The impact of Universally accessible public transport–a before and after study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - bus, planning - surveys, ridership - perceptions, ridership - disadvantage, ridership - growth, planning - standards


Universal design, Universal access, Public transport, Disability


The article studies the effects of universal design measures in public transport. It is based on an evaluation conducted by the authors in 2010-2012 - a before and after study of measures partfunded by a Norwegian government funding program for improved accessibility in six different cities. The article employs a two-pronged empirical approach; quantitative surveys of all passengers on the affected routes (supplemented by interviews with drivers and personnel), and qualitative case studies with individual public transport users with disabilities. The first part of the article describes how universal design measures are perceived by and affect passengers in general, and discuss whether such measures may lead to an increase in the number of passengers. The second part considers how such measures influence the experience of travelling for passengers with disabilities, and what it takes for disabled passengers to be able to use public transport on par with other citizens. We conclude that previous surveys, which have not included control cases and questions, have probably overestimated passenger effects of universal design measures, as the results are affected by demographic factors. We still find that the measures have a positive impact on patronage. Like earlier studies, we find that the majority of respondents having trouble using public transport, report that this is due to bringing a pram or heavy luggage. We hypothesize that positive effects on passenger numbers due to reduced expulsion, (i.e. that certain groups are able to continue using public transport for a longer period when it is universally designed) may mean that effects on passenger numbers can increase over time. We find that in terms of social economics, universal design is profitable even with fairly low passenger numbers. The case studies demonstrate that although universal design measures contribute to enabling persons with disabilities to use public transport, such measures should be analyzed as parts of a transport system, not separately . The various elements of the system, including the people employed in it, must continuously work together to maintain universality. This goes for maintenance as well as for services provided by drivers. To secure mobility for people with disabilities, it is also essential that the systemis predictable and that accessibility is from door-to-door, not only from bus-stop to bus-stop.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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