6. Getting off at the right station: visual and audio announcements at every station enable users with disabilities to always know where they are and get ready when they need to get off.

As we can see, throughout all of these steps, removing accessibility barriers is essential to enhance people with disabilities’ mobility in the subway. There are solutions so that they can use public transit by themselves thus remaining autonomous.

How subway accessibility in London is helping users with disabilities

Hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, London undertook a lot of construction and public works to be more accessible for tourists and athletes with disabilities. This of course also impacted public transport which had to renew itself in order to best serve the needs of people with disabilities. The Tube shows how groundbreaking its system is by always putting accessibility at the centre of its concerns. Let’s take a look at other complementary solutions the Tube implements for the mobility of all.

Preparing the trip

The network operator Transport for London (TfL) has set up a page dedicated to accessibility providing useful information to people with disabilities.Thanks to a journey planner and the accessibility and travel options, users with disabilities can plan their trip according to their needs and preferences: the means of transportation, using stairs or escalators, doing a lot of walking or not, managing the step or gap to get on a train… 

Moreover, accessibility maps and guides are available online and can even be downloaded to best help people with disabilities getting around and enjoying public transport. Visually impaired users can thus have a colored large print map of the whole subway network and people with reduced mobility can have a map that details which stations are equipped with escalators, lifts and ramps. Even people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), for whom being underground and in a pitch black environment can be stressful, can get a map that locates enclosed tunnels. 

Regardless of their disabilities, users have everything they need to prepare their trip beforehand.

Accessing the station

As we saw, elevators and lifts are crucial for people with reduced mobility and wheelchair users. Installing lifts is considered to be step-free access, along with ramps and level surfaces platforms. Having step-free stations enable users not to have to use escalators or stairs. Around 100 stations are equipped with lifts and are therefore step-free access.

Even though the London subway system was opened more than 150 years ago, its infrastructure enabled it to equip stations with approximately 426 escalators and 184 lifts. An increasing number due to investment made over the years to make the subway more accessible and wheelchair-friendly. Despite its cost, the transport network benefits from equipping stations with such solutions seeing that it later attracts and retains more customers: customers with disabilities who can enjoy the subway and therefore the city of London.

To ensure users with a visual impairment have a good experience, most stations have tactile guide paths, markings on platform edges for safety, visual contrast color and audio announcements so that they can easily find their bearings. Users with a hearing impairment benefit from visual announcements and information.

Buying a ticket

In 2003, TfL developed a contactless system for tickets called Oyster, being the first public transit network in the world to implement it. Such contactless payment turns out to be the perfect solution for people with disabilities: no need to use a vending machine or to ask a staff member for help. This means people with a visual impairment and people with reduced mobility don’t have to struggle anymore to find or to reach the vending machine. With Oyster, they can easily top up their Oyster card from the comfort of their home or they can even do it directly on their smartphones.

Getting on and off the train

Providing safety to all users is key for any subway network operators. In 1968, the Tube coined the “Mind the gap” warning phrase that can be seen on signalized platform edges. It is now very common since other subway network systems from cities all over the world use a similar phrase to warn users of the gap between the platform and the door train. In the United States, you can see a “Watch the gap” sign.

In order to provide more accessible trains, as part of its step-free access, TfL committed to setting up ramps operated by staff members at some stations. Although gaps between platforms and trains can be found at most stations, work is underway to increase the number of step-free access stations. TfL designed a map locating every step-free access on its entire network so that users can know where they can safely and without any difficulties board the train.

Finding a seat can be difficult for users with disabilities, the elderly or pregnant women. Being wheelchair-friendly, most Tube trains have at least 2 accessible seats dedicated to wheelchair users per carriage. Besides, London residents with disabilities can apply for a “Please offer me a seat” badge so that other users can be aware of their need to be seated. It’s quite convenient for people whose disabilities aren’t visible and it enables them not to have to ask and justify themselves.

Getting everybody involved towards subway accessibility

In order to best meet the needs of their customers with disabilities, TfL has focused on having more staff at stations that can advise or help users when necessary. But what matters is having a trained staff to deal with people with disabilities. All staff members receive a Disability Equality Training upon arriving and are thus aware of the issues met by users with disabilities. They can for example help people with hidden disabilities who wear a sunflower badge. This enables people to discreetly ask for help just by wearing this sign. Providing a reliable assistance service to users with disabilities is a perfect way to retain customers. 

If the Tube can be such an efficient and accessible subway, it’s thanks to disability experts from Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG). Its members use all of their expertise regarding disability to make public transport more inclusive and accessible to all. For more information on their work, you can check their 2019 report on London’s public transit accessibility. Working closely with disability experts and making the most of their knowledge is what enables TfL and the Tube to be groundbreaking regarding subway accessibility. That’s how they have been able to find permanent solutions to people with disabilities’ mobility and to renew their system.

As we can see, London proves to be the perfect example of what subway accessibility should be like. The Tube has found solutions that enable users with disabilities to remain autonomous and to enjoy the city by rethinking its system to improve it. 

 

Further information on public transport accessibility:

Obstacles in Public Transport: What Solutions for People with Physical Disabilities?

Making Public Transport Information Accessible to Disabled People

MBTA: a Global Model of Accessible Public Transportation

 

 

 

 

media

Escalators at a subway station improving accessibility

Even though the London subway system was opened more than 150 years ago, its infrastructure enabled it to equip stations with approximately 426 escalators and 184 lifts.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.