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18 on transit vehicles. For example, instructions to passengers As shown in Figure 4, responses were generally split in Göteborg, Sweden, say that wheelchairs may be carried between agencies that considered wheelchairs to be either if there is sufficient space, but connections are not guaran- not an issue or somewhat of an issue (both 33%). The teed. Similarly, in Aalborg, Denmark, there is space for one median response among both medium and large agencies wheelchair on its low-floor buses "if the space is not already was "somewhat important"; the median response of small occupied by a pram [or baby carriage]." However, the tourist agencies was that boarding a vehicle with a wheelchair was information notes that buses in most Danish cities, except an "unimportant/minor issue." for Odense, are low-floor or are equipped with a ramp. And in Norrköping, Sweden, all commuter trains and commuter train stations are equipped with ramps for wheelchairs, and passengers are encouraged to ask train hosts if they need assistance. In Helsinki, Finland, "A passenger in a wheel- chair and one companion are entitled to free travel on public transport in the Helsinki metropolitan area if the passen- ger has the required pass. Elsewhere in Finland, on Van- taa's internal transport services, all disabled persons using wheelchairs are entitled to travel without tickets on low-floor vehicles. Mobility scooters with separate handlebars are not transported on buses, trams or the metro" (Conditions for Travel with Västtrafik 2010). FIGURE 4 Indicate whether bringing a wheelchair on your Despite the lack of legislation, countries such as Nor- vehicles is considered an issue/concern/challenge for your way are sensitive to the issue of accessibility. In a paper agency. produced by the Norland Research Institute titled Disabil- ity and Transport--Experience with Specialised Transport Of the agencies that indicated wheelchairs are a very in Norway, the authors comment that most user organiza- important or somewhat important concern, 14 (61%) noted tions in Norway agree on the concept of universal design. that the delay incurred by the boarding and alighting of However, they admit that universal design--public trans- wheelchairs onto transit vehicles was a concern (Figure 5). portation accessible to everyone--is a "long-term project," Generally, respondents are also concerned with the limited starting with the transition from conventional to low-floor capacity to accommodate wheelchairs and problems associ- buses (Solvoll and Armunssveen 2003). ated with this inadequate capacity--such as the safety of the disabled passenger, the inability of the vehicle to pick up the rider when at capacity, and passenger crowding. SURVEY RESULTS Challenges and Concerns Respondents were asked to rate to what extent bringing a wheelchair on board a transit vehicle was an issue, concern, or challenge. Before exploring general trends among survey responses, it is worth noting that some respondents may have been confused by an apparent negative connotation of the term "concern." This issue became apparent during the data collection phase of the survey outreach, when one agency sought to clarify the question's aims because the agency saw itself as accomplished in dealing with wheelchairs, and thus was not "concerned" with the issue. FIGURE 5 If you indicated that wheelchairs are a very On the survey itself, one agency clarified its "not an issue" important or somewhat important concern, why is it a concern for your agency? response, citing that "wheelchairs are governed by law." Another large agency replied that all "buses are wheelchair accessible" and therefore, despite making the accommoda- Specific comments revealed other, non-vehicle-based tion of wheelchairs a priority, the agency does not consider complexities that affect a transit agency's ability to success- wheelchairs an "issue/concern/challenge." In the United fully handle wheelchair-bound passengers. Even in a large States, policies on wheelchair accommodation are also gen- metropolitan area, one agency commented, "a lot of stops do erally buttressed by the ADA. not have sidewalks, concrete pads, or cut outs" that facili-
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19 tate wheelchair boarding. Similarly, a midsized agency also TABLE 7 noted that "many areas in [the] community are not acces- POLICY LIMITS WHEELCHAIR WEIGHT sible for those using wheelchairs." Another agency acknowl- Yes 38% (11) edged the issue of the reliability of the ramp used to bridge No 62% (18) the gap between a bus stop and the vehicle. n = 29. Overview of Agency Policies Of the 10 agencies that indicated size limitations, all but Although one might assume all transit agencies have a writ- three have limits that correlate with the ADA definition of ten policy regarding the accommodation of wheelchairs on "common wheelchair" not to exceed 30 in. in width and 48 transit vehicles, the survey found that some agencies rely in. in length and not to weigh more than 600 lb when occu- on ADA guidelines and do not adopt a formal policy for the pied. Of the other three not using the "common wheelchair" agency's non-paratransit vehicles. Thirty-four of 42 agencies definition, one specified that the size as "must fit in the vehi- surveyed (81%) have a policy in place regarding the accom- cle doorway," one indicated a small wheelchair standard of modation of wheelchairs on transit vehicles; the other eight 28½ in. wide by 40 in. long, and the third allows for a wider do not (Table 5). Although not all Canadian agencies operate wheelchair of 32 in. wide by 48 in. long. accessible vehicles, four Canadian agencies included as part of the study all have wheelchair policies in place for regular With one exception, all of the agencies with weight policies buses and trains, as well as paratransit vehicles. Among the match the ADA standard of 600 lb, although one agency allows smallest agencies in the survey sample, only eight of 14 said for an occupied chair of up to 650 