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Evaluation of accessible public transportation: bus rapid

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Salazar, Lilian,

Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey,

Campus Ciudad de Mexico,

Mexico City – Mexico.

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA), constituted by the Federal District Mexico City - Capital of Mexicoand 41 adjacent municipalities of the states of Mexico and Hidalgo, is the third largest metropolitan area in the world. With such concentration of political power, services and most of the country’s activities set in one region, there is an enormous count of floating population coming from other municipalities that demands more services public transportation included.

Accessibility for persons with disabilities in public transport was not considered before, not in an accurate manner in each of the transport modes, and even less in a general way such as the inter-modal transfer points between one transport mode and another. Accessibility has only been incorporated as an isolated set of standards, without a comprehensive vision that not only considers public transport but cares for the city and its accessibility; pursuing an inclusive city with an improved mobility and connectivity presence.

Since 2005, the public transport mode Metrobus was inaugurated as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Nowadays it counts with 3 Routes soon to be inaugurated Route-4. Metrobus is an example where accessibility was considered from the beginning of its conception and even when it holds design and implementation problems in Route-1 (R-1), it has been improved in each new route in the stations, vehicles and services— to be made accessible. Accessibility in the BRT system has reached such a relevance that it has managed, partially, to involve the Public Space Authority (PSA) that has intervened the city’s immediate sidewalks, roadways, pedestrian crossings and infrastructure surrounding the Metrobus stations, in the pursuit for a comprehensive connectivity.

Following a detailed evaluation on the accessibility conditions of Route-2 (R-2), substantial improvements have been implemented for Route-3 (R-3) and Route-4 (R-4) that allow Metrobus to be the most accessible public transport mode in the city.

Key Words: BRT; Metrobus; accessibility; BRT stations.

To expose the accessibility status for persons with disabilities in the BRT Metrobus system through its 3 operative Routes in the MCMA, as well as in the soon-to-be-inaugurated R-4. To demonstrate how accessibility has increased in each Route and how various organizations, institutions and authorities have party to participate and contribute to its accessibility.

Accessibility evaluations performed to the Metrobus infrastructure have been conducted through field trips and sightseeing walks carried on by persons with disabilities from Non-Governmental Organizations. However, only in R-2 a detailed Architectonic Accessibility Evaluation was done on each of its 36 stations. This Evaluation was handle by Arqui-TEC an alliance between Libre Acceso A.C. and the university Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey from Mexico City (Tecnologico de Monterrey). Arqui-TEC, as an Evaluation, Assessment and Certifying Center for Accessible Infrastructure, follows a specific methodology to formulate proposals and recommendations. It consists in visiting all the route stations and its surroundings registering its accessible infrastructure on a photographic record and taking measures of all of its accessible features— followed by an assessment and set of proposals on the specific solutions to each identified problem. The results of such report were presented to the corresponding authorities and to the Construction Company in charge of the Metrobus construction development. Since this evaluation, the accessibility standards in R-3 and R-4 have been more rigorous.


Results demonstrate how each Metrobus Route increases its level of accessibility for persons with disabilities in a considerable way; nevertheless they also reveal the economic resources have been mostly destined to the construction of new routes rather than being invested in improving the actual deficiencies in the operative Routes.


1. Accessible Public Transportation in Mexico City

Mexico’s Federal District has a population of 8.85 million inhabitants; the whole Metropolitan Area, reaches a population of 20.1 million inhabitants, making it the third biggest urban concentration in the world right after Tokyo and New Delhi. The high population density and the land area of the MCMA make the public transportation a great challenge for the city, due to the necessity of moving large numbers of people between locations and link them through a secure, comfortable and accessible network. [INEGI, 2010] [Migueles, 2010].

Accessibility for persons with disabilities and elderly is a subject that has been put aside in Mexico for public transport, causing a mobility limitation and lessening their quality of life. It is of significance to remark the importance that public transport service acquires in the MCMA, due to its service, political and financial centralization. This particular attribute attracts many national and international tourist and investors.

Figure 1. Metrobus Route Network in the Federal District and its Metropolitan Area.

Figure 2. Metrobus features. Elevated stations; low-floor bus in R-4; articulated bus in R-1, R-2 and R-3; bi-articulated bus in R-1 and R-2.
Disability is defined as a “long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” [CONADIS, 2001].

