Transit-Supportive Guidelines

Section 3.4 Passenger Accommodation and Service

3.4.1 Universal Design for Accessibility

Establish policies, practices and procedures for making transit accessible to all and capable of accommodating a range of daily transportation needs.

Most transit riders will experience some form of disability during their lives. Inaccessible transit facilities can make using transit difficult or impossible for people with mobility, visual or other disabilities. Designing transit systems for universal access provides people with disabilities more transportation choices and enables them to participate fully in their communities. Universal access can also help other transit users meet their daily needs, for example, shoppers with carts, parents with children in strollers, travellers with luggage, and the elderly. Meeting a greater range of transportation needs helps build transit ridership.

Making conventional transit more accessible requires a set of comprehensive measures that address the entire trip from getting to the transit stop to boarding to reaching the trip destination. Such measures include accessible vehicles, accessible bus shelters, bus stops and stations and transit information that can be understood by people of all abilities, including newcomers. Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) requires transit agencies to meet accessibility requirements under various standards, including the Accessible Transportation Standard and the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. The Transportation Standard will require transit agencies to put in place a comprehensive set of measures, including accessibility plans, specific accessible transit vehicle equipment standards, accessible boarding and deboarding of vehicles, service improvements in specialize services, such as integrating accessible services between communities, hours of service, booking procedures and on-time pickup. Implementing best practices in transit accessibility improves transit service and can help transit agencies prepare for the Standard.

This sheltered, wheelchair-accessible platform at a GO Station is well integrated with the rest of the train platform.

This sheltered, wheelchair-accessible platform at a GO Station is well integrated with the rest of the train platform.


accessibility planning

  1. Municipalities should plan accessibility for all aspects of its transit system that will be used by the public. The accessibility plan should develop and document policies and procedures that address the following components of the transit system:
    • accessible buses, streetcars, trains, LRT and other vehicles;
    • accessible routes and transfers between systems (See Guideline 2.3.5);
    • transit facilities, including stops, shelters, stations and platforms;
    • transit information, including emergency procedures; and
    • staff training.
  2. Consult organizations for people with disabilities for input into and feedback on accessibility plans.
  3. An audit of system accessibility should be carried out by a committee of stakeholders to track progress of the plan, obtain user feedback and comments on additional possible improvements.
  4. Establish a continuous monitoring process for recording problems, and receiving and responding to feedback regarding services to persons with disabilities. Define specific actions to respond to different kinds of complaints. Make the information about the feedback process available to the public in an accessible manner.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Ontario’s legislation on accessibility, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is to include a new standard for Accessible Information and Communications that will apply to transit agencies. To meet the new standard, transit agencies should plan to provide information on their internet website that conforms with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA

For information that is not provided on the website, transit agencies should be prepared to provide the information in an accessible format upon request. The suitability of the accessible format should be determined by consultation with the person making the request, and the format should take into account the person’s disability.

Peel Region’s Transhelp

Peel Region Ontario has established regional specialized transit services that are dedicated to people who cannot use conventional transit. Transhelp provides transportation across the region and connects people to three different municipalities. Its website provides detailed information on its services and steps to take to register and book trips. Transhelp is a good example of recognizing and meeting the transportation needs of the disabled community transit riders on a regional basis.

Peel Region Transhelp

Accommodating Wheelchairs in Vehicles

Vehicles that accommodate wheelchairs in a rear-facing position have been found to enable persons using mobility aids to position themselves independently within an accessible urban transit bus. With the passenger’s back and head near a load-bearing panel, this approach uses the vehicle’s mass and operating dynamics to protect passengers who use wheelchairs in cases of severe braking or collisions. It also provides independence to the wheelchair passenger, adapts to most wheelchair and scooter sizes and types, does not generally require the assistance of the operator and requires shorter dwell times.


