Accessible Transportation Around the World


January 2006 Newsletter


World Bank Prepares Guidelines to Promote Accessibility of Bus Rapid Transit Projects


Accessibility guidelines to assist planners of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems are nearing completion as part of a larger project of the World Bank in seven cities in Colombia. The guidelines focus on making the new bus lines more inclusive for persons with disabilities, seniors, and others who benefit from principles of universal design which are readily included in BRT systems.


Prepared by Tom Rickert, Executive Director of Access Exchange International and a consultant to the Bank on this project, the guidelines draw on the experience of different BRT systems in various stages of development in the Bogotá suburb of Soacha and in the cities of Pereira, Cali, Medellín, Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. The World Bank is assisting with US$250 million in funding for projects in six of the cities, while the external funding for Cali is provided by the Inter-American Development Bank. When completed, the new bus lines will enable Colombia to be the first country in the world to provide BRT systems in most of its major cities.


The draft accessibility guidelines address the design and operation of trunk line BRT corridors served by large articulated buses as well as their integration into outlying feeder corridors usually served by more traditional buses. Trunk lines feature boarding at floor level from stations at center island platforms. Passengers enter the stations using proximity fare cards. Station and bus doors open simultaneously and passengers board at floor level. The ramped trunk line stations lend themselves to access by wheelchair users and others with disabilities, while only a small portion of feeder line buses in Colombia are fully accessible at this time.


The preparation of the guidelines included three visits to Colombia during the past year by Tom Rickert in order to meet with planning staff of all seven cities and tour the bus rapid transit routes under construction or planned in each locale.


Public review process


A peer review and public input process for the guidelines was completed in November, following distribution of the draft document to the seven cities. The guidelines were presented by Tom Rickert at a session of the First International Mass Transit Fair sponsored by Bogota’s well-known TransMilenio BRT system on November 9, 2005. A more in-depth followup workshop, under the auspices of the World Bank and Colombia’s Ministry of Transport, was held the following day, with participation by representatives of the BRT planning agencies from all seven cities. Input has also been provided by transport staff of the World Bank and disability leaders and transit experts in Latin America and elsewhere.


Previous issues of this Newsletter have documented proposals and plans for Bus Rapid Transit systems throughout Latin America and increasingly in Asia, Africa, and the USA. Such systems are generally far more accessible to disabled passengers than other bus systems. However, BRT projects have often fallen short of their potential to serve a full spectrum of passengers, sometimes due to poor design of trunk line features and, more often, due to inadequate access to feeder lines serving the downtown trunk lines.


It is hoped that the newly prepared guidelines will fill a gap, enabling practitioners around the world to design and operate more inclusive and integrated BRT systems. Even in draft form, the guidelines are reported to have already proven useful to practitioners in Vietnam who are planning BRT corridors for downtown Hanoi.


The completed guidelines will be posted on the World Bank’s web site at upon their planned completion early this year and will also be made available in CD and hard copy versions. For copies of the draft guidelines or other queries, contact Tom Rickert at Funding to assist the preparation of the guidelines was provided by a Norwegian Trust Fund within the World Bank upon approval by the Bank’s Advisor on Disability and Development, in response to a proposal by the Latin American/Caribbean section of the Bank.



TransMilenio’s First International Mass Transit Fair, held in November 2005, attracted 700 participants from 16 countries. Project reports from as far away as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania were presented alongside reports by planners in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, the USA, and Mexico. Inclusive design is only one of many reforms created by bus rapid transit systems. Other presentations focused on topics such as the reduction of pollution, integration of busways with bicycle paths, the use of fare cards to provide seamless access to trunk and feeder lines, and the installation of intelligent traffic lights to speed buses on their way within exclusive rights-of-way.


Feeder Route Access: The Greatest Challenge to Inclusive BRT Systems

Major challenges must be overcome to develop bus rapid transit systems with seamless accessibility to both feeder lines and trunk lines. Lack of pedestrian infrastructure in neighborhoods served by feeder routes can make the larger system inaccessible to up to half of potential users with disabilities. Many poor people live in districts which lack sidewalks or paved streets. Many feeder routes have poorly designed buses with high steps which make it impossible even for seniors or semi-ambulatory passengers to board. The newly prepared guidelines stress the need for a long-term comprehensive planning process to systematically develop accessible pedestrian pathways and to improve both bus stops and buses serving such areas.




AEI Reviews Vietnamese Transit Regulations


Access Exchange International has reviewed proposed city bus regulations prepared by the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport and also thanks our colleague Dr. CGB (Kit) Mitchell in the UK for his technical review of the Ministry’s bus and train regulations. Eighty disability and NGO representatives participated in a workshop in Hanoi in August, 2005, to input into the new regulations on bus standards and accessible public transportation in Vietnam’s cities.


Making buses more accessible in Vietnam is not an easy task. In many cases, rough terrain and flooding from heavy rains make it difficult to provide a first step low enough to make entrances readily accessible to seniors and others who may have mobility concerns. One solution may be to raise bus stops in order to decrease this critical distance.


