Mass Transit Is A Common Goal Social Policy

Essay add: 30-03-2017, 15:21   /   Views: 79

Achieving sustainable transport through the provision of mass transit is a common goal in all urban areas. Despite this notion, current transit infrastructure is designed in a way that users are assumed to be normal and able-bodied which often led to exclusion to those who face difficulties in using the transit (Audirac, 2008; Bromley, Matthews, & Thomas, 2007). In 2001, Canada has around 3.4 million people suffering from various types of disabilities. Statistics Canada (2002) further reported that Quebec ranks next to Ontario with a high disabled population (15 years old and above) at 568,800 persons. Based on the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) (Statistics Canada, 2002), around 135,000 adults with disabilities could not use public transportation services; while 59,000 adults could not travel locally by car and another 179,000 individuals who used public transportation have encountered difficulties. The Table de concertation des aînés de l'île de Montréal (2009) likewise reported more than 101,000 seniors experiencing multiple impairments and that mobility, agility, and pain problems increases in prevalence with age (Statistics Canada, 2004). These impairments often have serious implications in terms of access to opportunities in the city particularly in using public transportation such as the Metro.

The Metro has a long history of development which dated back in October 1966 when it was first inaugurated. The underground pedestrian network system started in 1962 at Place Ville Marie (Boisvert, 2002; Durmisevic, 1999) and its subsequent development was linked to the subway station (Maitland, 1992). In 2004, the downtown segments of the underground city were rebranded and given the nameRÉSO which is borrowed from the French wordréseau or network. Although the underground pedestrian network is considered private rather than public space (Boisvert, 2002), the network was built as a way to link users to the transit system, act as a refuge during harsh winter/summer season, connects to several areas such asshopping malls and a host of other facilities and separate pedestrians from car circulation (Barker, 1986; Boivin, 1991; Durmisevic, 1999; Maitland, 1992). The underground space allows Metro users to connect their trip to work, leisure or shopping activities within the RÉSO. Despite several benefits, these networks pose restrictions to users experiencing physical disabilities (Hagg & El-Geneidy, 2010) and could lead to exclusion from accessing such amenities.

The overall objective of this paper is to undertake a comparative analysis of physical barriers to accessibility of the Metro station connected to the RÉSO network. Failure to expand and sustain accessibility options for these individuals could lead to further negative social and economic consequences of their well-being. Overlooking their needs would also lead to discrimination and exclusion to opportunities in cities where they live. As such, society has a great role of ensuring that public transit is not only portrayed as part of the urban infrastructure but as a way to ensure inclusivity and accessibility to all users.

Accessibility as an Essential Component in Land Use and Transportation Planning

Accessibility is an important characteristic of the geography of space and is frequently included as a goal in transportation and land use planning, and building design. In transportation planning, accessibility is defined as the ease with which activities may be reached and conducted by means of a particular transportation system (El-Geneidy & Levinson, 2006; Iwarsson & Ståhl, 2003; Zhu, Liu, & Yeow, 2006). However from a social point of view, accessibility also entails a person-environment interaction. According to Iwarsson & Ståhl (2003), the concept denotes an encounter between a person or group's functional capacity and design and demands of the physical environment which is supported by norms and standards. In understanding constraints people encounter to the physical environment, Bromley, Matthews, & Thomas (2007) identified two perspectives of disability/impairments. The medical or individual model looks at a person's mental or physical tragedies that inhibit one's normal daily activities. On the other hand, the social model views disability as a result of society's failure to provide a more accessible and user-friendly facilities and structural design. This means that while an individual may have physical disabilities, such as being unable to walk; the same individual also faces disability in accessing a building or transportation facility without any provision of ramps, an elevator, among others. Ease of reaching potential opportunities could be hampered as a result of inaccessible facilities. Thus an inappropriate, even erroneous, conceptualization of disability leads to poor provision of transportation for the disabled (Barrett, Heycock, Hick, & Judge 2003).