lb. One agency indicated that that they have an official wheelchair policy. All of the large no official policy exists, but it will limit passengers in wheel- agencies surveyed have a wheelchair policy. chairs to a combined 800 pounds, the capacity of its lifts. Wheelchair Position on Vehicles TABLE 5 POLICIES: WHEELCHAIRS ABOARD TRANSIT VEHICLES Unlike some of the other large items reviewed in this synthe- (REGULAR BUSES AND TRAINS) sis, most policies define where wheelchairs must be placed on Size Yes No buses. Twenty-seven of 34 responding agencies (79%) require Small Agencies 8 6 wheelchairs to be placed in certain locations on regular tran- Medium Agencies 10 2 sit buses (Table 8). Only two of the 14 responding agencies Large Agencies 16 0 that operate both buses and rail have a designated location on rail vehicles that must be used by persons with wheelchairs; 81% (34) 19% (8) many of the agencies that operate rail, including BART, have n = 42. designated areas on trains for wheelchairs but do not require wheelchairs to use them. Likewise, none of the rail operators Size and Weight Limits require wheelchairs to be secured aboard the train, whereas wheelchairs must be secured on almost all of the buses. Of the agencies that have a policy regarding wheelchairs aboard regular transit vehicles, 18 of 28 (64%) said that TABLE 8 their policy does not limit the size of wheelchairs that can POLICY REQUIRES SPECIFIC WHEELCHAIR PLACEMENT be accommodated, and 18 of 29 (62%) said that their policy Yes 79% (27) does not limit the weight of a wheelchair that can be accom- No 21% (7) modated (Tables 6 and 7). Only one agency that operates n = 34. both bus and rail service indicated that wheelchair size and weight restrictions apply only on buses and that no restric- tions exist on rail. Because most buses have a limited number of locations where wheelchairs can be secured, most agencies that oper- TABLE 6 ate buses limit the number of wheelchairs allowed per bus. POLICY LIMITS WHEELCHAIR SIZE Twenty-four of 30 agencies that operate buses (80%) have Yes 36% (10) policies that limit the number of wheelchairs allowed on board a bus at one time. Presumably, other agencies also have No 64% (18) limits, but these are not codified in their policies. For most n = 28. agencies, the vehicle size and configuration dictates the num-
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20 ber of wheelchairs that can be secured (ranging from two to Unlike some of the other items being reviewed in this syn- four tie-downs, depending on the vehicle type, with two tie- thesis (e.g., bicycles, strollers, carts), wheelchairs are always downs being most common) (Figure 6). Only one of 33 agen- a mobility device. As a result, and owing to ADA require- cies (3%) requires wheelchairs to be inspected and approved ments for the accommodation of wheelchairs and people before use on transit buses. Although only one other agency who use them, many agencies favor wheelchairs over other indicated that inspection and approval is required in the event large items in the event of space constraints on a vehicle. of questions about size or weight, it is assumed that many transit agencies will require inspection if questions exist When passenger loads are high on a transit vehicle (bus or about whether the wheelchair conforms to standards. Only trolley), not all agencies have a policy that requires operators one agency, with a fleet that is not fully accessible, indicated to pick up all wheelchair/mobility device users, even when that wheelchairs are disallowed on certain routes. the wheelchair space is available. As shown in Table 9, 20 of 29 agencies (69%) with wheelchair policies expect driv- ers to pick up passengers when space is available for wheel- chairs to be secured. Five of 29 agencies (17%) do not expect drivers to accommodate wheelchairs on a full vehicle. Four small agencies do not have an expectation regarding accom- modation of wheelchairs on full vehicles. TABLE 9 DRIVERS EXPECTED TO PICK UP ALL WHEELCHAIR/ MOBILITY DEVICE USERS WHEN THE WHEELCHAIR SPACE IS AVAILABLE, EVEN WITH A FULL BUS Yes 69% (20) No 17% (5) N/A 14% (4) n = 29. N/A= not available. FIGURE 6 Common wheelchair (left ) and a large stroller occupy space at the front of a bus (courtesy : CTA). In dealing with a full bus, a few agencies indicated that wheelchair users have priority in boarding and that other Driver Assistance customers will be asked to move back if possible. According to one agency's policy, other passengers may be required to Among agencies that operate buses, most (20 of 31, or 65%) exit a vehicle for the wheelchair to board and then be allowed require their drivers to provide assistance to secure wheel- to reboard if space is available. chairs (where applicable). The other 11 of 31 (35%) instruct their drivers that they may provide assistance if requested or For trains, one agency indicated that operators are not needed. In addition to extending the ramp or using the lift instructed to ask ambulatory passengers to deboard in order (expected of all operators) and securing passengers, oper- to allow a person in a wheelchair to get on the train. Accord- ators at 12 of 31 (36%) agencies may assist passengers in ing to the agency, "when trains are full, everyone waits-- stowing their belongings (Figure 7). including wheelchair users." Although a full transit vehicle can make it difficult for any passenger to board, a bus or trolley with designated wheel- chair spaces that are occupied typically means that another wheelchair user cannot board. Transit agencies were asked to define what is required of operators when the wheelchair space is occupied but another individual in a wheelchair wants to board (Figure 8). Several agencies (8 of 23) always dispatch another vehicle, usually a paratransit vehicle, to pick up the passenger in a wheelchair. Others may dispatch FIGURE 7 Wheelchairs: Which of the following types of another vehicle depending on the anticipated arrival time of assistance may operators provide (buses) (n = 31)? the next scheduled bus.