  1. All transit information for the public, including static and real-time trip planning, should be available in accessible formats (see sidebar right).

fare payment

  1. Smart cards may be programmed to simplify choices by issuing a preset amount of money; displaying larger characters, colour contrast and reduced glare for people with low vision; and increasing audio output for people with low hearing. Smart card vending machines should have a range of accessibility features, such as lower heights and electronic displays in an accessible format.

transit facilities

  1. Station and terminal platforms, passageways and station levels should accommodate and be accessible to persons using assistive devices and support animals.
  2. When refurbishing or building new bus shelters, plan for accessibility by ensuring that the floor space can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters turning 180/360 degrees and that walkways have visual cues for people with low vision.

transit vehicles

  1. Provide accessible vehicles for people with mobility issues, support animals and assistive devices. Examples include low-floor and/or kneeling buses, buses with ramps or lifts, and rail vehicles with doors at platform level. Other types of accessibility features include:
    • non-slip floor surfaces;
    • high colour contrast on steps and doorways for greater visibility;
    • padded back and head supports in vehicles;
    • aisle stanchions to prevent wheelchairs from tipping;
    • additional straps for securing wheelchairs (optional use);
    • flip-up seats in the wheelchair location;
    • visual stop display for rear-facing passengers; and
    • separate stop request button and emergency response controls in the wheelchair area, with a light or sound indicator that is different from the general stop request.

boarding and deboarding

  1. Boarding and de-boarding assistance should be provided so that the health and safety of the operator and disabled person are not jeopardized, and should occur only if the location is deemed safe for deployment of boarding and deboarding equipment, if these are required. Otherwise, the operator should allow passengers with disabilities to board or de-board at the closest available safe location that is acceptable to both the passenger and the operator.

on-board announcements

  1. Complement visual information with audio information. For example, for the visually impaired, pre-boarding destination announcements, on-board stop announcements, talking signs, talking directories, auditory maps, and audible alarms can significantly improve the travelling experience.

low hearing

  1. Complement audio information with visual information. For example, LED/LCD technology and computer screens may be used to present information that is announced over the public address system, as well as pre-boarding destination announcements and on-board stop announcements.
  2. Provide tactile cues such as tactile maps, Braille signs along pathways, and detectable warnings along platform edges, as well as detection cues for use with canes.

employee training

  1. Provide accessibility training to all employees involved in customer service, with refresher courses provided on a regular basis (for example, every five years). This training should address:
    • sensitivity in addressing various disabilities;
    • boarding, seating and de-boarding responsibilities;
    • the safe use of accessibility-related equipment or features, including transportable mobility aid securement systems;
    • the function of support persons, service animals, and assistive devices;
    • orientation on the safe use of lifts, ramps and other conveyances;
    • the safe handling and storage of mobility aids and assistive devices;
    • acceptable modifications to procedures in situations where temporary barriers exist or accessibility equipment fails;
    • emergency preparedness and response policies and procedures; and
    • responsibilities during an emergency, including the provision of emergency information that an individual with a disability can respond to appropriately, detachment of securement systems and assistance to passengers with disabilities when evacuation is required.
  2. Staff, volunteers, contractors and anyone who is involved in developing transit policies, practices and procedures should be trained on the agency’s accessibility and customer service standards.
  3. Travel training can be provided by the transit agency to promote and inform the community on a system’s accessibility improvements.

Recommended Resources

Accessibility Standard for Transportation

Regulation 629: Vehicles for the Transportation of Physically Disabled Passengers, Highway Traffic Act (Province of Ontario)

TTC Accessibility (Toronto Transit Commission)

GO Transit Accessibility (GO Transit)

Access ON (Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services)

Communicating with Persons with Disabilities in a Multimodal Transit Environment (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Bringing Opportunities to Life: Accessible Transit in Canada (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Urban Braille System (City of Hamilton)

community accessibility

  1. Improve community accessibility by:
    • improving accessibility throughout the community’s infrastructure (e.g. curb cuts, sidewalks, access to bus stop locations);
    • adhering to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements;
    • ensuring that adequate designated parking spaces as well as drop-off and pick-up points are free of obstructions, are in close to entrance and exit locations and are fully accessible;
    • providing accessible parking spaces at transit stations and terminals (Guideline 2.5.2)
    • ensuring that all subdivisions are accessible by specialized vehicles;
    • providing traffic light audio alerts near transit points, as well as the wider community; and
    • including persons with disabilities in the review of community, subdivision and site plans.

demand-responsive transit

  1. Demand-responsive transit services should be provided for those who cannot use conventional transit service. This service should be provided during the same hours and for the same fare as conventional transit. See Guideline 3.1.3 for strategies for improving demand-responsive transit operations.

