rs21 Manchester held a meeting in early December, ‘A Vision for Transport’, to which we invited Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts (MDPAC) to speak on accessible transport and why we are a long way from where we need to be. Here, Dennis Queen from MDPAC writes on the future of public transport.
MDPAC are pleased to be part of a conversation about what a better future for a truly public transport system could be like.
Our group includes all kinds of people who are disabled by barriers to using public transport. Access, for us, is not simply due to physical aspects, it includes information, signage, sensory considerations, provision of concessionary passes, provision of choice and control, and available support.
In Greater Manchester, we have roughly 90 rail stations. Only half of these are accessible. Network Rail’s schedule of works is to make them accessible by sometime in 2080. This needs to be accelerated.
Accessible taxis are an increasing problem – they are denying service to wheelchair users too often. We need a reliable service, and for those Hackney Carriages with ramps whose licence depends on using them to do so. If drivers were encouraged to buy the larger style vehicles it would help us a lot. It would also help if those could also be electric vehicles.
The Motability scheme – which lets people use an allowance to buy vehicles including cars and scooters – has a huge level of influence, but it does not use it. Motability could incentivise the move to electric vehicles and offer adapted bikes and e-bikes too, to get people into active travel spaces. We need spaces that welcome and make space for everyone including more spacious bike parking areas.
We think bikes and e-bikes should be classed as mobility aids for disabled people and they could be allowed on trams and trains more.
Design of buses is still poor, and it’s perhaps impossible to solve the clash between bus stops and lanes used by transport modes such as bikes. We need design to be innovative and include enough space for young children’s buggies and all kinds of disabled passengers. (We have children too.)
Overall, disabled people need much more reliable, regular and well communicated public transport. Our journeys shouldn’t end up taking longer than anyone else’s, and yet they do, due to access problems including things like the lifts regularly breaking in stations and being sent on routes that are not accessible.
There needs to be more commitment to improve final mile connectivity. There is a spectrum of mobility, it is not merely wheelchair users or on the other hand a person who can walk fine for miles. Access for All and Sustrans are currently exploring what are the many outstanding access problems for people getting to public transport in the first place: for example, having the right equipment to get to the bus, a safe stable route, problems with pavement parking and lack of crossings and so on.
For some of us, there will always be a need for an accessible taxi or private vehicle access. A ‘one size fits all’ provision will not be accessible to all so we have to also provide for tailored solutions.
Transport is an essential utility that needs coordination and mutual ownership of the whole community. Market capitalism wholly fails to provide that, hence the dreadful state we are in.
We need solutions that are accessible to all, cause the least damage to the environment possible, and that are inclusive and safe for all kinds of people to travel.