Cape Town Aims for Universal Access on its New Bus Rapid Transit System


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By Rouen Smit at Future Cape Town

Planners behind Cape Town’s new MyCiTi bus system are confident they will offer a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will revolutionise public transport in the city and become a model for other systems around the world.

The MyCiTi bus system currently being rolled out in phases across Cape Town is largely based on BRT systems in South America, and MyCiTi’s planners are trying to adopt and adapt some of the world’s best practices. The combination of boarding ramps, low-floor feeder buses, optimally designed bus stops and special kerbs that allow close parking make the MyCiTi system a world leader in universal access.

The combination of these design features allows better and safer access for disabled and elderly individuals, young children, and passengers with large baggage, whether that’s surfboards, prams, or bicycles. Here’s how the different design features work together:

  • The boarding bridge is deployed at each bus stop to facilitate boarding and alighting. Boarding bridges will never exceed a maximum incline grade of 12%, allowing for unassisted wheelchair access and easy access for those with special mobility needs. The bridge is synchronised with door opening and closing sequences.
  • Safety mechanisms include sensors that will detect if an obstruction is in the way of the bridge’s path. The bridge will automatically pull back if it senses an obstruction.
  • Feeder doors will have sensors that automatically stop and open the doors if an obstruction gets in the way – similar to elevator doors.
  • There are also various mechanisms on the bus that will prevent the bus from driving off when ramps are deployed.
  • ‘Kassel’ kerbs allow buses to dock as close as possible against the kerb without damaging the tyres.

Other important features include tactile paving, signage, and maps that will help those who are partially sighted locate stations, platforms, and use the system. CCTV cameras on buses and at stations will provide further security.

A dedicated control centre will monitor CCTV along the BRT route and at MyCiTi stations. CCTV cameras are also installed on the buses and bus drivers have full communication capabilities with the Control Centre.

The wheelchair stop button will signal a different tune to alert the driver that a wheelchair passenger will alight from the bus at the next stop.

I spoke with John Martheze, one of the engineers behind the MyCiTi bus system, to understand the motivations behind its features. Martheze shared that MyCiTi have learned a lot since launching the large trunk buses – which serve the main routes –  and have made simple design improvements to the newer feeder buses which channel traffic towards main routes.

One example is the improvement of priority seats for elderly, pregnant and disabled passengers on feeder buses. On trunk buses, these seats are only indicated as priority seating by red-coloured cushioning, meaning that if someone is sitting on a seat, the red is not visible. On the feeder buses, priority seats have red-coloured support structures. This small change is now being introduced on the trunk buses.

Martheze also emphasized that the feeder system, once fully operational, should alleviate some demand from the City’s existing Dial-a-Ride (DAR) service, which is heavily over subscribed. This over-subscription highlights the need for a public transport system in Cape Town that is universally accessible.

MyCiTi’s aim to lead the way in universal access on Bus Rapid Transit systems appears to be going well. Guy Davies – universal access consultant for the MyCiTi team – has already been approached by organisations including Dublin Area Rapid Transit, the World Bank, and Bus Rapid Transit System planners across South Africa.

This Big City will be discussing accessible cities during the next #citytalk tweetchat on August 29th at 7PM BST/2PM EDT. More info here