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI, Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia) 2010 report, 5.13% of the country population suffers some kind of disability caused by a disease, an accident, of birth or for advanced age this data contrasts with the results given by the World Health Organization in 2011, where it was estimated that 15% of the world population had some kind of disability—. Therefore, the government started a plan of action to design transport modes that cover every mobility, comfort and security necessity such as Metrobus system. However despite the efforts of Transportation Authorities to provide accessible urban infrastructure for the citizens, infrastructure surrounding the stations is under the responsibility of the PSA, and for being in many occasions inaccessible, it hinders the comprehensive evaluation of the public transport network. [INEGI, 2010], [WHO, 2011].

2. Metrobus

Metrobus is a BRT transport system composed by different elements: a dedicated bus lane, enclosed stations with high-level platforms for high-floor buses (all Routes except R-4), articulated buses (160 passengers capacity), bi-articulated buses (240 capacity) and low-floor buses (85 capacity). These buses allow a greater number of people to be transported at the same time, operating separately, without interference from other modes of transport; therefore avoiding traffic jams. Buses, count with Euro III and IV technology from Volvo which allows lower emissions and an 8 year life (Metrobus system won the Roy Family award from Harvard in 2011 for its environmental positive impact for reducing 200,000 carbon dioxide tons per year). [Metrobus, 2011].

Metrobus initiate operations on March 9th, 2005. It was integrated by a public and private initiative association in which transport enterprises were involved. These transport enterprises were in charge of buying, operating and maintaining the buses; private trusts that manage the fee income; and fare collection companies in charge of the installation, operation and maintenance of the off-bus fare collection system. The Federal District Government (GDF) acts as guide, but Metrobus is a public decentralized body.

2.1 Infrastructure and Mobility

Metrobus network is composed by 3 Routes (out of 10 proposed in the original project, being R-4 soon to be inaugurated) that pierce the MCMA with a total length of 67km. It holds 138 stations and 13 terminals, 286 buses (13 bi-articulated and 273 articulated), and has a 512,839 passengers per day demand. [Metrobus, 2011] [Grajeda, 2007].

Figure 3. Metrobus area chart. Metrobus passengers by Route per year.

Figure 4. Metrobus pie chart. Metrobus passenger percentage by Route in 2011.
2.2 Operation

In order to fully operate the Metrobus system, Driving Technique Courses from the GDF were given for operators, such as Training, Security Driving and Defensive Driving Courses; for the concessionaires, trained for its inclusion as entrepreneurs. Thus, the new transport mode (Metrobus) was well accepted between the parties involved and an agreement was achieved. 93 out of 188 concessionaires operating in the routes 27, and 38 belonging to the public transport system Microbus, were involved. [Diaz, 2008].

Since its beginning in 2005, Metrobus transport network has grown, acquiring more acceptance among people. The number of passengers has increased considerably, which reflects the system’s efficiency, security and comfort. Metrobus has lived an evolution process, in which design fails and functionality problems have been detected in each Route, looking for the next one to improve and avoid those issues. Therefore, it has made a better system with each new Route, with better efficiency, security and accessibility standards.

2.2.1 Route 1 (R-1)
Avenues: Av. Insurgentes (North, Center and South).

Total length: 30km.

High-level platforms: 43 stations and 3 terminals.

Demand: 390,000 passengers per day.

R-1 initiates operations in 2005. It is from this Route that the detection, assessment and evaluation of those positive and negative aspects started, and the results and recommendations to those features which had to remain and those which had to be improved for further Routes began. Detected areas of success
Level boarding 1m high-level platforms with high-floor buses to speed up passenger boarding and enhance accessibility.

Fare gratuity free entrance for elderly people over 70 years old, persons with disabilities and children under 5 years old (being 6% of total users); and preferential entrance and access to the stations.

Enclosed stations higher level of security in the stations and onboard the bus (stations are smaller than other transport modes and there is a security officer in each one of them, as well as in the interior of the bus where the driver has control and visibility over the whole vehicle).

Banned hawkers —forbid hawkers in the interior and surroundings of the stations, and at the interior of the vehicle. In order to achieve it, the GDF has created training and employment programs for vendors in the zone.

Bus accessibility audible alarm when the doors open, room for one wheelchair user; and priority seating area inside near the front door.

Platform accessibility —braille sign plates, double handrail at 0.75m and 0.90m height on ramps and aware button, which consist of red light that indicates the driver when a person with disability will enter the bus, so he must get closer to the platform and linger with the doors opened. The aware system consists of two buttons, one inside the station (light on) and another for the driver (light off).

Figure 5. Level boarding. 1m high-level platforms with high-floor buses

Figure 6. Fare gratuity. Percentage of passengers with fare gratuity on R-1 and R-3. Detected problems

Construction process slow and messy construction process of the stations, causing several traffic jams.

