Local Government Magazine

Understanding barriers to access

A new project is building up data to help transport planners create better options for people of all abilities.

New Zealand councils can already tap into information showing how people use vehicles to access facilities and services, and how this benefits the economy. However, Gerri Pomeroy, access coordinator at CCS Disability Action, says there is less understanding about how people use other modes of transport to access facilities and services, the economic benefits of these journeys and the economic impact of journeys not made due to access barriers.

CCS Disability Action Waikato is working with transport professionals, councils and central government to develop a better understanding of 
the transport issues that disabled 
people face.

Gerri says the aim is to gain a better understanding of the economic benefits of universal access and quantify the economic cost of journeys that can’t be made because of poor design and service. “This information can 
then be used to inform economic benefit models.”

The project will include street accessibility audits to identify access barriers, including pedestrian data collection, taking into account those who use mobility aids.

It will build vital information on what measures could make transport system infrastructure and services easy for everyone to use.

CCS Disability Action has partnered with Bridget Burdett, a Hamilton-based senior transportation researcher with traffic engineering specialist TDG, 
and Steve Taylor of Hamilton accessibility specialist Tailored Accessibility Solutions.

Together, they are working to identify ways of collecting information about disabled people’s infrastructure 
access requirements while using the transport system.

CCS Disability Action had already developed its street accessibility audit process to target infrastructure access barriers and completed audits of 16 rural Waikato townships, providing councils with accessible data to inform and prioritise maintenance programmes.

“While developing this process, we realised there was no substantial data linked to economic benefit, for disabled people using the transport system, particularly those who rely on pedestrian networks and public transport,” says Gerri.

“We have been working to understand this better, with support from the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Think Differently’ social change campaign.

“We have developed a methodology to count people using mobility aids, as a subset of all people, arriving at destinations, and along their journey. This indicator set was chosen as these people are easily identifiable and are present in reduced numbers if there are access barriers to their journey.”

Counts have been carried out at a variety of destinations in Hamilton – before and then one-year after installation of accessible pedestrian infrastructure at a busy five-arm roundabout at Five Cross Roads, a medium-density housing area.

This found that more people used the formal crossings after they were made more accessible – with 41 percent before and 51 percent after the upgrade.

Forty-six percent of people without a mobility aid used the formal crossings while 68 percent of people with a mobility aid used them.

Significantly, 88 percent more 
people using mobility aids used the universally accessible infrastructure after the upgrade.

In October 2015, CCS Disability Action and TDG undertook The Kiwi Transport Survey, a national web-based survey which aimed to provide information about the way disabled and non-disabled people viewed transport, how easy they found it and how often they used it. Transport included vehicles, public transport 
and footpaths.

Nearly 3000 people responded. Of these, 350 were unimpaired people, more than 2500 had a disability and 750 respondents were aged over 74.

“The contrast between unimpaired and disabled people’s experience of transport infrastructure and services is stark,” says Gerri.

“People with disability do not find buses, trains or footpaths as easy to use as people without impairment. 
The Kiwi Transport survey and other data is currently being used to develop a model that will inform better understanding of the economic benefit to society when investment is made in universally accessible transport infrastructure and services.

“Well-informed business cases, that include the information described, are essential for a universally-accessible transport system that is easy for everyone to use.”

Well-trodden paths?

A 2015 CCS Disability survey of nearly 3000 people in Waikato found that:

  • More than 65 percent of disabled respondents thought footpaths were difficult or not easy to use.
  • 80 percent of transport professionals who responded to the survey thought New Zealand standards for vehicles were adequate.
  • Only 40 percent of transport professionals thought we had an adequate standard for all users of footpaths.
  • Fewer than 10 percent of transport professionals thought New Zealand had good data about footpaths.

This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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