Felicia February, 70, is healthy aside from a knee problem. Her neighbour, Leanne Roy, is eight months’ pregnant. Leanne’s brother, Wayne Roberts, is slightly deaf.
These three people do not see themselves as disabled, but could never use public transport – until a year ago. They all live in Table View, close to the MyCiTi bus station.
All three of them are now travelling on MyCiTi main route between Table View and Cape Town, which makes a host of provisions for “special needs” passengers.
Just outside the station, an audio signal tells Felicia when she can cross the road safely. There is a gentle ramp onto the station platform, allowing Leanne and Felicia to manage their way with ease. Wayne can use an induction loop, which overcomes his hearing difficulties, to speak to MyCiTi staff at the kiosk.
Gaps between the station and bus or train are the bane of public transport systems worldwide, but the MyCiTi buses have a special boarding bridge that eliminates this gap.
CCTV cameras have been installed on the buses and at the stations and, with roving law enforcement officers, help passengers to feel safe day and night.
Felicia, Leanne and Wayne are fictional characters, but they represent the many special needs groups whom MyCiTi caters for. “Special needs” groups include the disabled as well as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, people with slight sight and hearing problems, people travelling alone at night and those with large amounts of luggage, such as prams, suitcases or even surfboards.
Disabled people tend to lose spontaneity due to feeling vulnerable – with justification. The London Metro police found that people with disabilities were seven times more likely to be the victim of the violent crime than able-bodied people. Disabled people no doubt face similar dangers in Cape Town. As a result, disabled people tend to stick to routes that are familiar to them, and which they know they can manage. MyCiTI is providing such a service.
The full complement of “special needs” facilities will be provided on all permanent MyCiTi routes, as these are rolled out. One of these facilities will be boarding bridges on all the buses serving permanent residential routes. This means that all special needs groups will be able to board a bus with ease, at a stop close to homes.
We look forward to seeing rising numbers of special needs passengers on the bus, and providing a transport service that is truly accessible for all.
* This is an edited extract from an op-ed by Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, Roads and Stormwater, for the City of Cape Town