3.4.2 Access for Cyclists

Evaluate existing transit facilities and services to determine the best and most effective approaches for enhancing access to transit for cyclists.

Transit systems often have limited resources to improve facilities and services. Integrating bicycle use with transit service is an effective means of attracting new riders by increasing the catchment areas of stations and stops without expensive investments in route expansion or new routes. However, careful investigation, planning and consultation are still required to determine where resources are best spent and to ensure smooth implementation.

This LRT vehicle in Minneapolis has been designed to accommodate cyclists during all hours of the day.

This LRT vehicle in Minneapolis has been designed to accommodate cyclists during all hours of the day.



  1. Develop community support by engaging local bicycle groups, students, public health organizations and environmental groups. Build support by partnering with other community efforts to increase active transportation and development of transportation demand management (TDM) programs.

Providing bike racks on buses such as in this example from Brampton can enable cyclists to travel longer distances and journey from the stop to their destination.

Providing bike racks on buses such as in this example from Brampton can enable cyclists to travel longer distances and journey from the stop to their destination.

Toronto-Niagara Greenbelt Express (GO Transit)

GO Transit operates a summer weekend train service between Toronto and Niagara Falls with stops en route at Exhibition, Port Credit, Oakville, Burlington and St. Catharines. The Niagara GO Trains have two designated coaches which can carry up to 18 bikes each. In other train coaches, with the exception of the accessibility car, four bikes are permitted.

Toronto-Niagara Greenbelt Express

Recommended Resources

Bicycling and Transit: A Marriage Unrealized (Transportation Research Board)

Ontario Bikeways Planning and Design Guidelines (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 (Portland Bureau of Transportation)

Mobility Hub Guidelines (Metrolinx)

planning strategies

  1. When planning bicycle services to meet the needs of the community, consider the following factors:
    • transit ridership characteristics, including age and demographics of transit riders;
    • local topography and land-use patterns around transit stops and station areas and whether or not the land use pattern is supportive of cyclists;
    • areas of existing high bicycle use or with future potential (work with local cycling groups to identify these areas);
    • the number and extent of existing bike friendly routes leading to and from to transit stops and stations;
    • regional and municipal support for cycling initiatives;
    • the authority and ability of the transit agency to implement measures, such as designated lanes and paths; and
    • the costs of accommodating bicycle services and benefits from decreased parking and congestion.
  2. Develop a program to improve bicycle access by considering all stages of the bicycle commute, including routes to and from the stop or station area (Guideline 2.2.4), the design of the station, bike parking and storage (Guideline 2.3.4) as well as the ability to load onto transit vehicles.
  3. Consider transit staff training to overcome any initial concerns with bike racks on buses or onboard loading, including:
    • instructions on use of bike racks;
    • safety and liability issues;
    • operation of the bus with loaded bike rack – wider turns, overhang; and
    • customer service issues.
  4. Ensure bus garages can accommodate extra bus length due to bike racks and plan maintenance of bike racks as part of routine bus maintenance.


  1. Promote and market new services through transit websites, brochures, bicycle events, community outreach and the demonstration of loading racks. Be sure to reach beyond the transit community to the bicycle community.


  1. Once implemented, monitor usage of bicycle services and modify to meet demand or to promote services in case of low usage.

3.4.3 Amenities and Services

Provide amenities and services that improve the comfort and convenience of transit travel and enable riders to accomplish personal and business related tasks along their trip.

