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					    OVERVIEW OF TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS FOR ACCESSIBLE
           TRANSPORT SYSTEMS AND MOBILITY IN EUROPE



                               Maryvonne Dejeammes
                                      Certu

              maryvonne.dejeammes@developpement-durable.gouv.fr



ABSTRACT
Since the mid eighties in Europe, research and development have been carried out
to make public transport accessible to disabled people and more generally to people
with reduced mobility as defined by the European Council and European Parliament.

The low-floor technology was introduced for tramways and buses so that ambulant
impaired persons and wheelchair users can board and exit quite easily. Since then,
efforts have been made to improve the public transport operation by considering the
station and bus stop design at the same time as the rolling stock and its equipment.
The design of other amenities such as seats, handholds, handrails, etc. can help a lot
and increase the passengers’ ride comfort at relatively low cost.
Signage and more recently passenger information systems using new information
and communication technologies are implemented so that people with vision or
audition impairment can access the public transport system freely.

The aim of this paper is to highlight the technology development for the rolling stock,
its infrastructure and the passenger information systems to address the needs of
passengers with all kind of impairments. Feedback from transport authorities and
operators shows that they must take operation conditions into consideration to make
the most appropriate investments.

Keywords: accessibility; public transport; passenger information

___________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION
Since the mid eighties in Europe, research and development have been carried out
to make public transport accessible to disabled people and more generally to people
with reduced mobility as defined by the European Council and European Parliament.

The low-floor technology was introduced for tramways and buses so that ambulant
impaired persons and wheelchair users can board and exit quite easily. Since then,
efforts have been made to improve the public transport operation by considering the
station and bus stop design at the same time as the rolling stock and its equipment.
The design of other amenities such as seats, handholds, handrails, etc. can help a lot
and increase the passengers’ ride comfort at relatively low cost.
Signage and more recently passenger information systems using new information
and communication technologies (ICT) are implemented so that people with vision or
audition impairment can access the public transport system freely.

The aim of this paper is to draw up the technological progress made in Europe in the
design and provision of accessible urban public transport systems. Two European
research projects (Euro Access, 2008 and PT Access, 2008) described examples of
best practice. They pointed out that in fact there are large vaiations between the
economic, political and cultural backgrounds of European countries. We will focus on
the most advanced developments for urban public transport. The need for further
improvements will be discussed both in terms of product dissemination and PT
operation and of technological development.

1. Rolling stock and infrastructure designs

Introduction of the low-floor technology has been a major innovation for the tramway
and urban bus in the mid eighties in Europe to facilitate access to ambulant impaired
persons, wheelchair users, parents with prams, etc. An access ramp is fitted on one
door in order to fill the gap between the vehicle floor and the platform or footway so
that wheelchair users can enter and exit freely and easily. Many develoments have
been made during the last twenty years in Europe. However, varied operating
parameters must be considered on each route so that the punctuality and quality of
service can be ensured.

1.1. Level access at bus stops and tramway stations
Introduction of accessible low-floor buses and tramways demonstrated a higher
operation efficiency due to the absence of steps inside the vehicles. However, buses
which are not guided by a rail or any equivalent system (Theor in Rouen with a
camera guiding system, Phileas in Eidhoven with embedded magnets) must come to
a close docking at stops. Most western European countries are investing in on-line
and extended bay configurations. The “Kassel kerb” is a further feature which helps
the driver maneuver at stops.
A raised footway up to 18 or 21 cm for buses and a raised platform up to 26 or 30 cm
for tramways are becoming standard in France in order to reduce the gap between
the vehicle sill and the pavement so that all passengers can board and exit
comfortably. As building sustainable cities is required nowadays, these are
investments which have a great impact on the PT commercial speed and
attractiveness of the passengers waiting areas. As shown on figure 1, a prefabricated
module may be a quick and low-cost solution to create an extended bay for a bus
stop (example in Spain).
Figure 1: prefabricated module that creates an extended bay for a bus stop in Spain

1.2. Reliability of vehicle access equipments
Access ramps have been provided for wheelchair users to board on and exit from the
low-floor part of a tramway or a bus.
The European regulation requires all accessible buses to be fitted with a ramp
without specifications about its maneuver, except safety features when it is motorized
and activiated from the driver cockpit. Until recently they were motorized mostly.
However due to relatively scarce operations per day, there reliability has been
questioned in some major cities. Whereas motorized access ramps are the standard
fitting in France, Berlin in Germany are now moving to manual ramps. The bus driver
is authorized to move from his(her) seat and to operate the ramp. Even the Metrobus
(high level of service bus or bus rapid transit) on route 5 in Hamburg is operated with
such a manual ramp. The network operators acknowledge that the manual ramps are
quite often maneuvered by other travellers in order to reduce the stopping time
(figure 2).




