A recent report commissioned by the Mayor of London and part of the Healthy Streets Everyday Project, ‘Mobility justice and transport inclusion,‘ focused on making public transit more inclusive.

Mobility Justice is the concept that all people should have the same opportunities to move around and access public spaces. The report found that transport can be one of the principal barriers faced by disabled people and that people with disabilities often have travel anxiety.

Travel anxiety can come from various sources. On a physical level, there may be the need for a rider to organise ramps to get on and off trains, and then there is the worry that it might not happen due to communication issues or staffing levels. 

There is also the need to plan the journey to take into account the extra time required. Jo Becker, one of the respondents in the report, uses data and tech to reduce her travel anxiety. She looks at how long she will need to walk between different modes of transport and to her final destination from the end of the transit journey. Also, which modes of transportation she will need to use and how accessible these will be. Any sudden changes to her journey can have a significant impact, i.e., delays on trains, replacement services (type and location), out of order lifts or escalators.

Jo Becker, “A big thing for me is about understanding what I will be faced with, mentally preparing for that and sometimes adapting my plan accordingly, and I know a lot of disabled people feel the same way.

“A colleague has said this is a lot, and I’d like to steal it. If you get it right for disabled people, you get it right for everyone. If you get it right for disabled people, you get it right for parents with buggies, you get it right for anyone with a broken leg or an injury, or anyone who is older or maybe feeling confused. If you can create an environment where people can get around independently, regardless of any challenges they might face, you are building a society which is truly inclusive.”

An agile and easily adapted mobility app or platform can go some way to alleviating travel anxiety. Rather than looking at various apps or websites such as Street View, a map app, and a travel app to aggregate information, an individual can see a lot of this information all in one place. 

An app or platform which starts with a variety of users in mind is much more inclusive. As Jo Becker stated above, if you get it right for people with disabilities, you get it right for everyone.

Transit agencies need to consider who will want to use the app and ensure they offer what these people need. It is not just about serving the needs of existing users but looking at who wants to access the transit services but feels or experiences barriers to this. On a fundamental level, can a person with visual impairments use it, and can various languages be available within the app?

But tackling travel anxiety goes further than this. Unwire’s mobility platform has some integrations which can help with this.

Before undertaking a journey, the journey planner within the app can show the entire trip, which forms of transport and the walking distance between them with average times ( within the report, respondents state that they double this for themselves, but it is helpful to have the average speed). 

Transit agencies can use the carousel or rider alerts to give real-time and relevant information to riders with awareness of replacement services, where there are delays, if elevators are out of order or if a stop is not in service. A rider can then easily replan their journey on the go within the app with minimal stress. 

Depending on the agency, paratransit can be integrated, removing the rider’s time-consuming process of going through a call centre.  There is also the opportunity to integrate microtransit on-demand services into the app, which offers access to public transport outside fixed routes and times.

Booking and paying for the entire journey through an app also mean that riders can be assured that they have the correct tickets for their entire journey without the anxiety of buying separate tickets or boarding a mode of transport without a ticket and risking a fine.

Alleviating levels of travel anxiety can mean that some people with disabilities will decide that using public transit is more of a possibility and increase their access to jobs, services or social interaction.  

There is still a long way to go to make public spaces and public transit equitable for all. Urban planners, developers, and public transit providers have a key role in making changes and working with interest groups and listening to the needs of diverse communities. 

It is not as simple as solving everything through tech, but it can have an impact on making public transit more inclusive. By adopting an agile and easily adaptable mobility app or platform, public transit providers can make their existing services easier to access and use and begin to create a more equitable travel experience.