Kuba’s mobility platform: A move towards a more inclusive public transit system

Date: December 1st 2023 | Author: Melanie Haynes

Sunday, 3 December, is the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. According to UN research, about 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. Furthermore, by 2030, almost half of the population over the age of 69 will be classified as disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in public transportation services. Despite the law, the public transportation choices for people with disabilities in the United States are still limited. However, the use of paratransit has increased significantly.

The main issues include lack of wayfinding, poor maintenance of elevators and other accessibility equipment, inadequate communication channels when services are out of action, lateness or no-show of transport, inaccurate information, and inefficient telephone reservations.

People with disabilities often have travel anxiety. This can come from various sources. On a physical level, a rider may need to organise ramps to get on and off trains, and then there is the worry that it might not happen due to communication issues or staffing levels. 

The journey must also be planned to consider the extra time required. How long will you need to walk between different modes of transport and to the final destination from the end of the transit journey? Also, which modes of transportation do you need to use and how accessible these will be? Any sudden journey changes can cause a significant negative impact, i.e., delays on trains, replacement services (type and location), and out-of-order lifts or escalators.

An agile and easily adapted mobility app or platform can go some way to alleviating travel anxiety. Rather than looking at various apps or websites such as Street View, a map app, and a travel app to aggregate information, an individual can see a lot of this information all in one place. 

An app or platform that starts with various users in mind is much more inclusive. 

Transit agencies must consider who will want to use the app and ensure they offer what these people need. It is not just about serving the needs of existing users but also looking at who wants to access transit services but feels or experiences barriers to this. 

How can Kuba’s mobility platform help?

Kuba’s mobility platform has several integrations which can help with this.

Before undertaking a journey, the journey planner within the app can show the entire trip, which forms of transport and the walking distance between them with average times. 44% of respondents in a survey by UITP (International Association of Public Transport) favoured an accessible journey planner, the most popular solution by users, especially those with physical impairments.

Transit agencies can use the carousel or rider alerts to give real-time and relevant information to riders with awareness of replacement services, where there are delays, if elevators are out of order or if a stop is not in service. A rider can then easily replan their journey on the go within the app with minimal stress. 

Depending on the agency, paratransit can be integrated, removing the rider’s time-consuming process of going through a call centre. There is also the opportunity to integrate microtransit on-demand services into the app, which offers access to public transport outside fixed routes and times.

Booking and paying for the entire journey through an app also means that riders can be assured that they have the correct tickets for their entire journey without the anxiety of buying separate tickets or boarding a mode of transport without a ticket and risking a fine.

Getting more people with disabilities to use public transit

Alleviating levels of travel anxiety can mean that some people with disabilities will decide that using public transit is more of a possibility. This increases access to jobs, services or social interaction.  

Creating equitable public spaces and transit systems requires significant effort. Urban planners, developers, and public transit providers play a critical role in bringing about these changes by collaborating with interest groups and actively listening to the needs of diverse communities.

Solving everything through technology is not always the answer, but it can help make public transit more inclusive. By implementing an agile and easily adaptable mobility app or platform, public transit providers can improve the accessibility and usability of their existing services and take a step towards creating a more equitable travel experience.