             Figure 2: manual access ramp on the Metrobus in Hamburg

There is no European regulation for tramway design. In Central and Eastern
European countries, the operators invest in new rolling stock which must be cheap
and easily maintained. Cities such as Warsaw and Krakow prefered manual ramps
when they first introduced low-floor tramways. In France, completely new tramway
lines are built with high platforms. In order to get rid of motorized access ramps, a
new solution consists of implementing a collapsible rubber plate under the door sill so
that the gap between the vehicle floor and the platform edge is minimum (figure 3).




        Figure 3: collapsible rubber under the door sill on Citadis rolling stock

After discussions between manufacturers, operators, disabled users and the
administration, the regulation requires a gap with 50 mm height and 50 mm width as
maximum values measured with new and unloaded equipments. The issue of
manageable gaps for wheelchair users is not new, the environment must be taken
into account. Two recent researches performed for bus and train operations were not
judged representative enough (Daamen, 2007, Kashizume, 2007). A new research
has been commissioned and published by Inrets to check the dimensions of an
acceptable gap (Grange-Faivre C., 2009). It showed that the electric wheelchairs
users uncountered more frequent difficulties or failed to pass over the gap than
manual wheelchair users and people walking with ambulators. And the results cannot
confirm whether the gap specifications are appropriate or not because the floor
height may vary depending of the number of passengers onboard with a greater
value (60 mm) that the manageable vertical gap.

1.3. Safety of wheelchairs and mobility scooters
The transport of wheelchairs and mobility scooters needs specific consideration for
the safety of their users and that of other passengers who travel in the same vehicle.
In Europe, after research analysis and feedback from field experience (COST 335,
1999), the European commission didn’t introduce any technical specification for
wheelchairs onboard heavy rail coaches. And the same conclusion have been made
by the “Libertin” European network : there is no need for specific transort
configurations of wheelchairs onboard light rail systems (Libertin, 2004).

For urban buses and long distance buses or coaches, the European directive
2001/85/EC specifies two different configurations and safety means:
- for urban vehicles, a wheelchair space is provided where the wheelchair user
travels facing rearward and resting upon a vertical support (backrest) and with a
lateral handrail or handhold, and
- for long distance buses or coaches, the wheelchair space is equipped with a
wheelchair restraint system and occupant belt with at least two anchorage points on
the vehicle floor.
The safety of the wheelchair space provision for urban buses and the very easy
access and free usage of such a system proved to be efficient enough for the traffic
conditions in cities. The securement system required for long distance buses raises
two issues that PT operators complain about. Assistance must be provided to secure
the wheelchair and its occupant on the one hand, and the complete securement is
quite time consuming (3 to 5 minutes depending of the device and of the wheelchair).
By the past, some researches have looked for innovative solutions in North America
and in Europe. Unfortunately none were fruitfull enough, mostly due to the diverse
characteristics of wheelchairs; so there is still a need for investigation of
independantly quickly and easy to use devices or provisions.

A further issue is the transport of mobility scooters. These mobility aids, electrically
propelled with 3 or 4 small wheels, are primarilly used for short distances in a
neighbourhood. PT operators are however facing a growing request for travel on
buses and other road vehicles so that they raise the issue of safety and convenience
of their transport. The UK Department for Transport commissioned a thorough
investigation of the issue (MVA, 2006). Among the report’s conclusions, the authors
recommend that PT authorities or national governments restrict the access to the
more maneuverable and less bulky models, i.e. falling within the wheelchair
dimensions already accepted in the European directive. And further research should
focus on the risks associated with tipping on buses and coaches and the implications
for securement. The recent study on lateral stability of thesemobility aids performed
in the USA is a useful contribution (Rurik, 2010).

2. Passenger information and ticketing systems

New information and communication technologies (ICT) are introduced in PT
systems since the mid eighties. Their use for passenger information and ticketing
systems can have an enormous advantage for people with reduced mobility provided
that the universal design concept is applied for their human interfaces. Unfortunately
it is quite difficult to standardize and disseminate ICT products due to the rapid and
continuing innovation.