Station design —use of perforated metal wall panels limiting the user’s eyesight when the bus approaches; 5 out of 43 stations are difficult to access because of the elevated footbridges and +8% slope ramps with no intermediate landings; preferential entrance and access to the stations is not automatic, so the user must call the guard in turn to open the door; and even when there is an aware button, sometimes it is obstructed by the station doors when opened.

Bus accessibility lack of an audible and visual alarm that indicates the name of the next bus stop, so users know where they are, and when to get off the bus.

Platform accessibility —not all stations have Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI) and sometimes some objects obstruct them.

Urban infrastructure there is no comprehensive accessibility in the surrounding of the stations, sidewalks are in a bad condition and hinder the use of the transport.

Image 1-Detected areas of success: braille sign plates; 2-Detected problems: confusing directional TGSI inside stations, 3-access ramps with +8% slope.
2.2.2 Route 2 (R-2)

Avenues: Eje 4 Sur and Av. Plutarco Elias Calles.

Total lenght: 20km.

High-level platforms: 34 stations and 2 terminals.

Demand: 146,000 passengers per day.

R-2 initiates its construction in 2008 with a new design that seek to improve those errors detected in R-1, by using: prefabricated materials for a faster and cleaner construction (the construction only lasted 4 months) and crystal walls that allow exterior visibility and provide security. Accessibility Evaluation

In 2009, Metrobus asked Arqui-TEC, Entorno Accessible, to make an Architectonic Accessibility Evaluation in R-2. A group of 12 architecture students from the Tecnologico de Monterrey University performed an analysis on the 36 stations of R-2 following the previously mentioned methodology. Not every reported problem was changed, so it still presents some accessibility lacks.

After making the most important changes indicated in the diagnosis, R-2 was evaluated by Grupo de Accesibilidad y Transporte del Consejo Promotor para la Integracion y Desarrollo de las Personas con Discapacidad, specialized on transport accessibility. Through several inspections to the stations and the supervision on the execution of the changes based on the previously made recommendations, it gave R-2 the certification as an accessible transport mode. Based on this experience, R-3 and R-4 improved even more their level of accessibility.

This project had a great social relevance, since it involved a NGO, the city government and students from the University that during the whole process understood the shared responsibility towards a more comprehensive society.

Despite the modifications of some of the reported problems, and regardless of the accessibility reached by R-2, it is much more accessible than R-1. Detected areas of success
Same as mentioned in R-1, adding:

Station design —use of -8% slope access ramps with intermediate landings.

Platform accessibility —use of TGSI in every platform; braille sign plates with rounded corners or with rubber to avoid accidents; one accessible public toilet per station; and the aware button is incorporated to the station structure, making it more comfortable and efficient.

Urban infrastructure pedestrian crossing signals with audible alarm and timer; and adequate signaling on pedestrian crossings, indicating the safer route through it. Detected problems

Platform accessibility —even when the station has an accessible public toilet with the correct dimensions, the furniture does not allow its efficient and correct use; the signaling is incomplete or confusing; the gap in between the bus and the platform is higher than 0.15m.

Bus accessibility lack of an audible and visual alarm.

Urban infrastructure —some stations lack of ramps in sidewalks and zebra crossing on the roadways; and presents obstacles through the pedestrian crossing.

Image 4-Detected problems: ramp obstruction, 5-non accessible urban context; 6-Detected areas of success: concentrated signaling.
2.2.3 Route 3 (R-3)

Avenues: Eje 1 Poniente, Puente de Alvarado, Balderas, Av. Chapultepec.

Total length: 17km.

High-level platforms: 31 stations and 4 terminals.

Demand: 104,000 passengers per day. Detected areas of success

Same as mentioned in R-1 and R-2, adding:

Platform accessibility —two public toilet separated by gender into male and female facilities and one accessible family room; and bathroom furniture made of stainless steel to avoid damage and vandalism.

Urban infrastructure red stripe in the bus lane which indicates the driver the adequate approach to the station (from 0.05 to 0.15m). Detected problems
Platform accessibility stations incorporate information booths which were located after the construction, thus in some stations they interrupt the main footpath and cover the TGSIs; some public toilets don’t have the required height on sinks and toilets; and the signaling is incomplete or confusing.

Bus accessibility lack of an audible and visual alarm.

Image 7-Detected problems: out of range off-bus fare collection system for persons with disabilities, 8-pedestrian crossing signals with audible alarm; 9-Detected areas of success: concentrated signaling.

2.2.4 Route 4 (R-4)

Route: Buena Vista – San Lazaro - Aeropuerto

Total length: 28km.

Low-level platforms: 30 stations and 4 terminals.

