Assessing the Gap Between Public Transport Vehicles and Platforms as a Barrier for the Disabled: Use of Laboratory Experiments

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, policy - disability, mode - bus, mode - mass transit


Transit buses, Transit, Ramps, Public transit, Physically handicapped persons, People with disabilities, Mass transit, Local transit, Intracity bus transportation, Handicapped persons, Gaps (Vehicle/platform), Experiments, Experimentation, Dutch National Office for Accessibility, Disabled persons, Design of experiments, Bus transit, Barrier-free design, Barrier free design, Architecture and the physically handicapped, Accessibility, Access for the physically handicapped


The gap between public transport vehicles and platforms is an important factor in the accessibility of public transport. Many of the efforts to increase accessibility are directed at minimizing this gap, both horizontally and vertically. There is a general idea of the widths and heights that are completely unacceptable (15 cm × 15 cm being too much, for example), but there is much less of an idea of what type of gap is acceptable without aids such as lifts and ramps. It is essential to know how much can be achieved by narrowing the gap; that is, which types of disability and mobility aids will be accommodated, and how many disabled will benefit from a specific reduction of the gap. At the request of the Dutch National Office for Accessibility, the Delft University of Technology performed laboratory experiments to gain quantitative insights into this topic. For these experiments, a standard platform was built in a laboratory hall. A number of platforms representing public transport vehicles were placed along this pier. These were positioned at different combinations of horizontal and vertical distances. Persons with physical disabilities were invited to test the different gaps. In the analysis of the testing results, the relation between disability, mobility aid, and gap size was investigated. The results of the study revealed that the 2-cm × 2-cm gap was hardly a problem, whereas the 10 cm × 10 cm gap constituted a serious problem for more than half of the participants. Access for nearly all requires a gap size no larger than 5 cm × 2 cm. Especially in bus transport, this is hardly feasible. Therefore, vehicles will need ramps as a standard provision.