2.1. Travel planning
Disabled travellers can benefit from the availability of varied informations posted on a
web site: search of accessible PT routes, search of convenient itineraries owing to
their abilities and preferences, information on disruptions within the PT system (such
as availability of lifts in stations). PT authorities and operators are more and more
prone to provide such informations on their websites. They should be compatible with
the e-accessibility requirements for blind and visually impaired people. This is now a
requirement in France.
In large conurbations, some stations and connexion points become quite complex.
Detailed information and map displays of the buildings and facilities can be provided
to the user prior and even during the trip so that the barrier-free travel can be chosen
according to the user's personal requirements profile. One example is in Germany
the BAIM information system developped joinly in Frankfurt and Berlin (Frankenberg,
2009).

2.2. Dynamic information during the trip
More and more PT systems provide dynamic information onboard vehicles, in
tramway stations and at bus stops. The technology of display screens changes
rapidly, it is very important to consider the legibility of the displayed text so that
visually impaired travellers can read it. Recommendations are available following
human factors researches performed in the United states, Canada, Japan and
Europe (table 1).

               Letter height                     Distance/30
               Letter width to height ratio      5/7
               Luminance contrast                70%
               Stroke width to height ratio      5 to 10
               Message length                    14 to 20 words
               Message dynamic display time      10 seconds
             Table 1: recommendations for visual displays in PT vehicles

 In France, the recent regulation requires several specifications on dimensions, visual
contrast and display time of characters based on these recommendations (Arrete,
2007).
For blind people, it is necessary to provide a voice display by a loudspeaker. The
primary systems combining LED displays and loudspeakers give the visual and voice
announcement of next stop onboard the vehicles, which is apreciated by all the
passengers. TFT sceens afford opportunity for more varied information display.
However there is a risk of lack of clarity and legibility of the information (figure 4).




  Figure 4: LED next stop display onboard a Paris tramway line (left) and TFT three
             next stops display onboard a Grenoble tramway line (right)

The traveller who is waiting on a platform or at a bus stop needs to know where the
approaching vehicle is going to. In France, the electronic dispalys at front and on side
of the vehcile should comply with the specifications mentioned above. The provision
of a voice annoucement can be made available from a loud speaker on the vehicle
which can be activated by a remote control. Research and development is going on
in order to provide this annoucement on a mobile phone via a Bluetooth or Wifi
transmission. A more ambitious project (Rampe and Infomoville, Sayah 2009) will
include a wayfinding system for blind people so that they can find the PT station or
stop on their path (figure 5). A mobile phone, beacons and Wifi transmission has
been selected by the research team among the potential ICT available at present.




                    Figure 5: Infomoville project, field trial in Lyon

Another field for research is how to provide guidance in complex transfer points and
stations for visually impaired people. In Europe, the first systems combined voice
messages and ground tactile guiding surfaces (Wayfinder (React/Talking signs) in
Birmingham, Tyfloset in Prague). New project researches are investigating map
matching techniques for en route guidance along a line-based trajectory following a
precomputed route. Instructions are given by voice messages. For example, two
research projects are working on the positioning sensors and algorithms (Wieser,
2007, Lamy, 2009).

2.3. Ticketing systems
Accessibility of automatic vending machines for wheelchair users and people with
small stature is becoming the common standard. Recent developments deal with use
by blind and visually impaired people. Even though the controls are marked with
braille text and embossed pictograms, it is difficult to follow the multiple stages
required all the more as instructions are given on static or tactile screens.
Some new machines have added a software activated with a single knob to navigate
the screen with speech output via a headphone socket. The regional railways in
Catalunya introduced a vending machine which offers on-demand assistance from
the control management station via a special call button and a video system (figure
6).
  Figure 6: two examples of ticket vending machine accessible to visually impaired
             people, French railways (left) and Catalunya railways (right)

For self-service terminals adaptable user interfaces with the user’s preferences
stored on a card have been standardised by European standardization committee
(EN 1332-4). The coding system is applicable to a wide range of self-service
terminals including computer terminals in public libraries and public transport
information terminals. The users have the ability to change their preferences either
on the terminal or indirectly on the web. This is an opporunity for PT ticketing
machines.
The contactless ticketing system is easier to use by a large part of the travellers as it
doesn’t require a precise gesture. RATP, PT the operator in Paris, have developed a
web-based system for re-loading credit on a contactless card; this system is
accessible by blind and partially sighted users.

