Transp. Res. Part C Emerg. Technol.

Improving the accessibility of urban transportation networks for people with disabilities

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What is the most effective way to enhance the accessibility of our oldest and largest public transportation systems for people with reduced mobility? The intersection of limits to government support with the growing mobility needs of the elderly and of people with disabilities calls for the development of tools that enable us to better prioritise investment in those areas that would deliver the greatest benefits to travellers. In principle and, to a lesser extent, in practice, many trains and buses are already accessible to nearly all users, leaving the stations and interchanges as the single largest and most expensive challenge facing operators trying to improve overall access to the network.Focussing on travel time and interchange differences, we present a method that uses network science and spatio-temporal analysis to rank stations in a way that minimises the divergence between accessible and non-accessible routes. Taking London as case study, we show that 50% of the most frequently followed journeys become 50% longer when wheelchair accessibility becomes a constraint. Prioritising accessibility upgrades using our network approach yields a total travel time that is more than 8 times better than a solution based on random choice, and 30% more effective than a solution that seeks solely to minimise the number of interchanges facing those with mobility constraints. These results highlight the potential for the analysis of 'smart card' data to enable network operators to obtain maximum value from their infrastructure investments in support of expanded access to all users. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.