Status: Under construction (03/2012)

This Route is under construction and goes through the Mexico City Historic Centre and all the way to the Mexico City’s International Airport. It is the only public transport mode that goes directly from the airport to the downtown. The R-4 Route also connects many museums and important historical sites; this is also a strategy to promote domestic and international travel tourism, thereby expanding job creation. R-4 has obtained the UNESCO validation. [Metrobus, 2011]. Detected areas of success

Level boarding —0.34m low-level platforms to enhance accessibility.

Open-sided stations transparency, and less visual pollution in the Historic Centre; in stations, all the signaling and related information is located in a single signpost to avoid confusion.

Station design —use of -8% slope access ramps.

Platform accessibility —use of directional TGSI in every platform and ramp, and warning TGSI at its borders.

Bus accessibility audible alarm when the doors open; room for one wheelchair; priority seating area inside, near the front door; low-floor buses that improve the user’s displacement through the Historic Centre; aware button for persons with disabilities onboard; hydraulic or pneumatic 'kneeling device', that lowers the bus at the front axle to almost join with the kerb; ramp equipped with manual deployment; and audible alarm that indicates the name of the next bus stop, so users know where they are, and when to get off the bus.

Urban infrastructure intervention in the urban context to notably improve connectivity to the station and terminal. Detected problems

Platform accessibility —aware buttons are only located at terminals; stations have up to 5 different TGSIs, warning TGSI at the beginning of the ramp are confined by the kerbs, and the platform floor finishes remain with borders and reliefs that interfere its lecture which causes wrong lectures and confusion for visually impaired.

Bus accessibility lack of a visual alarm; the driver can’t deploy the ramp, thus a user must be willing to do so.

Image 10-Detected areas of success: 0.34m low-level platforms, 11-aware buttons inside stations; 12--Detected problems: manual deployment ramp.
3. Present day Public Transportation: Facing Challenges

Despite the efforts made by Metrobus to achieve an accessible transport, a comprehensive public transport mode is needed, for it is not enough to have a single network for persons with disabilities and elderly that cannot shift through systems or get out to an urban context that is not accessible. To procure it, the coordination between Public Transport Authorities, the different Transport Modes, SEDUVI and SPA, where design strategies, goals and plans that seek for an accessible city are shared, must be fully accomplish.


It takes a much higher effort from the government and the society to achieve an accessible city. In order to have an inclusive culture and erase all the stigmas towards persons with disabilities, we must start by eliminating those physical barriers and by allowing all people to coexist and share the same opportunities.

Metrobus is a successful example that shows the government and other society member’s interest to pursuit an accessible transport mode that allows mobility in one of the most populated cities of the world. Metrobus must invest to improve those accessibility detected problems in the first routes, and to maintain the continuous enhancement displayed in R-3 and R-4. Metrobus must avoid the solutions that diminish autonomy to persons with disabilities (such as the independent access that needs the guard to open it) and must promote respect among users when they get in and off the bus.

The government must chase a comprehensive accessibility strategy by linking the inter-modal transfer points between one transport mode and another in an accessible manner along with always providing an accessible Route in the urban infrastructure. Indubitably, society and its institutions must contribute and promote an inclusive culture of diversity and respect.

The following architecture seniors contributed significantly in research, photographs, charts, translation and final presentation to the present paper: Alvarez Correa, Hans Jeronimo , Guajardo Ochoa, Maria Fernanda , and de Leon Langure, Daniel .

CONADIS, 2001.Vicepresidencia de la Republica y el Consejo Nacional de Discapacidades. Dispacidad. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Marz 2012].

DGCS, 2011. Direccion General de Comunicacion Social. Noticias de tu ciudad: Coloca Metrobus a la vanguardia al Distrito Federal. [online] 16 November 2011 Available at: [Accessed 20 Marz 2012].

Díaz, R., 2008. Del pesero al Microbus sin escalas. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 February 2012].

Grajeda, E., 2007. Crearan 10 rutas de Metrobus. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 February 2012].

INEGI, 2010. Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia. Informacion demografica. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Marz 2012].

Metrobus, 2011. Fichas Tecnicas; ¿Que es Metrobus?; Linea 4. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Marz 2012].

Migueles, R., 2010. Censo de poblacion 2010 en Mexico. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 February 2012].

WHO, 2011. World Health Organization. Disability. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Marz 2012].

Every positive and negative aspect detected and recommendations made to Metrobus’s infrastructure are based on Mexico City construction norms:

Arnal, L. Betancourt, M., 2005. Reglamento de construcciones para el Distrito Federal. Mexico: Trillas.

SEDUVI, 2007. Manual Tecnico de Accesibilidad para Personas con Discapacidad. Mexico.

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