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Difficulties boarding the Luas due to Covid-19 restrictions

Introduction

Covid-19 has shown us that while public transport is operating at 100% capacity since September 1st, the situation is however very fluid with the possibility of capacity reductions and further lockdowns should there be a spike in Covid-19 cases. While no one could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic, we do however need to future-proof things.

Difficulties boarding the Luas

Locating the door and indeed the door open button on a Luas tram by passengers who are blind or partially sighted is like a needle in a haystack. Having to trail the tram to find an open door is not a pleasant experience on your knuckles and you certainly won’t have clean hands after it. You also risk catching your fingers when another passenger opens the door from the inside.

Picture showing a blind passenger trailing Luas stopped at a station in order to find open or closed door
Picture of blind passenger trailing Luas to find open or closed door

In contrast, locating the internal door open button is straight forward as it’s in a frame.

Photo of Luas internal door open button located within the interior door frame
Photo of Luas internal door open button in door frame

In 2012, Roger Flood from Dublin Bus Travel Assist gave me an excellent tip which was to go to the front of the Luas platform before it slopes and to stop there where the Luas Driver would open the front door for me, making it just as easy as boarding a bus. This had been a game-changer for hundreds of blind and partially sighted passengers who Roger had trained over the years.

In March 2020, to minimise the spread of Covid-19 by people touching door open buttons and to ensure proper ventilation, Luas Drivers were opening all doors.  In 2021, Drivers were no longer opening the single half-leaf door at the front of the tram and were telling me to walk down to the next door. You therefore have to trail the Luas as you will see in the following bodycam video.

The video below is a recording of the difficulties faced by blind passengers boarding the Luas

Blind person boarding the Luas tram

When VVI queried this at a Luas User Group meeting earlier this year as it was unlikely to have been a door fault on every occasion, we were told that the front door on the Luas is locked and the area behind the Driver is actually cordoned off so as to ensure social distancing. Blind and partially sighted passengers therefore need to trail the Luas in the hope of finding an already-opened door or rely on the kindness of a helpful member of the public which are not always around at lighter used stations like Museum. Another problem we have are some Luas Drivers driving off when blind and partially sighted passengers are trailing the Luas trying to find the seam for the door. I understand Drivers have discretion to wait for vulnerable users boarding.

Although the Drivers are allowed to open all doors ‘At a platform when identifying that a passenger has difficulty entering the tram (elderly, mobility impaired).’, both Transdev and TII have stated that passengers could fall out if they were leaning against the door and that this could be fatal in the event of Drivers opening doors on the wrong side in error.

Photo from the front of a train of the Siemens (LHB) Dart Drivers Cab with window
Photo of the Siemens (LHB) Dart Drivers Cab with window

Both Dublin Bus and Dart Drivers have a window in their cab which they can open for ventilation. The LUAS however does not hence the reason for chaining off the area behind the Drivers Cab and locking the single half-leaf door at the front.

Photo from the front of Luas Drivers Cab with no window
Photo of Luas Drivers Cab with no window

01.09.2021– Capacity was restored to 100% on public transport.

01.09.2021– Query send to Transdev and TII as Drivers are not opening the single leaf door at the front of the tram for blind and partially sighted passengers with a long cane or guide dog.

09.09.2021– Drivers are now opening the single leaf door at the front of the tram

Future proofing due to possible Reintroduction of capacity restrictions

This could be achieved by having:

  1. Tactile pavingfrom the lozenge tactile to the second door down or potentially every door so as to evenly distribute passengers throughout the tram.
  2. Future tram orders should add selective door openingto open the second door down. Future tram refurbishments could also have this added.
  3. Audible locator beacons (like they have on traffic lights) could be added to door open buttons.

Barry O’Donnell (VVI) 15.09.2021