New kneeling buses for Metrobus

Daniel MacEachern
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Accessibility for disabled riders still years away

A local association for people with disabilities is welcoming new buses to Metrobus’s fleet but says more needs to be done to make city transportation completely accessible.

Metrobus officials on Thursday afternoon cut the ribbon on nine new kneeling buses that will join the 23 already in service. The new buses — Metrobus has an option to buy 21 more by 2017 — have wheelchair ramps and other equipment designed to allow people with physical disabilities to ride.

Michelle Murdoch, president of the Coalition for People with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador, said although kneeling buses are a good step, it takes more than just a special bus to make a route accessible.

“You have to be parallel to the sidewalk, so that if they’re pulled in at a bit of an angle downtown, that won’t work,” she said.

“So what we were saying to Metrobus was before we can fully implement the whole idea — and they say this to us as well, and we agree — there’s a whole lot of things that have to be worked out. You have to educate people who are parking and not leaving enough space, and things like that, and why these buses need to be made directly parallel to the parking.”

“For them to be implemented in the winter will be very difficult as well, with the snowclearing,” Murdoch said.

Nevertheless, she said the coalition is pleased by the new buses and are awaiting their implementation. Although some of the new buses could be on the streets as early as today, drivers still need to be trained to use the new equipment and Metrobus expects to phase in its accessible routes over the next several months.

“We’re excited they’re happening, but it’s not happening right away,” she said. “And that’s because there has to be other education pieces and other public awareness pieces that go with the kneeling buses. And you need kneeling buses in enough routes. You don’t want to go into Mount Pearl and then not get a link to somewhere else you want to go. People have to be very aware of what buses are going to be fully accessible, because the whole fleet is not.”

Making Metrobus’s entire system accessible is the goal, said St. John’s councillor Tom Hann, chairman of the city’s transportation commission Thursday afternoon.

“While providing a disability service is a long way off, because we’ve only got nine buses, but by the time we replenish the fleet and have 30 buses, new, by 2017, the commission has been supportive of the fact that some time ago we made the decision that in future, every bus that we purchase would be totally accessible,” he said. “So these buses will be put into service (on accessible routes) at some time in the future. It’s a long way to go. We need a lot more than nine before we can provide a total accessible service, and we also have to make sure that our personnel are trained to operate the ramps and that kind of thing as well.”

Both Hann and Metrobus general manager Judy Powell acknowledged it will take several years to make the fleet completely accessible. If by 2017 all 30 kneeling buses have been bought, that would represent just over half of Metrobus’s fleet, and Powell said it could take as much as 10 years past that to make the entire system accessible.

“It’s going to take a while to integrate the new buses into the system before we can provide total accessibility in the city,” said Hann. “I think mainly what will happen is if we get 10 to 15 buses that are totally accessible, we can choose some of the busiest routes and make those routes accessible and eventually we’ll have a total system.”

Metrobus general manager Judy Powell said the buses, purchased as part of Metrobus’s six-year fleet replacement plan, will allow Metrobus to retire buses that have been in use since 1987.

“This is the largest purchase at any one time since the early 1980s. The units that we will be retiring today are 1987 units. They are 25 years old, and certainly that is an accomplishment in our climate and terrain here in Newfoundland, and certainly speaks to the quality of our preventative maintenance program,” she said.

The buses cost $420,000 each. Future purchases under the tender will see that price go up according to the consumer price index, said Powell, who noted that the Nova LFS “Smart Bus” technology can improve fuel economy up to 18 per cent, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Murdoch said the purchase of the buses is a big step on the way to complete accessibility.

“It will be one more option for people with disabilities. Not everybody wants to use GoBus, and this will be an opportunity for people to have another choice,” she said. “The next thing we’re looking for is accessible cabs.”

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Organizations: Coalition for People

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • But What If
    February 24, 2012 - 10:37

    But what if the sidewalks are not cleared? can the wheelchair get to a bus stop? If departing a bus, where is the wheelchair expected to go if there is no cleared sidewalk?? Metrobus is a municipal entity. Council needs to figure out how to make sidewalks clear and safe before spinning a new bus story. Bus Passengers have to walk on sidewalks to get TO and FROM the bus stops. Duh!

  • Gina
    February 24, 2012 - 10:03

    Why so long to make buses accessible? That's ridiculous given the fact that the buses are very old! Just some routes are accessible? How's that inclusive? Oh yay I can go on route 1-5 but route 6-12 I can't. Think about it. Less talking, more DOING! Put accessibility in action! Stop dragging it out - I'm gonna be old and gray and half dead to enjoy the freedom of most people in society take for granted. Cmon people...common sense! And why is the cabs not accessible now? It would boost their businesses. Why wait for Ms Murdoch to knock on their door? I wouldn't. Newfoundland and Labrador needs accessible transportation on all good for you on this step forward but bigger steps people...but this need is NOW Murdorch, as for education and awareness. Read this article....look at the wording. Just food for thought. Think a little more before you run your mouth. As for the media and the article author, please educate yourself in words of dignity. People first, not their disability. Thank you

    • danny
      February 24, 2012 - 10:58

      I agree all metro buses should be wheel chair acessable and older people should be able to board easier

  • Helen Traverse
    February 24, 2012 - 09:49

    Hi, Great we have the City Buses made accessible. Good luck getting to the bus stops, especially in winter. What about Scooters accessing the Buses?

  • Maxine
    February 24, 2012 - 09:48

    I agree Bernie for the love of god emrasss in improvments being made. Educate Educate Educate ....sounds like your with goverment lets reasearch research before any action ...years later we will do it. there are all kinds of laws and education on all kinds of topics yet people still abuse them not just for disable people Murdoch!

  • Free Wi-Fi on Metrobus
    February 24, 2012 - 08:46

    Metrobus advertises free wi-fi access on its lowrider buses but it rarely works. In the past month alone,none of my 3 wi-fi devices could detect a signal while on 3 different routes. Don't advertise a service if you have not got the technology figured out and working.

  • Townie
    February 24, 2012 - 08:04

    So if you are in a wheel chair do you just jump into the snow bank on the sidewalk when you get off?

  • Bernie
    February 24, 2012 - 07:54

    Murdoch!! Stop bitching about details and embrace the fact they are here. Why hold off on using them, isn't that just holding back the handicap riders? Educate the public?? Are there not laws covering parking in a bus stop? Yes there are. Are there laws about speeding etc? Yes there are. People will continue to violate the law no matter what to do. Good job Metrobus for forward thinking.

  • terry whelan
    February 24, 2012 - 07:12

    Please do not reinvent the wheel. Vancouver, British Columbia had these kind of busses at least 15 years ago or longer when I visited. Ask them their experience using this service and how they intigrated these buses into their regular routes. This is not a new service to Canada. It exists elsewhere. For God's sake city council, talk to someone who knows. You can probably reach them on the internet so no extra travel expense by committee will be necessary at public expense. Accessible busses is long overdue. Predeployment congratulations from the aging population. Better late than never.