I recently had some surgery, and as a result I’ve temporarily had mobility issues. From a transport perspective it has been an illuminating experience. I’ve discovered some great, as well as some not so great, things on the network from an mobility point of view. I thought I’d share them as making public transport more accessible will help to make it more useful to more people.
- The accessibility markings at some stations are a lifesaver: it means that I know where to wait, instead of having to slowly move towards the middle carriage which has a low floor and a ramp. It’s also great for other users as it helps lower dwell times. However, it would be nice if there was a system that showed if the next train was going to be 3 or 6 cars long, so you know you’re in the right place for the train that’s coming. Some overseas networks have systems like this.
- People are mostly friendly and are understanding about seats. When they’re not, though, it’s usually it’s more self-absorption rather than malice.
- People don’t always pick up that you have mobility issues. Not everyone with mobility issues has a cane/walker/wheelchair, but any prolonged standing can be painful. Many people have chronic issues that may not be visible. I had this issue with drivers looking at me for a while when I needed the bus to kneel, or a driver holding me up because my card double-read so she thought I was fare evading when all I wanted to do is really sit down. There was a great article about this recently in Citylab called “What it is Like to Commute with an Invisible Illness”. I highly recommend it.
- The lack of communication that exists within the system can make multiple trips hard. For example, a train manager can’t communicate that a passenger might be wanting to transfer to a bus. This often results in rushed transfers or requiring a large time contingency for trips. This is an issue that can be improved with more frequent services.
- The City Rail Link and the New Network for buses will make accessing the central city much easier. Currently it is hard for me to get to Uptown or Midtown due to being unable to walk any distances. This means I either have to find a service to transfer to, or not take the trip. Having Aotea Station & K’ Road Station will massively increase the accessibility of the city centre. With the New Network, greater frequency routes (especially crosstown) will also improve mobility.
- Some of the older buses are tough to use, and even when I’m in good health they almost require me to jump to get on board. This is accentuated when you have mobility issues so I can’t wait till all buses have better accessibility built in.
I am lucky enough that I will be well soon. However, for people with strollers, permanent mobility issues, or other people like me going through a recovery period, getting this right is imperative. Because building an accessible city benefits you as well. If our public transport is easy for people with mobility issues, it’s easy for those without them too.
Have you experienced our transport system with a mobility issue? What were your experiences? Perhaps you’d even like to share them in a guest post!