Bus changes could be problem for disabled

Canterbury's public transport revamp, which increases the need for multiple bus changes, has alarmed advocates for the blind, elderly and disabled.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) this week unveiled a series of changes to bus services, including altering 19 routes and adding a new "trunk line" linking the north and south corridor.

However, the need for up to three bus changes for a single trip on some routes has raised concerns about accessibility for more vulnerable passengers.

Age Concern chief executive Stephen Phillips yesterday welcomed the increased frequency and the new north to south route, but said some changes disadvantaged older passengers.

"If you're at the Barrington St shops, where our offices are, currently you can get on a bus 50 yards down the road and go into the central city. Now, my understanding is, that's it's likely you're going to have to change buses to do that," he said.

Changing buses would be frustrating for the able-bodied, but an "added difficulty" for those with walking aids, Phillips said.

Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) practice adviser Carina Duke said the routes that required one or more interchanges would present challenges for blind, deaf/blind and low-vision passengers.

"The main issues will be travelling safely and independently between buses and identifying the correct bus at the interchange or transport hub. This will be more difficult with interchange infrastructure not being developed prior to route changes," she said.

It was important bus information was accessible, including audio announcements and online journey planners, and included tactile and auditory options, and that drivers had a comprehensive knowledge of the needs of those who were vision-impaired, Duke said.

Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Rachel Noble said lack of accessible public transport had a "major impact" on people with disabilities.

"From our perspective, good, accessible services are essential for us to live the life that all other New Zealanders enjoy," she said.

ECan transport programme manager Robert Woods said the RNZFB had been consulted to help minimise inconvenience and ensure transfers were as simple as possible.

Timetables at bus stops would be clearer with large font sizes to assist the visually impaired.

The Press