The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are on the lookout for disabled volunteers who can help trial a new journey planner aimed at removing barriers on public transport for those with long term health conditions.
The new service will look to allow better coordination of personal travel assistance needs, between the transport operator and the destination host, by alerting each stage of a journey when a person is on the way who needs additional support.
The creation of the planner is part of IncludeMe WM, a regional approach to making the West Midlands an exemplar region for engaging disabled people and people with long term health conditions to be physically active.
It aims to put disabled people and people with long term health conditions at the heart of all conversations. The trial will take place on transport routes serving four West Midlands leisure facilities in Coventry and Wolverhampton:
· Coventry Life The Wave
· Coventry Life Alan Higgs Centre
· Wolverhampton Active Central
· Wolverhampton Active Bert Williams Leisure Centre
Those who participate in the trial will have their cost of the journey covered automatically on booking and as a thank you, volunteers will also receive Amazon vouchers at the end of each journey.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said, “We are always striving as a region to make our transport network as friendly, welcoming and accessible as possible. With this aim in mind, I am pleased as a region we champion our IncludeMe WM agenda which sets out our ambition to be an exemplar region for engaging with and encouraging physical activity amongst disabled people and those with other long term health conditions.
“We are inviting residents to volunteer to trial a new app that provides the less able bodied with a journey planner designed to remove barriers they may face whilst navigating public transport. I encourage locals to step forward and help improve quality of life for the fellow West Midlanders.”
Anne Shaw, executive director of Transport for West Midlands, said: “We are always keen to ensure that disabled people are supported throughout our transport networks and any existing barriers involving them reaching their destination are removed. The introduction and eventual implementation of this scheme will be vital in developing our offering and make sure that transport becomes much more inclusive and accessible”.
WMCA has teamed up with You Smart Thing, the leading online travel planning platform, to produce the journey planner app.
Antonis Kousoulas, product manager at You Smart Thing, said: “Working with WMCA and Sport England to enhance our ‘request assistance’ feature has given us deep insight into the needs of disabled people in respect of public transport, multi-modal journeys, and destination management. During ‘Include Me/Travel Without Barriers’ project we were able to determine and synchronise key information that both disabled passengers and transport operators need about each other to confidently achieve seamless interchanges between multiple bus and metro services, whilst planning a trip and whilst en-route.
“We are really proud to have enabled passengers, drivers and even the staff at the final destination to be updated simultaneously with real-time travel alerts that include the door-to-door routes alongside passenger accessibility profiles and needs. This functionality is now available to transport operators, destinations and major events as part of the ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ travel assistant service and travel demand management platform.”
Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for Inclusive Communities, said: “Public transport should serve all the public. This is an important project to remove the barriers people may face in using public transport, and meeting our IncludeMe WM pledge to ensure that disabled people and those with long term health conditions are able to be more active and enjoy all the opportunities and experiences that our amazing region has to offer.
“That’s why I’m encouraging volunteers across the West Midlands to get involved in the pilot scheme to help us make sure that our public transport network meets the needs of everyone, and that our new journey planning app works from day one.”