Universal Access to Bus Rapid Transit Design, Operation, And Working With The Community


Tom Rickert

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, policy - disability


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), mobility constraints, accessibility


At first glance, Bus Rapid Transit systems’ ability to serve persons with disabilities seemed obvious. The earliest graphics of BRT lines in Curitiba, Brazil, depicted wheelchair users crossing boarding bridges into articulated buses. Problem solved! Thus, years later, many people may be surprised to learn that wheelchair users and other people with mobility constraints – including older persons, women, children, and those with hearing or sight impairments – often encounter difficulties when trying to use BRT systems, and are excluded from the planning process. Many just quietly accept the system’s failure to meet their needs. What happened? Why have the apparent advantages of BRT systems become problematic in many cases? It turns out the devil is in the details. But first, the positive news. Bus Rapid Transit trunk lines are indeed a historic step forward, especially in cities in developing countries where they may represent the first large-scale application of inclusive design to any public transit system. Accessible sidewalks, curb ramps, grade-level crossings, tactile guideways and tactile warning strips all make their appearance, along with visual and audio signage and, above all, floor-level boarding – features which are there to be witnessed and copied elsewhere for decades to come. Along with these advancements come safer and better lit stations, easier fare payment, and other features that meet the needs of seniors, women, children, tourists, blind persons, those with low vision, and people who are deaf, deafened, or hard-of-hearing. From this perspective, a well designed BRT system can appear to be an island of accessibility in the midst of a sea of inaccessibility. And therein lies part of the problem: the different elements of universal access are often considered in isolation from each other when, in fact, they all form the social, operational, and built environment required for an accessible trip chain from trip origin to the BRT trunk line, into the bus, and on to the trip destination. To illustrate how the details of design, operation, and outreach interact, we present three composite case studies of the experience of typical passengers in Latin American, Asian, and African cities.


Permission to link to this report has been given by Tom Rickert of Access Exchange International, copyright remains with them.