12 February 2006

Singapore to shift to fully accessible buses

Today the Straits Times (subscribers only, sorry) reports that Singapore’s buses will progressively be made fully accessible to all, including wheelchair users.

Congratulations to all of you who have been pushing for this over the years
(some quietly, some noisily)!

They seem to be adopting a universal design approach.
The announcement by the Prime Minister involved accepting the recommendations of the Committee on Ageing Issues that were released last week.

"This process is already well under way in the stations, where new MRT and LRT systems come barrier-free and wheelchair-friendly. Older stations have been upgraded with lifts and ramps, with the last few to be completed soon.

Where the change is most dramatic is in the bus system. Despite repeated calls to make buses wheelchair-accessible, the Government had hesitated in the past because of the cost involved.

'It is expensive and it slows down the buses to have the wheelchairs go on, go down,' said Mr Lee.

But the environment has now changed, with the population ageing and more people needing such access. 'So, after reconsidering the matter, we have decided to go ahead,' he said.

Old buses will be replaced progressively with new low-floor and step-free buses that can take wheelchairs.

It will take 15 to 20 years to change the entire bus fleet, but significant numbers will be wheelchair-accessible 'within a few years'."

(from the Straits Times article,‘Every HDB estate to be elder-friendly’ by Laurel Teo, 12 Feb. 2006)

I wonder if it is really true that this will slow down the buses? Average boarding and alighting time should improve with wider doors and low floors making it easier for everyone. This time saving might outweigh infrequent delays for wheelchair users? I would be very happy to see any data on this.

By the way, an excellent starting point for anyone hoping to achieve the same result in your own country would be the Access Exchange International organisation, which promotes accessible transportation worldwide, especially in developing nations.

You might also like to refer to these UK guidelines on accessibility and buses.

In addition to making the public transport system accessible, Singapore also plans to progressively make every Housing Development Board (HDB) housing area barrier free. The HDB is Singapore's public housing agency that develops housing for the vast majority of the population here.

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