Big ambitions for safe universal access on the MyCiTi bus system

Planners behind the MyCiTi bus system are confident that they will offer a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that will revolutionise public transport in the City of Cape Town, and become a model for other systems around the world.

The new feeder buses illustrating the universal access system. Photo: Bruce Sutherland

The MyCiTi bus system currently being rolled out, in phases across Cape Town, has been largely based on BRT systems in South America, where they originated and have since been lauded as success stories. The MyCiTi planners are trying to adopt and adapt some of the world’s best practices in Cape Town. A combination of the Cassette-type boarding ramp, the low floor Optare feeder buses, optimally designed bus stops and the special dark ‘Kassel’ kerbs make the MyCiTi system a world leader in universal access on buses.

The combination of these design technologies allow better and safer access for disabled and elderly individuals, young children, passengers with large baggage, surfboards, prams and even bicycles.

How the different design features work together:

  • The boarding bridge will be deployed at each bus stop by the bus driver to facilitate boarding and alighting. These boarding bridges will be level and will never exceed a maximum incline grade of 12%, allowing for unassisted wheelchair access and also easy access for all those with special mobility needs (elderly, children etc). The bridge is synchronised with the bus door opening and closing sequences.
  • Safety mechanisms include sensors that will detect if an obstruction is in the way of the bridge’s path and the bridge will automatically pull back if it senses the obstruction.
  • The feeder doors will also have sensors that will automatically stop and open the doors if an obstruction get in the way – similar to a lift.
  • There are also various mechanism on the bus that will prevent the bus from moving off when the ramps are deployed.
  • The ‘Kassel‘ kerbs allow the feeder buses to dock as close as possible against the kerb without damaging the tyres.

Other important features include tactile paving, signage and maps that will help the blind locate stations and platforms and using the system. CCTV cameras on buses and at stations will provide further security.

Many new safety features are being integrated into the new feeder buses. Image: Rouen Smit

A dedicated control centre will monitor CCTV along the BRT route and at MyCiTi stations. CCTV cameras are also installed on the buses and bus drivers have full communication capabilities with the Control Centre. Image: Rouen Smit

The wheelchair stop button will signal a different tune to alert the driver that a wheelchair passenger will alight from the bus at the next stop. Image: Rouen Smit

I spoke with John Martheze, one of the engineers behind the MyCiTi bus system, to better understand the motivations behind the features of the system.

Martheze shared that they have learned a lot from the current large trunk buses and have made simple design improvements to the new feeders.

An example is the priority seats (for the elderly, pregnant and disabled passengers) on the feeders. On the trunk buses, these seats only have the soft cushion parts coloured red to indicate them as priority seats. If someone is sitting on a seat, then the red is not visible. Instead, the feeders’ priority seats have red colour support structures. This is also being changed on the trunk buses. Moreover, Martheze also told of the inspirational story of a disabled individual in a wheelchair, who takes a MyCiTi bus from Long Street out to Blougberg for some relaxation time in the beach sun. The man did the whole trip by himself, but was helped by MyCiTi bus conductors to get his wheelchair on and off the buses on Long Street and in Blougberg. When the feeder buses are operational in the CBD and in the West Coast, the above mentioned design feeders on buses will allow this individual to make such a trip without any support.

Martheze also emphasized that the feeder system, once fully operational, should alleviate some demand from the City’s existing Dial-a-Ride(DAR) service which is heavily over subscribed. This over-subscription of the DAR service highlights the need for a public transport system that is universally accessible.

The system will be leading the way in universal access on BRTs and Guy Davies, universal access consultant for the MyCiTi team, has been approached by organisations that include Dublin Area Rapid Transit, the World Bank and Bus Rapid Transit System planners around South Africa.

About Rouen Smit

Future actuary working at a company based in Cape Town. Love open water swimming. Love taking public transport and feeling the city. The Future’s Bright