A Universal Design in Mass Transit

By: Kris LeSueur   |   02 Aug 2021

The automotive design is primarily a creative process that defines all vehicles' physical appearance, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. It encompasses the design - interior and exterior!


The automotive industry faces numerous challenges when it comes to the design of vehicles. It has to combine the aerodynamics, ergonomic principles while still maintaining the aesthetics and vehicles safety regulations. The interior also has to tackle challenges concerning the fittings, fabric, plastic, and trim package. Before manufacturing the vehicles, the proposed design is checked for its practicality via software like CAD and advanced 3D software, which kick starts the creative process!


Transportation Systems and Special Transport

Transportation systems use many kinds of vehicles. These include smaller vehicles for use in on-demand services, such as special transport vans and taxis to carry individuals with severe disabilities who cannot use fixed route transportation. It also serves destinations fixed route transit does not transport people from their home to a fixed route system. However, it is essential to note that special transport serves people with cognitive impairments and mental health conditions who often do not need wheelchair-accessible vehicles. To reduce the cost of special transportation and to supplement transit service, some localities require a taxi fleet to have some accessible cars. Others are requiring greater accessibility in each fleet. For instance, in Sweden, taxis are used for para transit as well as regular on-demand service. Cabs can be made accessible with such features as wider and higher doors, hand grips to aid transfer in and out, increased legroom, telescoping ramps, and swivel seats.

Access to public transportation varies significantly around the world. Western Europe has some of the best examples of accessible public transit, but serious problems remain in the region, especially in Eastern Europe.


What is Universal Design? 

Universal design in transportation systems is an essential means to increase convenience and safety, attributes that improve utilization of public transportation. Universal design strategies are being adopted in bus and rail transit operations worldwide because they enhance the quality of transit for all riders and help encourage mode shifts from automobiles to public transit. Design practitioners, operating agencies, and researchers must communicate more effectively to identify priorities for research and engage diverse user groups in the identification of barriers and solutions. In particular, since most research has focused on the needs of wheeled mobility users and people with visual impairments, it is essential to discover other groups' priorities. It is also important to identify best practices and to document the benefits of universal design. The value of including versatile design features in transportation systems will be increased if research can demonstrate their overall value to all travelers. 


Local Transport and Mass Transit

Many systems, especially local transit and shuttle buses and streetcars and many light rail cars, usually unload on streets. Several technologies are available to reduce or compensate for the level change between vehicle and street/walkway surface:

  • A "kneeling suspension."
  • A "low floor" vehicle
  • The folding or telescoping ramp
  • The platform lift

The "kneeling suspension" is essentially a hydraulic feature built into the suspension system that brings the floor level closer to the ground when activated. A "low-floor" vehicle has a lower floor level than conventional vehicles and often is equipped with a kneeling suspension as well. Together, these two features eliminate all but one step up. Such vehicles reduce the difficulty of entering and exiting significantly for everyone. A folding or telescoping ramp added to a low-floor vehicle eliminates all steps. These three features together help children, parents with children, older people, and people with limitations in mobility.

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