Land use and transport planning influences accessibility through the design of the physical environment. In fact, incorporating universal accessibility (or universal design) has become an important consideration in building, landscape design, land use and transport planning (Audirac, 2008; Bromley, Matthews, & Thomas, 2007; Iwarsson & Ståhl, 2003; Project Universal Access, 2010; Societe Logique, 2003). Universal design aims to simplify life for every one of all ages, sizes, and abilities by making the existing and future built environment and products usable by more people. According to AlterGo (1992), having accessible facilities intends to meet the needs of parents with children in carriages or strollers, elderly people as well as individuals with reduced mobility. Incorporating principles of universal accessibility entails enabling all users to reach their destination from a certain pathway system by allowing a significant number of the population to travel independently (Project Universal Access, 2010; Audirac, 2008).

Underground space development is increasingly becoming important in many cities such as Montreal due to challenges in spatial planning of infrastructure and buildings. The International Tunneling and Underground Space Association Committee on Underground Space (ITACUS, 2009) noted that underground space provides new spaces for infrastructure, services and utilities without claiming valuable space on the surface. The result is that cities keep their valued public spaces. In countries where urban space on the ground level is limited for development; city authorities, property developers and private investors are taking advantage of developing underground spaces. Moreover, the research of Durmisevic & Sariyildiz (2001) showed that safety and comfort are among the most important aspects that should be considered in the design of the infrastructure of underground spaces. AlterGo (2003) further emphasized that incorporating universal accessibility in underground spaces allows for unfettered physical access to buildings or sites and ensures that services are accessible by all users at the same time. Thus, eliminating barriers and applying universal accessibility/design to the physical environment is an important move to improve accessibility of Metro stations.

Accessibility Policies in Montréaland Institutional Coordination

Montréal's Master Plan (2002) aims to enhance the perception and image of public transportation in order to encourage its use. Public spaces around metro, commuter train and intermodal stations, particularly the waiting areas, warrant special attention to facilitate access and create a safe and pleasant environment that meets the needs of every type of user. Action 14 of the Master Plan further emphasized design principles in the vicinity of public transportation access points particularly in terms of facilitating connections between buses and métro. A number of countries have already implemented universal accessibility policies which are anchored from disability rights as a cornerstone for promoting social inclusion in the use of public transportation and access to buildings such as the United States of America through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and United Kingdom through the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Montreal has yet to come up with a comprehensive universal accessibility/design policy similar to the ones implemented in Toronto and Winnipeg. The Montreal Transportation Plan, on the other hand, mentioned universal access as a system-wide concept which is evident through the deployment of low-floor buses and providing on-demand paratransit services for disabled users. However, the overall physical connection of the whole transportation system is not clearly articulated in the plan in terms of standards and/or design guidelines.

As a response to the Montréal Transportation Plan Despite, the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) has adopted acorporate policy regarding universal access in order to reduce the number of barriers preventing people with functional impairments from using its public transit network (Société de Transport de Montreal, 2009a). Aside from providing paratransit services, STM has recently retrofitted five Métro stations along the orange line that are now accessible for wheelchair users (Société de Transport de Montreal, 2009b). Bonaventure station on the green line, meanwhile, is partially accessible (i.e. from train platform to terminal). Providing accessible stations along this line connecting to the underground city is still under review and consideration. Despite these developments, much of the efforts are directed towards assisting those who lack personal mobility and are wheelchair-bound. Dealing with this most dire and visible group represents only one segment of the disabled population. Little attention has been paid to the needs of other mobility-impaired groups, including those who are blind or visually impaired as well as individuals with no medical/physical impairments yet still encounter constraints in using the public transit (Marston, Golledge, & Costanzo, 1997).

Institutional coordination also plays an important role in pushing for accessibility improvements. The City of Montréal (2007) has recognized several disability associations that cater the needs of people with functional impairments through removing barriers to accessibility. These groups also share their expertise with the boroughs and central departments of the government in the elaboration and completion of these initiatives. Currently, Montréal has six major partners composed of 130 organizations devoted to advancing the concerns of people with disabilities. These organizations lobby to the Ministry of Transport Quebec, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), Ville de Montréal, among others, so that the concept of universal accessibility is recognized and respected for persons with disabilities particularly with reference to the public transport.

Methodology

An accessibility audit of Montréal's Métro stations and the underground city was conducted on 21-28 February 2010. The purpose of the physical audit is to assess the functional accessibility of the train and the infrastructure for disabled users. The audits have been designed to take account of the user's journey from the ground level to using the Métro. In order to generate information in this study, the following processes were undertaken.

