Accessible Transportation Around the World
June 2006 Newsletter
Pioneering Conference Promotes Mobility for All in New Delhi, India
A pioneering national conference on accessible transport was held in March 2006 in New Delhi, India, organized by Sanjeev Sachdeva and Anjlee Agarwal, wheelchair users whose effective advocacy in India has ranged from rail and bus improvements to sensitivity training for motor rickshaw drivers. Government and academic agencies in India provided strong assists, aided by international presenters including Lalita Sen (USA), Kit Mitchell (UK), Ling Suen (Canada), Yoshi Kawauchi (Japan), and Gerhard Menckhoff of the World Bank. The concept of a national-level conference had been promoted in recent years by Lalita Sen of Texas Southern University and by Access Exchange International as well as Handicap International and other agencies in India. These and other initiatives over the years were finally brought to fruition by Samarthya (the National Centre for Promotion of a Barrier Free Environment for Disabled Persons), a remarkably energetic and productive NGO founded by Sachdeva and Agarwal. The conference was assisted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and supported by the Government of Delhi, Tata Motors, Handicap International and other agencies.
The March 17-19, 2006, event attracted more than a hundred participants and included a study tour of the new accessible Delhi Metro and a newly accessible Delhi Transit bus line. Adding to the momentum of events in India, the conference was followed two days later by a conference on alternative public transport technologies, also in Delhi, with presentations from several countries on the expansion of Bus Rapid Transit in Latin America and Asia. BRT concepts have been embraced by Indian officials in the central government who are currently conducting workshops in nine large Indian cities.
Samarthya is also consulting with an international team in their work with Indian railways to modify their standard coach design to make one car per train accessible. In addition, Samarthya is working with Delhi authorities and Tata Motors to achieve the integrated design of compatible low-floor buses and raised bus stops to permit level boarding along Bus Rapid Transit corridors. Seventy stops are planned for Route 620 in Delhi with a range of features including good lighting; audio, text, and Braille signage; tactile guideways; good color contrast, and beepers to alert visually impaired persons at nearby traffic signals. Delhi also plans to install Braille and embossed registration numbers on auto rickshaws to help visually impaired passengers.
BRT Access Guide Presented in Dar es Salaam
AEI Visits Urban and Rural Transportation in East Africa
At the invitation of the World Bank’s office in Tanzania, Tom Rickert of AEI consulted with Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (DART) in March, 2006, in order to present newly drafted accessibility guidelines to assist the planning for what may be Africa’s first Bus Rapid Transit system. Rickert’s work there was part of a larger three-week visit which included travel on some 1,500 kilometers of rural roads in Tanzania and Kenya, observing the daunting issues facing seniors and disabled pedestrians using rutted dirt roads with little protection from vehicles.
Accessible Bus Rapid Transit in Tanzania
The planned express bus system in Dar es Salaam provides hope that improvements to public transit and footways in urban areas will serve as models which can apply to rural areas as well. Dar es Salaam is a city of 2.5 million persons located on the Indian Ocean. Construction of the planned Bus Rapid Transit system is scheduled to begin in 2007, using a $US60 million funding package with the World Bank as the major partner. Phase 1 of the proposed system, known as the Morogoro Road Corridor, will serve up to 200,000 passengers per day and will include a 21 kilometer trunk line corridor served by 31 accessible ramped center-island stations with floor-level boarding to high capacity buses. A network of feeder lines will serve the trunk line and accessible pedestrian and bike paths will be built along the length of the corridor to connect with the bus stations.
Rickert’s visit provided an opportunity to present the Bus Rapid Transit Accessibility Guidelines he has drafted for the World Bank, along with other resource materials, and to discuss specific accessibility issues with DART staff. The meetings in Dar es Salaam have provided a valuable opportunity to utilize the Guidelines in an African context, supplementing the Latin American context -- primarily in seven Colombian cities -- where the guidelines were developed this past year.
