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Trial To Improve Bus Accessibility In Hamilton

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
environment waikato.gif
environment waikato.gif

7 July 2008 - Accessing bus services can be tricky for a range of people, such as the elderly, those in wheelchairs or people with hearing and vision impairments.

Now a new Accessible Journeys trial on the CBD Shuttle bus service, starting on 25 July, is part of a plan to remove barriers to bus use by such people in Hamilton, and improve bus accessibility generally.

The project has involved collaboration between the CCS Disability Action Group, Environment Waikato, Hamilton City Council, The Human Rights Commission, Land Transport New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

"Reducing barriers to bus use can help those with accessibility issues live independent lives, which can be priceless for individuals," said Regional Land Transport Committee (RLTC) deputy chair Paula Southgate of Environment Waikato.

"We're aiming to make the buses more friendly for the likes of wheelchair users, Zimmer frame users, the visually and hearing impaired, the elderly and parents with push chairs."

Issues such as aisle width, bus ramp angles, wheelchair restraints, and a lack of alternate forms of information on the bus and at bus stops have all been barriers to bus use in the past for people who have difficulties accessing public transport.

So, the Accessible Journeys pilot team researched bus network standards around the world and used this information to develop changes to the CBD Shuttle buses and bus stops. These changes will make the service more accessible.

The two CBD Shuttle buses have, for example, been retrofitted with new seating layouts, and audio and visual equipment. Also, bus stops on route have been modified with new kerb heights and angles to assist with boarding the buses.

The heavily used CBD Shuttle route was been chosen for the pilot because of its proximity to the transport centre, inner city shops and bus stops that link to the suburbs.

"The CBD Shuttle service is utilised by approximately 22,000 passengers per month of differing mobility and age, making this the ideal route for the pilot," said Environment Waikato's acting land transport operations manager Sue Callis.

The RLTC's transport disadvantaged representative and Access Coordinator for CCS Disability Action, Gerri Pomeroy, said the Accessible Journeys Pilot is a big step in the right direction.

"All we need now is for those with public transport accessibility issues to use the upgraded CBD Shuttle service and give us their feedback. This information can then be collated and used in the assessing of the pilot and contribute to the formulation of national standards."

Improvements to the bus stops on route are underway now and buses are being retrofitted. The pilot team urges all users with accessibility issues to "have a go" and take that big step towards independence.

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