In a related action, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH), an NGO using US government funding to work with the Ministry of Transport, has published three AEI guides in Vietnamese. The translated guides are Mobility for All: Accessible Transportation Around the World, Making Access Happen: Promoting and Planning Transport for All, and an introduction to the use of performance indicators to evaluate the design and operation of accessible transport.


AEI Hosts Study Tours from Japan, China


Delegations from Japan and from the fast-growing city of Shenzhen in southern China were hosted by Access Exchange International for study tours of accessible transport in the San Francisco Bay Area in August and September, 2005.


Prof. Tetsuo Akiyama of Tokyo Metropolitan University led a group of fifteen stakeholders from Japanese cities on a five day tour planned by AEI to study bus, rail, ferry, taxi and van accessibility features. The tour also included presentations by city officials and the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission as well as visits to a transport planning firm, a research institute, and agencies which coordinate door-to-door services for persons with disabilities in San Francisco and in the East Bay. The tour was rounded out by visits to a social service agency and an adult day health care

center who benefit from San Francisco’s extensive door-to-door transportation services for seniors and persons with disabilities.


Access Exchange International also hosted a two-day study tour for seven officials with the Shenzhen municipal government and the Shenzhen Disabled Persons Federation. Both tours included extensive direct experience riding all modes of accessible transport.




Access Exchange International thanks the following agencies for their assistance, often over many years, in sharing knowledge and skills with visitors to San Francisco from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe:


San Francisco Municipal Railway (San Francisco Department of Transportation)

Connex/ATC San Francisco (S.F. Paratransit)

Nelson/Nygaard & Associates

AC Transit

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)

Yellow Cab Cooperative

Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The Janet Pomeroy Center

CalACT: California Association for   Coordinated Transportation

Connex/ATC Oakland (East Bay Paratransit)

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District

Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute

San Francisco Department of Public Works

San Francisco Department of Human Services

Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Presentation Adult Day Health Care Center



Annual Washington Roundtable to Focus on Accessible Transportation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America


Access Exchange International announces our 8th annual Roundtable on Accessible Transport in the Developing World, planned for Thursday morning, January 26, 2006, in Washington DC. The Roundtable will again be held in facilities donated by the American Public Transportation Association at the APTA headquarters at 1666 “K” Street and follows the Annual Meeting of the USA’s Transportation Research Board.


Joining AEI in underwriting the cost of organizing the event is ICAT – the International Centre for Accessible Transportation in Montreal.


The Roundtable series has especially provided an opportunity for development bank officials and international colleagues to informally meet together for mutual updates on progress toward inclusive transport in developing countries.


There is no registration fee. Space is limited and interested persons are encouraged to pre-register by contacting AEI. Participants may choose to remain for a box lunch and further discussion following the event.










AEI’s 15th Anniversary


When we began our work in 1990, there were no policy frameworks and no programs to implement accessible transportation in the world’s less wealthy countries. We salute all those who, through their advocacy and the sharing of knowledge and skills in our field, have begun to transform this situation. First steps have been taken, access is on the agenda around the world, and a long journey has now begun . . .





Abstracts due February 15, 2006

TRANSED Conference Set for June ’07 in Montreal, Canada


Planning for a key conference in the field of accessible transport is now well underway. Held every three years, the TRANSED conferences are milestone events, attracting researchers, policy makers, transport operators and users worldwide to share innovations and best practices.


The 11th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) will be held June 18-21, 2007. Abstracts are due February 15, 2006, with notifications of acceptance scheduled to be sent out this May.


Get information on TRANSED by going to or e-mailing to The TRANSED Secretariat in Canada can be reached by phone at 1 (613) 941-0980, fax 1 (613) 991-6422, or TTY at 1 (613) 998-5368, or write to the TRANSED Secretariat at Transport Canada, Place de Ville, Tower C, 330 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON5, Canada.


AEI urges international readers to start budgeting for TRANSED now! The registration fee will be approximately $550 Canadian per delegate, with reduced rates for students, seniors, persons with disabilities, and for early registration. Hotels will average $145-230 Canadian per night, with university residences available at lower cost.


The event is hosted by Transport Canada under the auspices of the USA’s Transportation Research Board. Tom Rickert of Access Exchange International is a member of the TRANSED Steering Committee.






News and Notes from Around the World

 City to City

Networking for change

Cities and towns increasingly help each other to promote accessible transport. A recent example was a seminar on access to sidewalks and pedestrian ways held in November in Pernambuco State, which includes the large city of Recife in northeast Brazil. The program included reports from the national transport department and the city of São Paulo in southern Brazil, as well as the experiences of cities in Pernambuco. (Go to, clicking “Fácil acceso para todos,” for information.)

An example from the USA is provided by CalACT, the California Association for Coordinated transportation, which holds statewide conferences twice a year to focus on issues of accessible transportation. (Information at

“Direct cooperation between local governments worldwide” will be the theme of the French-sponsored 12th CODATU transportation conference in Lyon, France, July 5-7, 2006. For information, e-mail in English or French to, or fax (33-4) 7862-3299.



