Friday, December 13, 2013

Conducting Bus Stop Accessibility Evaluations in Fort Wayne, Indiana

By Whitney E. Gray

Bus stop evaluations can be a large task for communities to take on, but they are necessary in order to ensure that all stops remain accessible. Over time, equipment or hardware can break, more accessible technology may become available, and the needs of a community can change. Making sure that bus stops are accessible based on current standards ensures that the fixed-route bus system is inclusive for all riders.

In 2012, the Indiana Department of Transportation informed the city of Fort Wayne, among others, that it was important to come into compliance with new Americans with Disabilities Act Public Rights of Way Guidelines (PROWAG). Though the federal guidelines had not yet been adopted, INDOT wanted to help cities get transition plans in place. One component of PROWAG focused on bus stops, and Fort Wayne’s last bus stop assessment had been conducted 10 years earlier. In addition, their bus stop assessment had not included all of the criteria that were now a part of the PROWAG standards, such as sidewalk accessibility and bus pad availability.

A volunteer evaluates a bus stop
Needing technical assistance, the Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corporation (Citilink) applied and was accepted to ESPA’s Accessible Transportation Technical Support Project in 2013. ATTS helps communities formulate an action plan to address specific local accessible transportation needs. With assistance from ESPA and ADA-Indiana’s Coros ADA Community Grant program, the Fort Wayne ATTS team developed project goals and then recruited and trained 30 volunteers from community partners (Citilink, Fifth Freedom, League for Blind & Disabled, ARC, City Street Department, Regional Planning, etc.). The training event, the team’s first goal, focused on ADA regulations for bus stops and how to evaluate the accessibility of bus stops.  The next day, five teams evaluated stops in their assigned areas of town.

To date, volunteers have assessed approximately 1,200 bus stops and collected 47 data items describing each stop (date, stop ID, route number, street name/cross/type/location, parking/loading/bike lane, sign-mounting/route info, boarding area, sidewalk, curb/ramp, shelter, seating, lighting, bike rack, land use, photo & GPS coordinates). Volunteers have taken two or more pictures at each location, and the regional planning district has integrated the survey information into a more comprehensive Bus Stop Database. The data has been checked for quality, and locations where data was incomplete or missing were re-surveyed. Per the team's project plan, Citilink (the public transit system), the city of Fort Wayne street department, Northeastern Indiana Regional Coordinating Council staff, and volunteers will monitor and maintain the database. This database will be used to develop, implement and monitor a prioritized bus stop improvement plan.

The team is also exploring methods for integrating the sidewalk and curb ramp data— maintained by the Fort Wayne Board of Works—with the Bus Stop Database, which will allow for a more thorough evaluation of accessibility. The project progress and findings to date have been presented to ADA-Indiana and ESPA.

ESPA looks forward to continuing to work with the Fort Wayne ATTS team on their bus stop assessments. For more information on evaluate accessibility, check out ESPA’s Assessments webpage.

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