Readers may download the Guidelines in English or Spanish at www.worldbank.org, typing "disability accessibility" in the search box and scrolling to the Guidelines in English or Spanish. (Note: In some countries it may be simpler to type in the name of the publication using Google's "advanced search" function.)
The Guidelines also address access issues to footways, bus stops and buses on the feeder routes which serve the BRT trunk line corridors, an often-overlooked issue crucial to making public transit accessible in cities in developing countries. The inclusive design of public transit, and especially of new Bus Rapid Transit projects, must include a long-term process for phasing in accessible pathways so that all passengers – including seniors, persons with disabilities, women, and children -- can have a safe accessible travel path from home to bus stop to bus and on to their destination. Thus the experience gained in providing accessible footways to both trunk line and feeder bus routes in large cities may be of special relevance to overcoming the barriers to travel which impoverish and threaten persons with disabilities in rural areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Accessibility in Rural Tanzania and Kenya
As one of the world’s least developed areas, east Africa presents special challenges to disabled persons, who often become “the poorest of the poor” due to an inability to market their products, get to jobs, go to school, or get to health care. In wealthier countries, “accessible transportation” often is thought of in the popular mind as focused on lifts and ramps for wheelchair users riding large buses on well paved roads. This definition does not apply to impoverished rural areas where often there are neither buses, wheelchairs, nor paved roads. The most critical need in such areas is to provide footways for persons who must walk or use bicycles, safely separated from the truck and auto traffic which kills and injures thousands of persons forced to use the roadway because no sidewalks or footways are available. Where footways are inaccessible, or force people to walk or bicycle on narrow roadways, a disabling environment is created, often due to a combination of lack of funding, bad design, poor maintenance, corruption, and/or a lack of knowledge and skills to build accessible footways and transport. In both Tanzania and Kenya, steps are being taken to address these issues.
The observations made in both urban and rural Tanzania and Kenya underline the need for disability and bicycling advocates to work together to promote accessible paths in developing countries. Many bicyclists have disabilities and depend on their bicycles to carry goods or reach services.
A second concern is that the World Bank and other agencies, governments, and NGOs working in developing areas need to promote a common understanding of inclusive transport on the part of their staff working on health, education, and social concerns, on the one hand, and their staff working on transport systems and roads, on the other. Accessible health clinics and schools must, first of all, be places that can be reached by those who need them. A woman facing complications at birth, a disabled person who needs a prosthesis, a child walking to obtain water at a distant well, a laborer needing to get to his job -- all need access and mobility.
(We encourage reader comments on the above article. Readers are also referred to the article on rural transportation in AEI’s June 2004 Newsletter.)
AEI comments on World Bank statements: In May, 2006. Access Exchange International sent comments to the World Bank suggesting a stronger commitment to disability concerns in their draft document Transport for development: An update of the World Bank’s transport sector priorities for the period of 2007-2015, noting that the Bank should make it a priority “to increase the inclusivity of public transport by enhancing access by persons with disabilities, older persons, women, children and other groups which benefit from universal design.” AEI also commented on a draft Bank document titled Including Accessibility Features/Universal Design in Infrastructure and Human Development Projects.
More Progress in Vietnam
The Prime Minister of Vietnam has mandated that new public transport vehicles must incorporate accessible design features as part of a larger multi-year plan to include persons with disabilities in the national program to reduce poverty and improve health care. Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH) also notes solid support from officials at the highest level of government to promote inclusive transportation. Using funds from USAID, VNAH has taken the lead in working with Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport on access issues.
Progress in Vietnam has been further assisted by a visit to Hanoi in December, 2005, by Dr. Kit Mitchell of the United Kingdom, who was a key presenter at a Transport Ministry workshop. Mitchell’s visit follows up meetings by AEI in Vietnam in 2004.