South Africa: Velo Mondial, a global bicycle planning conference and “a landmark conference in the quest for sustainable transport solutions,” will be held in Cape Town, March 5-10, 2006. Remembering that accessible bike paths also enhance access for wheelchair users and pedestrians, AEI urges advocates of inclusive transportation to support the broader movement to promote sustainable transport, bus rapid transit, livable cities, clean air, and the use of low-cost wheeled mobility as an alternative to the congestion and pollution created by undue dependence on private automobiles. For information, go to


East Africa: AEI Executive Director Tom Rickert plans to study issues of access by disabled persons to rural transport while accompanying his wife Susan on a trip planned in March to inspect schools and clinics she has helped build in Tanzania and Kenya.




Tokyo: A conference on “Asian Efforts for Barrier-Free Transportation” is planned for February 27-28 in Tokyo, focusing on policies for accessible transport in Japan and nearby countries. For information in English or Japanese, contact Daisuke Sawada at the ECOMO Foundation at . . . Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has established what may be the world’s first national policy promoting general principles of universal design, according to Yoshihiko Kawauchi. The document was issued in July of 2005.


Malaysia: Kuan Aw Tan of the Society of Disabled Persons reports accessibility improvements along a historic walkway in Penang, including ramps, extra-wide parking spots, and improved pedestrian crossings.


Singapore: Access to transport facilities was on the agenda at a November, 2005, conference sponsored by the Institute of Architects and the Handicapped Welfare Association of Singapore. (report by Joseph Kwan)


India: Sanjeev Sachdeva and Anglee Agarwal of SAMARTHYA, have announced a March 17-19, 2006, workshop in New Delhi on “Mobility for All in India.” AEI has long advocated national-level meetings in India and this pioneering event comes at a critical time as India begins to move toward implementing access to public space and public transport. SAMARTHYA’s efforts have been especially helped by periodic visits by Lalita Sen of the faculty of Texas Southern University in the USA . . . In related news, SAMARTHYA has completed a Research Study on Accessibility of Indian Railways with recommendations for access features. AEI assisted with referrals to international resources. This agency has also provided input into the introduction of low floor buses on five routes in Delhi. Information at


. . . The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in Delhi has released a guide titled “Accessible Delhi: a Road Map.” The document is a blueprint to promote access to public places and facilities in the city, with a major emphasis on public transport. (Report from the Global Universal Design Educator’s Network)


Thailand: The Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability in Bangkok promotes “a barrier-free society in developing countries in the Asia and Pacific Region.” For information, visit the web site of this joint Japanese-Thai project at




Improving taxi design to enhance access is the subject of a joint study by the European Council of Ministers of Transport and the International Road Transport Union based in Geneva, reports Mary Crass of the ECMT. For more information, go to, or contact . . . Access to high floor and interurban buses is the subject of a new report, launched in October, with information on bus and infrastructure design as well as training and marketing of services. The report is part of the European “COST” series and a free CD is available which includes this as well as earlier reports on access to low-floor buses and heavy rail systems. Contact in the United Kingdom. . . . Pedestrians with disabilities will benefit from the new Pedestrian Accessibility & Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA for short) at University College in London. Interested readers can learn more about this approach at, or contact Nick Tyler at


Accessible tourism


Recent news releases from Costa Rica, Taiwan, Kenya, Australia, and Germany indicate that access to tourist facilities is moving onto the agenda around the world.


The Americas



New guide to universal design: The Inter-American Development Bank has published a 47-page guide to principles of access to public space and buildings, authored by Eduardo Alvarez and Veronica Camisão and available in Spanish at



Mexico: Seventy participants turned out for a day-long Symposium on Universal Design held in Mexico City on November 11, 2005. The event was co-sponsored by Libre Acceso, an advocacy NGO, and the Universidad Iberoamericana. Speakers on five panels examined different issues of accessible design, with a view toward organizing a larger conference in 2006. (Report by Maria Eugenia Antúnez)


Rio de Janeiro: Especial Coop Taxi R.J. is seeking to initiate a taxi cooperative to serve persons with disabilities. The photo shows a prototype adapted vehicle with a raised roof and wheelchair lift. (Report by Eric Ferreira)


USA: Little has been reported from developing countries concerning the need for “travel training” to orient disabled persons, especially those with cognitive disabilities, concerning how to use public transportation. Readers wanting to explore this important subject can contact the USA’s Association of Travel Instruction at


Peru: The city of San Isidro has posted Braille signage with street names and block numbers at 672 locations. The city is also completing an inventory of existing curb ramps prior to issuing an ordinance to upgrade pedestrian accessibility. For more information, go to (report from the Comisión Especial de Estudio sobre Discapacidad del Congreso de la República de Perú) . . . . The Catholic Pontifical University of Peru has issued a series of well-illustrated bulletins exploring issues of access to transit and to public space.