TheRide will add virtually autonomous wheelchair securements to 10 of its buses by the end of April.
Last week TheRide held an event at the University of Michigan's (U-M) Mcity for riders with mobility devices to preview and test the new wheelchair securements. Bus passengers who use a wheelchair can automatically secure their own wheelchairs by pressing a button in a designated area, rather than a bus driver manually securing the chair.
TheRide was awarded $187,000 last September to test technology that would make transportation easier for those with disabilities, the elderly, and veterans as part of the Michigan Department of Transportation's Michigan Mobility Challenge. This project is one of three new mobility initiatives TheRide will implement with that funding.
The new Quantum wheelchair securements are developed by Q'Straint, an international wheelchair securement company.
Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for TheRide, says the wheelchair securements allow those with mobility devices to have more independence when they ride the bus.
"It's creating an awesome opportunity for people with (wheelchairs) to secure themselves in a second – just by the push of a button," Stasiak says. "It doesn't really require driver assistance, though (drivers) are able to assist if needed."
Stasiak says Q'Straint conducted training with TheRide staff prior to the equipment preview event so drivers are able to assist passengers and work comfortably with the equipment.
Stasiak says TheRide will gather feedback from passengers and drivers, with assistance from the U-M Transportation Research Institute, on the new wheelchair securements before it decides whether to add more Quantum wheelchair securements to city buses.
"The initial feedback has been really positive," Stasiak says. "We will continue to get feedback over the next six months from riders, drivers, and maintenance. We want everyone to have a say."
Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of TheRide.