Vehicle standards for accessible buses were approved by the Ministry of Transport in April, 2006, with rail car standards expected to be approved shortly. Technical input from Dr. Mitchell has been of special assistance to the formation of the new standards. A pilot accessible bus route will soon be initiated in Ho Chi Minh City, which has also initiated a policy of permitting disabled passengers to ride free of charge. Meanwhile, the Transport University in Hanoi is including accessible transport in their curriculum, assisted by materials provided by AEI in the USA and Dr. Mitchell in the UK. It is intended that accessible transport theory and practice will then be extended to universities throughout the country, according to reports from VNAH.
How Halimah Abdullah Started Persatuan Mobiliti, Malaysia’s First Door-to-Door Transport for Persons with Disabilities
You only need two things (No - not vans and money, but passion and determination!) Ok maybe three things – add on hard work. A strong belief that “God works in mysterious ways” will also be very helpful. Because that is all I, and a group of disabled friends, had when we gathered in July 2001 for the first meeting of what was to become “Persatuan Mobiliti Selangor & Kuala Lumpur” (the Mobility Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor). We registered as a new charitable agency, a process that took six months.
Registration gave the organization credibility, the charitable status has made fundraising easier and a new organization ensured independent self- management. A non-profit company or a project within an existing organization were other options we considered but dismissed.
Mobiliti is the first “door to door” service for the disabled in Malaysia (and most of South East Asia) so none of us actually knew anything about operating such a service! We used the six months it took to obtain government approval to get as far up the learning curve as we could. We surfed the internet, we e-mailed relevant overseas organizations who either passed on useful information and/or gave us other useful contacts. That was how we first made contact with Access Exchange International. Theoretical knowledge is very useful but nothing beats “on the ground” assistance. We obtained a one-week consultancy from Ian Jenkinson, the General Manager of Sheffield Community Transport in the UK. Ian donated his time and expertise. The British Executive Service Overseas (BESO) paid for his airfare and all we had to provide was one week’s accommodation. Ian was wonderful. He came loaded down with booklets and documentation for us – down to how they designed their booking request forms and drivers schedules. He helped us with demand management issues, technical questions and basically taught us how to operate a “door to door” service.
Vehicles & Equipment
Our first two vans were Inokom Permas, a version of a Renault van. We selected them because of the very high roof and because the back door opened outwards (rather than upwards). Passengers and their wheelchairs come in all different shapes and sizes and many of the other vans just did not have enough height clearance. Our latest two vans are Toyota Hiace – reliable and cheaper to maintain (but the Inokoms still win on space). The Toyotas we bought were also petrol engines as they were cheaper then the diesel version. However, since purchasing them the government petrol subsidy has been reduced which has caused a hike in petrol prices – so we are beginning to realize diesel would have been a better option in the long term.
We chose the RICON lift (manufactured in the USA) which is fitted at the rear of the vehicle. The local agent’s main line of business is hydraulic lifts so they are experienced in servicing this type of equipment.
There are no wheelchair restraint systems available in Malaysia nor regulations here on transporting wheelchairs. As transport was to be our core business we agreed that from the outset we should self-regulate and have a reliable, secure system. We selected a floor rail/wheelchair restraint system from Unwin Safety Systems in the UK. Coincidentally around the time of our first enquiry, the Managing Director, Mr. Campbell McKee was planning a visit to Singapore (our next door neighbor) so I arranged to go down and meet him there. Well worth the cost of the bus ticket. There is relatively little maintenance needed and we got the company that installed our lifts to fit the rails.
The capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding Klang Valley area is home to about 5.8 million people. Not surprisingly, one of our main issues has always been demand management. Who gets one of the limited seats in our vans? We started out with a “first-come first-serve” system. But that simply led to disgruntled passengers. We now operate a system where passengers request transport a week in advance. We call them back 2 days before the date of travel to let them know whether we can assist. Priority is given to low income passengers, electric wheelchair users or those who cannot transfer into a car/taxi, and medical related journeys. We operate Monday-Saturdays, 8.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Passengers are charged a fixed rate of 3 Malaysian Ringgits (just under US$1.00) for a single journey irrespective of the distance involved – about the equivalent of a bus fare. The vans can accommodate three wheelchairs and three seated passengers at any one time. So we try, as much as possible, to collect three passengers all going to the same or nearby destinations, to maximize occupancy. A passenger is permitted to have one accompanying care giver.
