Comfortable, safe and barrier-free
Passenger shelters not only provide protection against wind and weather. They also provide information on connections, provide seating and they ensure orderly conditions at bus, tram and train stops. They fulfill their various tasks best if certain considerations are taken into account in their planning and installation. Gerhard Wirth, expert in the planning of tram and bus stops for the Bochum-Gelsenkirchener Straßenbahnen AG, explains what is important:
Current technological state-of-the-art
For bus and tram stops and passenger shelters, too, standards, guidelines and recommendations must reflect the current state of the art and be freely applicable to everyone without first being legally binding. Not everything here is regulated by law – for the North Rhine Westphalia State Building Regulations, passenger shelters for public transport or student transport are even permit-free projects.
Nevertheless, a large number of documents, which planners should use in practice, deal with the construction of bus stops and passenger shelters. These include recommendations for public transport installations (EAÖ), recommendations for cycle facilities (ERA) and recommendations for creating access roads (EAE), the regulations on the construction and operation of bus stops and trams (BO-Kraft and BO-Strab), regulations of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), the Road Traffic Act (StVO) and many others.
In principle, the establishment of a bus stop requires the approval of the local road traffic authority, and the handicapped-accessible low entrance extension must be additionally approved by the politically-responsible district representation. The establishment of a tram stop is even more complex; here the Technical Supervisory Authority (TAB) must also be involved. Various appraisals may have to be prepared, e.g. for noise protection in the case of special track layout, or even a plan approval procedure may have to be initiated.
Complex requirements catalogue
A complex catalogue of requirements for the ideal bus stop arises out of the sources mentioned: these should be, if possible, equipped with weather protection if local conditions permit.
First, however, attention must be paid to sufficient sidewalk widths and clearance heights. The lower edge of the bus stop roof must be at least 2.25 metres above the ground surface. In addition, for a straight ahead approach, a safety distance of at least 0.5 metres between the roof edge and the vertically extended curb edge must be observed. The space between the train platform or bus entrance curb and the sidewalls of the bus or train stop shelter must be at least 1.5 metres wide. At bus stops, one metre is sufficient if there is at least 1.5 metres of space for a sidewalk behind the passenger shelter. The bus or train stop width must be at least 2.5 metres to comply with the required distances. To maintain the waiting quality in the bus stop area, an area of 1.5 square metres per passenger, as a rule of thumb, is required; otherwise it is uncomfortably narrow or even dangerous.
Planners should also ensure that cycle paths do not pass in front of the passenger shelter. The location of house entrances and the shelter´s rear glass windows/walls must also be considered. Does the vehicle traffic turning out of exits or side streets have a clear view? The location of the underground supply lines must be clarified in the same way as the ownership of the land on which one wants to build.
Placed correctly, the ideal passenger shelter naturally also has seating, and is preferably made of weather-proof, maintenance-friendly and vandalism-proof material. Single seats offer more comfort than benches. Electric lighting ensures a feeling of safety, whether powered by mains or the sun. While timetable notice boards are standard equipment in any case, electronic passenger information systems are the future.
The barrier-freedom challenge
The amended Passenger Transport Act (PBefG) stipulates that all stops in Germany should be accessible for the disabled and barrier-free by 2022. An enormous, not least financial, challenge: In Germany, there are 82 cities with over 100,000 inhabitants plus about 12,000 municipalities. The number of stops can only be estimated and is probably as many as one million. Very roughly simplified, the barrier-free (low-access) expansion of a bus stop can be expected to cost at least €20,000; the construction of tram stops is considerably more expensive.
Yet what does barrier-free mean? Wheelchair users need a movement field of 1.50 by 1.50 metres. To ensure that unsecured wheelchairs or strollers cannot roll towards car lanes or train tracks, the ground must have a two percent banking away from the roadway or track. The desired gap, horizontal and vertical, between the passenger waiting surface and the entry area should not exceed five centimetres. Stops should be accessible via ramps with a maximum incline of not more than six per cent and at least 2.40 metres wide. If the ramp length exceeds six metres, resting platforms of at least 1.50 metres in length must be created in between.
So-called tactile guidance systems in accordance with DIN 32984 are recommended for the blind and visually impaired. The planning must be coordinated with the local disability associations; this applies in particular to measures promoted by the federal and state governments. Something that is often overlooked: Bus stops must be created with a sufficient “tapered lane” in a straight line. Only if the approachability is guaranteed and the vehicle is tangential to the curb can small gaps by the doors be maintained. If possible, tram stops should not be laid out in a track bend in order to be able to meet the required clearances. If that is not implemented, problems arise that are really unnecessary.
All this makes it clear: the path to the ideal bus, tram or train stop which is comfortable, safe and barrier-free originates from careful planning and requires, as any construction project, sufficient financial resources.