Travelling by transit is often perceived as slower, less convenient and less comfortable than the private automobile. Waiting at stops and transfer stations is often considered an onerous part of a transit trip, especially if travellers have nowhere to sit and no activities to distract them from the wait.

The trip can be made more enjoyable by providing travellers with places to sit and activities to enjoy while waiting for transit, or services that allow busy commuters to accomplish personal and/or business-related tasks. Such comfort and convenience can make riding transit more attractive than sitting in traffic in a personal vehicle.

North Killingsworth LRT station in Portland, OR, provides a variety of seating and standing options with incorporated public art for passenger enjoyment.

North Killingsworth LRT station in Portland, OR, provides a variety of seating and standing options with incorporated public art for passenger enjoyment.


passenger comfort

  1. Passenger comfort can be improved by a range of amenities including:
    • benches near bus stops, in stations and on platforms;
    • weather protection;
    • waste and recycling receptacles, so that station and stop areas are more likely to stay free of litter; and
    • public restrooms (paid or unpaid) at major transit stations, with an emergency call button. Also, if possible, locate the rest room near a service counter or kiosk to improve security.

Performers in stations enhance the commuter experience.

Performers in stations enhance the commuter experience.

Convenience retail at stations can enable commuters to make quick purchases before and after their journey.

Convenience retail at stations can enable commuters to make quick purchases before and after their journey.

Portland Glass Panel Repair

In Portland, the transit authority sandblasts glass panels at its bus stops to curb vandalism. Vandalized panels are removed and sandblast with motifs designed by artists and reinstalled. The reuse of vandalized glass is expected to save up to $100,000 in replacement costs annually while providing a forum for artists.

Recommended Resources

Art in Transit (Public Art Online)

Mobility Hub Guidelines (Metrolinx)

Child Care and Transit, Making the Link in California (Caltrans and Metropolitan Transportation Commission)

passenger enjoyment

  1. Provide enjoyable activities and public art to contribute to a positive experience for riders. Examples include:
    • showcasing local art in and around stations and stops;
    • providing information on the neighbourhood, including history, station design and special aspects of the community; and
    • locating stops near lively retail areas, and/or incorporating retail space into station areas to allow passengers to purchase food and reading material or to run errands while waiting for transit.
  2. Landscaping can contribute to user experience by helping to mitigate the impacts of strong sun or wind and providing an enjoyable backdrop to transit facilities or along transit corridors.

passenger convenience

  1. Where feasible, explore opportunities for partnerships with the private sector to deliver services that can add to the convenience of commuting by transit. For example:
    • at high-volume transit stations, assess the station for retail opportunities and convenient services;
    • make wireless internet available at stations and on vehicles;
    • incorporate space for day care at transit nodes, so that parents may conveniently pick up their children on the way home; and
    • consider partnerships with private service providers to offer a one-stop “errand” services at transit stations enabling passengers to request a variety of errands to be performed during the day while they are at work.

3.4.4 Safety and Security

Implement design elements, patrol programs and technologies to enhance safety and the sense of safety in the transit system.

Actual and perceived lack of safety at transit stops, stations and platforms can result in lost ridership, stigmatization and lower revenue. Vandalism and crime also cause damaged equipment, lost workdays, and compensation payments, and affect employee health and morale. Transit agencies are responsible for minimizing the risk of crime to ensure that operators and travellers feel secure in transit vehicles, at stops and in stations.

Much of the risk and fear associated with crime can be reduced through changes to the design of vehicles and facilities to improve sightlines and visibility. Further security can be gained through technologies that enhance visibility, surveillance and response measures. Patrol and educational programs can also mitigate the impacts of crime and traveller fears. Implementation of these measures can deter criminals and reduce the financial and operational costs of crime, increasing the sense of security for travellers, and preventing loss of ridership. Higher levels of system usage at all times of the day can provide natural surveillance and increase the sense of safety.

Convenience retail at stations can enable commuters to make quick purchases before and after their journey.