We employ a full-time Operations Manager and Office assistant (who is disabled) and currently have four full-time drivers. We will be employing a fifth quite soon. Our leased van will be driven by volunteers.
The Association is managed by an Executive Committee of 13 people (all volunteers) headed by our President, Mr Anthony Arokia, a wheelchair user. In fact currently 12 of the 13 member committee are people living with a disability.
Income from fares accounts for about 20% of our operational costs so fundraising is a big challenge! Particularly at the outset when all you have is a good idea and no track record. It is important to know your potential donor, what are their eligibility criteria for funds, what, if anything, do they want in return (PR opportunities, logo on your vans, financial reports). Our first van was donated by the British High Commission with the lift and rails funded by HSBC. The Catholic Church’s Jubilee Solidarity Fund paid for the second van and it’s modification. Exxonmobil gave us a two year fuel grant. Operational expenditure came from small donations given by a number of mainly corporate organizations. We spent just US$30 on our office (for file shelves). Everything else was donated.
Once the service was up and running and people could see what a difference it was making in the lives of disabled Malaysians, fundraising became slightly easier, but no less time-consuming. The third van came into service in mid 2004 (funded by HSBC – they like long-term relationships rather than one-off donations – and so do we!) with modifications funded by one of our Rotary clubs. This year we added three more: a second-hand DHL van, a new van funded by BAKTI (a Government Ministers’ wives charity foundation) with modifications by a Malaysian construction company, SP Setia. Our sixth van was given to us on free lease by the Malaysian Council for Rehabilitation who were underutilizing it and felt Mobiliti was better placed to operate it.
We want to maintain the fleet at this level for some time as we need to consolidate resources before taking on any more. We have however just signed a long-term agreement with Allianz Life who will fund the operating expenditure for three of our vans. So that is a tremendous help.
The reality is, however, that no matter how many vans we operate we are unlikely ever to completely meet the transport demands of the disabled population so Mobiliti is also now becoming involved in work pressing for more accessibility in the public transportation system. We are also trying to support groups to start “door to door” services in other parts of the country so that Malaysians living with a disability can participate fully in economic and social activities and have access to community services no matter where they live.
Halimah Abdullah, Founder/Adviser of Mobiliti
News and Notes from Around the World
• France: AEI recommends two guides recently published by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport: Improving Transport Accessibility for All (159 pages) and Improving Access to Public Transport (82 pages). For a copy, contact Mary Crass at the ECMT in Paris at email@example.com. . . . Access will be on the agenda at a transport accessibility session at the CODATU transport conference in Lyon, July 5-7. 2006. Chaired by Ann Frye of the UK, presentations are planned by Renato Boareto (Brazil), Lalita Sen (USA), Christo Venter (South Africa), and Gerhard Menckhoff (World Bank). Go to www.codatu.org for information. . . Strengthened accessibility legislation will require access to all public transportation services in France within ten years, reports Maryvonne Dejeammes of CERTU in Lyon. This includes the provision of some level of accessible transport even in isolated rural areas without regular bus service.
• UK: Ann Frye, a long-time friend of our work, has left the Department for Transport and is now a consultant on transport and access policy, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. . . . Go to the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership in the UK at www.gtkp.com for an overview of general transport concerns and resources in developing countries.
• Hungary: A conference on accessibility to historical buildings is scheduled for June 29-30, 2006, in Budapest. Contact Eva Caesar at email@example.com for information or conference results.
• Brazil: A Portuguese translation of Access Exchange International’s Transport for All: What Should We Measure?, is planned by Brazil’s National Public Transport Association. The report comments on the use of indicators and performance measures for inclusive public transport in developing regions. A version in Vietnamese was published this past year in Viet Nam, using US AID funding. . . . New national norms for access to waterway and maritime transport are aiming for completion this year, according to Angela Werneck.
