Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 7 March-April 2001

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The Curitiba Transport System in Brazil: An Example of Universal Design within Developing Economies

By Verônica de Lima Camisão Costa (vcamisao@openlink.com.br)

In the area of accessible transportation, we have the example of Curitiba, with approximately two million people. It has Brazil's most accessible transport system, due to the adoption of an Integrated Transport Network. Public transportation in general and especially the solutions aimed at the disabled have been a priority inn the city's public transportation system which is done through an Integrated Transportation Network (Rede Integrada de Transporte - RIT).

Accessible Transportation: The Example of Curitiba

With various means of transportation now available, the disabled traveller has multiple options: for example, a person in a wheelchair can call the multipurpose vehicle-taxi, go to a tube station to take a Ligeirinho bus, and commute to another Ligeirinho at an integration terminal or another tube station to reach the desired destination.

Or the person can take the multipurpose vehicle-taxi to one of the special buses on the conventional line stops close the institutions for the disabled, and back.

Policies concerning attendance to the disabled are implemented and managed by the Department for Support and Assistance of the Disabled which reports directly to the Mayor's Office.

1. Direct Lines

The Direct Lines are part of the public transportation system in Curitiba. They are part of the RIT, the Integrated Transportation Network, utilizing regular stops.

On these lines the fare is collected before the passenger boards the bus to reduce boarding/alighting, duration of stops (since passengers embark and disembark through a level platform), and the numbers of stops thus increasing operational speed.

Buses on the Direct Lines stop at the tube-stations which consist of a steel and glass cylinder equipped with a turnstile both in the front and rear areas, a place for the fare collector and an attendance area for easy operation.

The established routes pass through RIT's Integration terminals located on the city's development axes and points where urban activity is massively concentrated.

To enable disabled persons to use the Direct Lines the tube-stations were equipped with hydraulic elevators to simplify the access to the station. Wheelchair users arrive at the tube-station and position their wheelchair on the lift which is operated by the fare collector from within the tube-station. The platform rises until it levels with the station enabling the disabled passenger to enter the station and pass through a small gate next to the automatic fare-collection machine, without paying the fare. As soon as the bus arrives at the tube-station, the passenger enters through the level platform and positions the wheelchair in the proper space, facing one of the doors.

The tube-station elevators are also used for baby carriages, elderly people, and temporary disabled persons (people with cast, etc.). In certain integration terminals access is done through ramps, with an 8% slant at the most.

2. The Double-Articulated Bus

To replace old Express bus lines in one of Curitiba's main transportation routes, the North-South line, a new technology was introduced: the so-called double articulated bus. The new lines were introduced within the city's strategy of facilitating the transit of the physically disabled throughout the city by means of its transportation system. The 25-meter double-articulate bus has capacity for 270 passengers per trip.

The bus provides increased comfort and faster trips, and has room to easily accommodate two wheelchairs. Boarding and alighting is the same as in the Direct Lines: through tube-stations at the regular bus stops and platforms at the integration terminals. Every tube-station is equipped with a hydraulic elevator at the intermediate stops. The platforms are provided with ramps (8% slant) and handrails to ensure easy access to the physically disabled, senior citizens, pregnant women or baby carriages. The stops along these lines are totally integrated to the RIT, Integrated Transportation Network, system covering over 300 kilometers, which provides easy access to disabled passengers.

3. Multipurpose Vehicle - Taxi Specially Adapted For Disabled Persons

To provide better service to the physically disabled besides making the access to the tube-stations easier, URBS has developed the multipurpose vehicle-taxi service. The vehicles were specially adapted for disabled persons, equipped with an electrical-hydraulic vertical elevator, a maneuvering area, and room for two wheelchairs plus support equipment, horizontal handrails, wheelchairs fastener, and safety belt.

The multipurpose vehicle-taxis have a distinct lay-out for easy identification: a black and orange checkered stripe (typical of the local taxis) printed on the side, the physically disabled access international sign printed in orange, and the taxi number printed on the upper part of the vehicle. The stripes are printed on the front, rear and side parts of the vehicle which has a an illuminated rooftop "taxi" sign.

The service was created in 1991, the vehicles were acquired by local radio-taxi companies who benefited from a Tax Exemption Law for self-employed associates, and licensed for taxi drivers. The fare is the same as that of a regular taxi ride: drivers receive about 10 to 15 calls daily, and taking a client to the desired destination takes about 40 minutes.

4. Special Education Lines

In order to assist physically or mentally disabled students attending special schools, a distinct service was created in 1985, the Integrated System of Special Education School Transportation (Sistema Integrado de Transporte Escolar de Ensino Especial, SITES).

The 18 lines that first integrated the system are now 23, benefiting around 3.000 students. The Special Education routes connect either the homes of the physically or mentally disabled students or pre-established stops to the SITES Terminal.

The students get off at the terminal aided by skilled personnel, then board a bus (the same bus on the district-terminal route) headed for the school. When school is over the bus takes the students back to the terminal where they transfer to a different bus that takes them either home or to pre-established stops.

The SITES Terminal was built by URBS in 1988 with funding from the EBTU/World Bank IV, and specially equipped to provide passenger comfort and safety. Buses equipped for disabled persons on the conventional lines stop at the terminal as well. The cost is subsidized by the entire transportation system, mileage is paid by URBS and operational costs are included in the fare.

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