Designated waiting areas provide well lit locations supported by emergency phone or intercom systems and video surveillance for people to wait during quieter hours of operation. This can contribute to increased passenger safety.


planning strategies

  1. Conduct a review of security in the transit system to determine where system practices, policies and physical features could be modified to improve safety. As part of this effort, an inventory of potential hiding areas should be conducted, and strategies should be developed to correct them where possible. Evaluate the expected benefit and cost of each potential security improvement and develop a prioritized plan.
  2. Develop a process for continuously monitoring and recording problems, and receiving and responding to feedback regarding security concerns. Specific actions should be defined to respond to different kinds of complaints. The information about the feedback process should be available to the public.

When blind corners are unavoidable, a mirror like the one used at this GO Station allows visibility around corners.

When blind corners are unavoidable, a mirror like the one used at this GO Station allows visibility around corners.

improving sightlines

  1. Sight lines and visibility should be made clear by, for example:
    • extensive use of glass in shelters to enhance natural surveillance and lighting;
    • incorporating glazing of exterior walls, stairways and elevators to permit natural surveillance;
    • designing landscaping so that it does not block views or lighting; and
    • using mirrors to enable people to view around corners where blind corners are unavoidable.

enhancing safety

  1. Station and terminal designated waiting areas (DWA) with higher levels of lighting and emergency phone or intercom systems can help to enhance user safety during quieter hours or evening service.
  2. There are a range of security-related policies and programs that transit agencies could consider to enhance user safety or perceived safety. These include:
    • allowing passengers to get off the bus between stops at night time. The driver must be able to stop safely to accommodate the request. The passenger must leave the bus by the front doors, and the rear doors remain closed so that no one can follow the passenger from the bus;
    • deploying transit security officers in and around stations, on trains and buses, and at bus stops at times and locations where security problems are common or expected;
    • training transit employees, such as vehicle operators, in conflict resolution, robbery / assault prevention, gang awareness, customer service and self-defence;
    • providing public education and information in the form of pamphlets, posters, wall cards, stickers, magnets and films to publicize crime prevention initiatives and safety tips;
    • setting up crime prevention booths at events and exhibitions to address public crime and safety issues with citizens and employees;
    • establishing reward programs to solicit information from employees and the public to identify criminal offenders; and
    • establishing an Adopt-a-Shelter program to link citizens and police to deter vandalism and criminal activity at bus shelters. Citizens are encouraged to commit to bus shelter “ownership”, resulting in immediate reporting of criminal activity to police.

The use of glass in this shelter in Calgary, Alberta enhances natural surveillance and lighting.

The use of glass in this shelter in Calgary, Alberta enhances natural surveillance and lighting.


  1. Where physical sightlines may be difficult to achieve, technology may be used to enhance visibility and enable communication between passengers and staff. Examples include:
    • deploying closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera surveillance systems in and around transit stations, stops, vehicles and depots. They may be mounted, for example, at restroom entrances, fare collection areas, and elevator/escalators. Cameras may be fixed or remotely controlled to allow for panning, tilting and zooming. Real-time monitoring can be labour-intensive; however, pairing CCTV with motion-detection systems can provide event-triggered surveillance;
    • implementing telephone and radio communication devices in stations, at stops and on vehicles to allow passengers to seek assistance from transit personnel or local police;
    • implementing automatic vehicle locator (AVL) and geographic information system (GIS) to facilitate vehicle tracking in case of incidents;
    • providing incident management information and directions to passengers on dynamic message systems which might typically be used to show vehicle arrival times;
    • improving lighting on platforms and at bus turnarounds, stations, park-and-ride lots, transit centers, bus stops and restrooms to improve visibility and deter crime; and
    • using alarms to deter criminal activity and summon police and security assistance.
  2. The use of automated ticketing machines and electronic fare payment (EFP) can help to make cash handling more secure and reduce exposure of transit employees to crime and threats.

Emergency phones should be easy to locate and brightly coloured.

Emergency phones should be easy to locate and brightly coloured.

Recommended Resources

Transit Security Design Considerations (US Federal Transit Administration)

Improving Transit Security (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Issue Paper 23: Transit Safety and Security (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

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