3.4 Public transport service

The in-vehicle/conveyance stage of a journey involves the passenger's interaction with the vehicle (bus, train, tram, aeroplane or ferry etc.) and potentially its driver. During this stage, the customer boards the vehicle, travels to their destination stop/station and alights.Ideally, the customer is able to board independently, quickly and effectively; have a safe, secure and comfortable experience on board the vehicle; is provided with information during the journey; and alights the vehicle easily at their desired stop/station.

People may need assistance with boarding and alighting in the form of ramp deployment and other mobility aids. This is particularly true for coaches and mini buses, and some ferries affected by tides. It is also true for airlines where aerobridges are not in use.

Requirements of the in-vehicle stage may be different depending on the mode of travel and length of the journey.

Aspirations for this journey part

  • People using public transport feel confident, safe and secure knowing they can get on, travel and then get off the service.
  • Fellow passengers and staff are courteous and respond to requests for assistance from people with disability.

How can we achieve this?

3.4.1 Limit the need for assistance

Wherever possible, planners and designers should aim to eliminate the need for ramps and accessibility aides when people enter and exit a public transport vehicle.

This involves providing appropriate infrastructure, such as consistent platform and vehicle levels, or using vehicles that can adjust to different kerb heights (such as kneeling buses), as well as ensuring a consistent location for accessible boarding points. Minimising boarding gaps is important, however this can be difficult in some situations. For example, on older train systems and ferries, and where there are curved platforms. In such situations suitable mobility aids that maximise potential for independent access and assisted boarding may need to be examined. Consideration of such options needs to take into account that many people with disability prefer independent boarding that does not require separate processes that draw attention to them or delay a journey. This aspiration should be considered during infrastructure planning and when design and procurement decisions are made, as such decisions are likely to impact public transport accessibility for many years.

3.4.2 Audible announcements

People who are blind or have low vision have highlighted that audible announcements within vehicles significantly improve their public transport experience because information on their location is communicated during the journey37.The importance of communication increases as routes become more complex, such when stops are frequent (for example, 300 metres apart), as does the difficulty in using audible announcements. Apps such as the Stop Announcer (NSW)38 are an effective alternative for transport users who need access to information on their whereabouts.

Clear, timely and accurate audible announcements within interchanges is also important, particularly where there are dynamic bus bays and users rely on announcements to get to right departure point. This is considered further at section 3.5.3 ‘boarding points’.

3.4.3 Vehicle fleet consistency

Consistency of essential accessibility features across the whole journey is important. Features such as exit buttons, priority seating and the location of allocated spaces should be as consistent as possible. People with disability have highlighted that vehicles can have significant differences in this regard, such as exit buttons located in different places. These differences can significantly impact on people's ability to travel independently.

This will be increasingly important as transport providers pursue service improvements in response to technology opportunities, including use of different vehicles for different services in the future.

3.4.4 Vehicle livery

Vehicle colours, icons or numbering systems are important identifiers for public transport users. The symbology and colouring of these should be considered to ensure identifiers are consistent across the fleet and provide clear information for users.

Changes to these symbols or colours should be considered in consultation with relevant user groups to ensure they do not affect accessibility.

3.4.5 Driver and staff training and passenger awareness

A driver's behaviour and actions can make a positive and lasting effect on the relationship with a customer with disability, and their confidence to use public transport again.

Especially relevant to buses, trams, airlines and taxis, drivers should be appropriately trained to enable them to assist people with accessibility requirements. This includes identifying signals to stop and pick a person up, assisting with boarding and ticketing, waiting until the person is settled before moving off, driving in a manner that considers passenger safety and comfort, helping to identify a desired stop, and helping travellers alight from the vehicle.

Drivers could also be trained to communicate with people non-verbally, such as writing in notebooks, using communication cards, or using selected Auslan phrases.

For example, V/Line, Victoria's regional public transport operator, has introduced innovative and simple solutions to improve the travel experience for people with disability. It is the first public transport operator in the world to be accredited in the Communication Access Symbol (see figure 12).

Passengers who are travelling on public transport have a role to play in enabling an accessible journey. Raising community awareness and encouraging people to watch out for and help people with a disability along their journey is essential. This needs to be coupled with better understanding about the many types of disability, including physical, vision, hearing, intellectual, a combination (e.g. deaf/blind), culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability, and children with disability.

People with disability have highlighted that priority seating is often unavailable on busy public transport services, and at times priority seating is also shared with other customers such as parents with prams. To address this issue, education and awareness programs are being implemented in a number of jurisdictions across Australia. These include passenger etiquette campaigns (see figure 10), and in the Northern Territory where community awareness is being actively raised on this issue.

Sometimes a disability may not be apparent in the first instance. Transport for London has addressed this issue through a ‘please offer me a seat’ program, to help customers who have difficulty standing yet struggle to get a seat on public transport because their disability is not immediately apparent39.

3.4.6 Consider advertising's impact on accessibility

Advertising and public information are common on public transport. But advertising on bus windows can make it more difficult for people with disability to know where they are in their journey. Audio-based advertising can also make hearing travel or emergency announcements difficult.

At the same time, there is an opportunity to be inclusive of travellers with disability in general advertising for public transport.

As noted above, advertising placements should consider implications for people with disability in terms of safety and accessibility.

3.4.7 Passenger communications

To enable people with disability to communicate with a driver or service provider in the same way as other passengers, communication options should be matched with passenger needs.

Passenger etiquette campaigns

Fellow travellers have a role to play in creating accessible public transport journeys.

Guide Dogs Victoria, Public Transport Victoria and Yarra Trams launched an education campaign on transport etiquette around travellers who are blind or have low vision.

Figure 10—Banner for an educational campaign © McCann Sydney

On-board announcements

State Transit in NSW provides an audible and visible next stop announcement service on its MetroBus services.

All new buses now also feature LED destination signs with strong contrast between the large white writing and black background, making these easier to read for who are blind or have low vision.
Image showing on-board next stop announcment sign in a rail carriage.

Figure 11—It is common for public transport to feature on-board next stop announcements coupled with destination signs and arrival time estimates
© Transport for NSW

V/Line disability awareness and communication training

V/Line, Victoria's regional public transport operator, is making it easier for customers with disability to use public transport.

In 2013, it commenced the journey to become communication accessible and in 2016 became the first public transport operator in the world to be accredited under the Communication Access Symbol. More than 550 frontline staff completed disability awareness and communication training to improve their knowledge and skills.

Through a collaborative approach with industry experts, customers and staff, V/Line has introduced innovative and simple solutions to improve the customer experience for people with disability.

Image of transport officer assisting a person with a disability

Figure 12—Improving customer experience for people with disability
at V/Line © V/Line

37 Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002, Part 27, Clause 27.4


39 Arthritis Australia submission on the draft guide.

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