134: Priorities for an age-friendly bus system

Dr Adrian Davis

Top line: Initial steps to an age-friendly bus system include ensuring that all buses have accessible low-floor entrances and exits, ensuring that bus drivers are friendly and helpful, and providing frequent bus services that operate during mornings, evenings, & weekends.

Transport is an important precursor to accessing the community. Older people (60+) commonly experience transport disadvantage, including substantial problems with bus usability, which limits their participation in society and results in poorer health outcomes. In many areas buses are an integral part of meeting the transport needs of older people, especially for those who do not drive or have access to rides from family or friends. Age-friendliness is an approach that has developed in response to the need for community services that are useable for older people. The assumptions of age friendliness are, first, that older people have unique needs, characteristics, and preferences that are different from those of younger people, and second, by creating environments that cater for these needs we can improve older peoples’ participation and functioning. The goal of age-friendliness is to identify and subsequently adapt important environmental factors to minimise barriers and maximise facilitators.

In a study among elders addressing barriers to the use of public transport,1 these fell within a number of domains including service design and provision, the built environment, vehicle accessibility, information, other people, and factors relating to the older person. Barriers in service design included inappropriate timetabling and scheduling, long distances to the bus stop, inappropriate routes, poor connections, expensive and difficult to understand ticketing, or having no service in the area. Barriers in service provision were lack of punctuality, poor reliability, unexpected or unadvertised changes in the bus service, and difficulty handling payment. In normal group discussions the top 10 barriers and facilitators to bus use reported by older people were as listed below.2

1Limited scheduling of buses207Bus driver friendly and helpful185
2Long distance to the bus stop141Frequent and appropriate scheduling of buses136
3Poorly accessible entry and exit114Easy to get to bus stop125
4Inappropriate bus route110Accessible entry and exit96
5Poor connections104Good connections77
6Bus driver unfriendly & unhelpful74Appropriate bus route61
7Inadequate or no bus shelter62Affordable and easy to use ticketing58
8Inconvenience57Appropriate bus size47
9Lack of prior knowledge51Prior knowledge40
10No service in the area48Appropriate bus shelter available; Information easy to understand37

The barriers and facilitators to bus use for older people are varied, including aspects of the vehicle (e.g., entry and exit, handles and railings, signage, width of the aisle), scheduling, routes, connections, pedestrian and bus stop infrastructure, bus driver helpfulness and friendliness, information environments, and prior knowledge. Creating an age-friendly bus system involves overcoming these barriers and maximising facilitators, beginning with those that have the greatest impact on bus usability.

1 Broome, K., Worrall, L., McKenna, K., Boldy, D. 2010 Priorities for an age-friendly bus system, Canadian Journal of Ageing, 29(3): 435-444.
2 Discussion groups based on ethnography provided slightly different prioritisation of barriers.

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