• Mexico: The famous Popocatépetl Volcano may not be accessible, but work is going forward to make a nearby national park disabled-friendly to those who wish to get up close to this famous landmark, according to a report from Andrés Balcázar de la Cruz, at www.abc-discapacidad.com.
• Colombia: Expanded access features were inaugurated in May, 2006, by the elevated Metro in Medellín, which now has wheelchair access to 23 of its 28 stations. A group of 14 persons with disabilities trained by the Metro is assisting other passengers with reduced mobility to use the new mobility features. (Reports by Theodor Kurk Echeverri)
• USA: A Toolkit for the Assessment of Bus Stop Accessibility and Safety has been developed by Nelson/Nygaard Associates of San Francisco and is available at the Easter Seals Project ACTION web site at www.projectaction.org/clearinghouse. Project ACTION may also be contacted for a free printed copy. . . . Need design drawings for curb ramps? Thanks to Kevin Jensen of the San Francisco Dept. of Public Works, AEI can provide drawings which address some of the many exceptional situations engineers and planners face as they deal with drainage issues, underground utilities, irregular intersections and all the other obstacles that make good curb ramp design “easier said than done” around the world. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Canada: Recent research has tested the safety of large urban low-floor buses equipped with a rear-facing securement system for wheelchair passengers. Various crash tests indicated that this approach – often used in Europe and of potential use in some Bus Rapid Transit systems in developing countries – was found to safely meet Canadian crash standards. Go to www.tc.gc.ca/tdc/summary/14400/14429e.htm. (Report by Uwe Rutenberg). . . . Ontario is developing strengthened accessibility standards for all public transportation services in the province, reports Rob Barnes. More at www.mcss.gov.on.ca/accessibility/index.html.
• Uruguay: The Uruguayan Institute of Technical Norms (UNIT) has begun to certify the accessibility of complying public transport vehicles in Montevideo, according to a report by Eduardo Alvarez, an architect at UNIT. . . . UNIT also hosted representatives from 17 countries at a meeting in February, 2006, of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) technical committee on accessibility norms, with the theme of “accessibility and usability of the built environment.”
Asia and the Pacific
• China: A Bus Rapid Transit corridor is already in operation in Beijing and two others are being planned, while a 28 kilometer BRT corridor with floor-level boarding was opened in Hangzhou on April 26, 2006, according to a report from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. . . . Access Exchange International plans to host a six-person delegation from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation in Beijing for a mid-July inspection of accessible transportation in San Francisco. . . . Huang Suning reports that an initial 30 accessible low-floor buses are being deployed this year on a route in Shenzhen, one of China’s fastest growing cities. Tests of prototype buses from three competing Chinese companies are now underway.
• Japan: Yoshihiko Kawauchi reports that the 2nd International Conference for Universal Design is planned in Kyoto, October 22-26, 2006, information at www.ud2006.net.
•Australia: Access to rail, bus, and taxi services in Australian cities continues to improve, but much remains to be done according to AccordSCI (Spinal Cord Injuries Australia).
• India: A “bicycle built for two” has been designed by Vilas Karve in Ghatkopar, to be operated by a disabled owner (using a hand pedal) and/or a non-disabled passenger (using a foot pedal). Amongst other options, the disabled owner can provide transport services to non-disabled persons who do not own a bicycle but need to travel to a common location such as a train station or bus stop. Go to email@example.com for information.
• Singapore: Judy Wee reports that Singapore’s Transport Ministry plans to phase in low-floor ramp-equipped accessible units to replace an existing fleet of 3,500 buses.
•Thailand: Disabled People’s International of the Asia-Pacific Region has protested several inaccessible design features of the new Suvanabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, according to a report from Topong Kulkhanchit.
• Israel: National regulations for the Accessibility Chapter of Israel’s “Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law” are now being drafted, reports Bizchut, an NGO in this field in Jerusalem.