  1. Selection of 3 types of disabilities as sample units of analysis. This research selected those who experience physical disabilities such as wheelchair-bound users and people with visual impairments and the ones experiencing social/environmental disabilities such as women with child strollers as sample units for this study. Statistics Canada (2002) reported that 121,400 people experience visual disabilities, while 418,030 people experienced mobility problems in Quebec (including Montréal). These disabilities may have implications in accessing public transport. Although statistics for families with young children in Montréal are not readily available, it is assumed that a significant number of this population are using the Metro to access different destinations for various purposes.
  2. Development of an accessibility audit checklist. A simplified checklist was created based from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) universal accessibility/design standards (Access Board, 2002; Adaptive Environments Center & Barrier Free Environments, 1995). The modified checklist was used to audit several facilities of the stations connecting the RÉSO that would assist people with disabilities. 
  3. Selection of Metro stations. There are 25 main access points from the six Metro stations that are connected to the RÉSO. Figure 1 shows the connectivity of the whole station from the ground level up to the train platform. In this research, two main access (entry/exit) points from each station were purposively selected for audit which includes:
    • Metro Peel: 1011 Boul. de Maisonneuve west (Peel east exit - Access Point 1) and 1465 rue Stanley (Access Point 2),
    • Metro McGill: 2021 rue Union (Access Point 1) and Boul. de  Maisonneuve west beside Eaton Center (Access Point 2),
    • Metro Place-des-Arts: 155 rue du President Kennedy (Access Point 1) and 2020 rue de Bleury (Access Point 2),
    • Metro Place d'Armes: 960 rue Saint Urbain (Access Point 1) and rue Viger west access point (Access Point 2),
    • Metro Square Victoria: rue Saint Antoine (Access Point 1) and Cote du Beaver Hall (Access Point 2), and,
    • Metro Bonaventure: rue des Canadiens-de-Montreal (Access Point 1) and 955 rue de la Cathedrale (Access Point 2).

Moreover, Figure 2 shows the connectivity of the stations to the RÉSO and train platform. Based from this diagram, data collected and audited include the number and type of doors, number of stairs and escalators, curb pavements and presence of route maps.

Analysis and Discussion

Montreal's Metro is a swift, convenient, and inexpensive, and is one of the most architecturally distinctive subway systems in the world. The stations of the Metro are linked to the 32-kilometer underground pedestrian network (RÉSO) covering an estimated area of 12square kilometers (4.6sqmi) of residential and commercial complexes in downtown Montreal.

Ground LevelAccessibility

Curb pavements outside the stations provide accessibility to the three identified users in this research. While most of the stations are accessible at street level, Metro Square Victoria's Saint-Antoine and Metro Bonaventure's de la Cathédrale access points pose challenges for wheelchair users and women with strollers since one has to take stairs to reach the station. The European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT, 2006) noted that a presence of a single step at the entrance or a kerb without a ramp in the road outside a station can make the terminal inaccessible to people with certain disabilities. Although the stations are accessible on the ground, it was noted that kerb ramps were built far from the Metro stations. The door also serves as barrier for the three types of users. One has to exert considerable effort just to get inside, and would probably be more difficult for a disabled person and the elderly to use. This problem was even documented by CBC News (1989) noting that one has to exert 34 kilograms just to open the door. Sliding doors can be easier for women with child strollers and also require less wheelchair maneuvering space (Access Board, 2002). Route maps are ubiquitous within the stations although legibility and size of text used in the maps could pose a challenge for the visually impaired.

Table 1. Results of accessibility audit on ground level access of Metro stations


Station / Facilities

Peel

McGill

Place-des-Arts

Place d'Armes

Square Victoria

Bonaventure

AP 1

AP 2

AP 1

AP 2

AP 1

AP 2

AP 1

AP 2

AP 1

AP 2

AP 1

AP 2

Kerb Ramp

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Number of steps in stairs

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

22

0

0

4

Number of doors

2

2

2

3

4

1

4

3

3

5

2

2

Type of doors

S

S

S

P/S

P/R

S

S

P

P/S

P/R

S

S

Route Maps

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes