UB, NFTA are working to make public transportation more accessible

See how University at Buffalo researchers are working with the NFTA and community members to improve the public transportation experience for passengers who have a disability.

Release Date: October 13, 2017

“One of the biggest benefits we have is being able to work with the NFTA and learn about the real-world challenges passengers with disabilities face when taking public transportation.”
Brittany Perez, research associate
University at Buffalo IDeA Center

For many people who have a disability, taking public transportation is a necessity. But it can also be a nightmare.

The barriers abound. It can be extremely difficult to get up and down the stairs on the bus. Riders who use a wheelchair often feel undue attention drawn upon them as passengers sit and wait impatiently while the bus operator secures the wheelchair in place.

But a research partnership between the University at Buffalo and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) is working to dramatically improve the public transit experience for the region’s many riders who have some type of disability.

They’re taking what they’ve learned through lab simulations on the South Campus and applying the findings to the NFTA’s fleet of buses. Their results also have helped inform national standards for accessible public transportation.

The work being done by the NFTA and UB’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) is critical for public transit users like Andrew Marcum, program director for the Center for Self Advocacy, a Buffalo-based nonprofit organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities lead independent, productive lives.

The center offers a travel training program that teaches anyone who has a disability how to use the region’s public transportation system.

“Access to reliable, accessible public transit is essential for people with disabilities to be able to live independent, full lives in the community,” says Marcum.

Informing national standards

In recent years, IDeA Center studies have helped inform national guidelines for accessible public transportation, including a recent ruling by the U.S. Access Board to change the ramp slope to make it easier for passengers who use a wheeled mobility device and others to board buses. Researchers there also have published several papers in peer-reviewed journals.

“It’s our hope that our research findings will guide standards that will make buses more accessible to all,” says Victor Paquet, professor of industrial and systems engineering in UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“We want our findings to be communicated not only in the scientific literature, but more importantly, to the people and transportation agencies that can greatly benefit from this information,” a