3. Conclusion

More and more European countries are making progress to provide public transport
systems accessible to several kinds of impairments. This paper describes the
technological developments that address primarily access for ambulant impaired and
vision impaired travellers. It must be stressed that the design of amenities such as
seats, handholds, handrails, signage, etc. can help a lot and increase the
passengers’ ride comfort at relatively low cost.
Whether implementation of accessible transports systems follows policy
recommendations or compulsory regulations, the transport operators have tried to
find out pragmatic solutions so that their lines operation doesn’t imped the economic
model. In this respect, access of wheelchair users on urban tramways and buses
appears to be increasingly popular (estimation of +28% increase between 2007 and
2008 in Paris, need for two wheelchair spaces in Grenoble and Strasbourg on
standard buses for example). However reliability of some specific equipment must be
improved and further research is needed for the restraint of wheelchairs and mobility
aids onboard PT vehicles.
New developments of ICT systems following the principle of universal design provide
opportunities for visually impaired people and people with hearing impairment to
travel independantly. Transport authorities and operators are facing too fast evolution
of these technologies and the subsequent lack or delay of standardization. Further
research is investigating how to provide guidance in complex transfer points and
stations for visually impaired people.

4. References
Euro-Access - For a European Accessibility for Public Transport for People with
Disabilities. 2007-2008. Deliverables available from http://www.euro-access.org/

PT Access – Public transport systems for people with disabilities in Europe. 2007-
2008. Deliverables available from http://www.ptaccess.eu/

Daamen, W., E. DeBoer, and R. DeKloe. 2007. The gap between vehicle and
platform as a barrier for the disabled; an effort to empirically relate the gap size to the
difficulty of bridging it. in Comotred/Transed conference proceedings. Montreal.

Hashizume, T., et al. 2007. Study on the accessibility and assistive device between
platforms and trains for manual wheelchair user. in SICE annual conference. Kagawa
university, Japan.

Grange-Faivre C., Alauzet A., Marin-Lamellet C. 2009. Etude portant sur les
difficultés de franchissement des lacunes quai-seuil par les usagers de fauteuil
roulant lors de l’accès aux transports guidés. Rapport final Inrets pour la DGITM

Passenger’s accessibility of heavy rail systems. 1999. Final report of the COST 335
action. Office for official publications of the European communities.

Technical specification for interoperability concerning people with reduced mobility in
the transeuropean railway system. 2008/164/CE

Libertin, light rail thematic network. 2004. Final report, downloaded February 2010,
Available from http://www.libertin.info/

Directive 2001/85/EC of the European Parliament and of the Councilof 20 November
2001 relating to special provisions for vehicles used for the carriage of passengers
comprising more than eight seats in addition to the driver's seat. Official journal the
the European communities, 13.02.2002.

MVA. Carriage of Mobility Scooters on Public Transport - Feasibility Study. 2006.
Report for the UK Department for Transport. Available from
http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/tipws/cmspt/

Rurik B., Zaworski J., Hunter-Zaworski K. 2010. Wheelchair analysis for rear facing
containment systems, TRB annual meeting.

Frankenberg M., Fiekert W. Barrier free timetable information. 2009. ITS world
congres, Stockholm, paper 3857.

Arrete du 3 mai 2007 relatif aux transports en commun de personnes. Journal officiel
de la Republique francaise 12 mai 2007.
Infomoville, information temps réel des voyageurs à handicap sensoriel dans les
transports publics. (2008-2010). Research project, Available from
http://www.esiee.fr/~infomove/

Sayah J., Baudoin G., Venard O., El Hassan B.Localization and guidance in
RAMPE/INFOMOVILLE-an interactive system of assistance for blind travelers. 2009.
ICADIWT conference.

TYFLOSET® the electronic orientation and information system for the visually
impaired persons. Available from www.apex-jesenice.cz

Wayfinder in the city centre - navigation for the blind and partially sighted
Available from www.birmingham.gov.uk

Wieser M., Hofmann-Wellenhof B., Mayerhofer B., Pressl B. A Navigation Concept
for Visually Impaired Pedestrians in an Urban Environment. 2007. Vermessung &
Geoinformation 2/2007, P. 159 – 165. Available from www.ovg.at/uploads

Lamy S. Dispositif d’Assistance à la Navigation pour personnes Aveugles dans les
couloirs du Métro. 2009. Predit seminar. Available from www.predit.prd.fr/predit3

EN 1332-4. Identification card systems - Man-machine interface - Part 4: Coding of
user requirements for people with special needs. 2007.

				
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