Bus Station Plans – Accessibility Workshop Feedback

West Yorkshire Combined Authority have just launched their public consultation on their plans for the redevelopment of Halifax Bus Station. Disability Partnership Calderdale were involved in a preliminary consultation stage, alongside a range of representatives of disability groups and organisations, late last year and fed back on the plans.

The notes below the map image summarise the feedback from those consulted on the day and they make interesting reading. We’ve included a map of the proposed bus station to act as a reference for the notes. We’d urge anyone who uses the current Halifax Bus station and who has a disability, to take part in the public consultation phase of this work

Workshop Notes

Purpose
The aim of this workshop was to present developing proposals for the new Halifax bus station, getting early
feedback from accessibility groups to inform the bus station’s detailed design. This document summarises
the key points raised by workshop attendees. It is split into sections that broadly follow the themes in the
feedback.

Issues with existing bus station
• Toilets are unsuitable and difficult to access.
• The route from Northgate House is too hilly and the slope of the site itself makes it difficult to navigate
• It is cold, draughty and uncomfortable.
• It is difficult to interchange with the train station – buses and trains are not coordinated.
• It is unsafe and scary, especially at night. In addition, there are blind spots and the layout makes it difficult to manage and react to incidents.
• The Travel Centre’s automatic door button doesn’t work. Generally, doors operated by push buttons should be avoided.
• It is awkward to use the drop off area because of the cobbles and the fact it can get very busy. There is a need to be able to park next to a kerb or level pavement.
• Finding the entrance and locating the correct bus stand is a real struggle for the visually impaired without a guide dog, in part because the steps and Winding Road entrance are at very strange angles.
• Diagonal crossing (between buses) is not good for the visually impaired, and it is also very hard to know how far to go down the concourse as the tactile markers are not consistent across stands.
• The area between bus and stand is too narrow (especially at busy times), which makes getting on and off buses very challenging for wheelchair users and the visually impaired.
• The gates around stands are very dangerous for the visually impaired as sight canes and dogs can go under them, causing people to walk into the gates.
• The ATM located at Stand A is not in a helpful place as it causes people to stand waiting and block the bus stand for those with accessibility issues.
• There are a lot of railings, which can make the journey difficult for wheelchair users.
• It is difficult to access the bus station because of the number of road crossings.

Safety and security
• Safety measures need to be considered from an accessibility perspective.
• The security measures planned for the new bus station are a great improvement – especially in terms of the good visibility provided by the shape of the concourse and the fact that the building is entirely enclosed. Automatic doors will also contribute to improved safety.
• Roaming staff would be a good way of enabling vulnerable users to feel more secure during busy times. It is also important to have staff available in case someone needs assistance. This will be particularly important outside of peak hours as a number of people with accessibility requirements try to use the bus station as early as possible to avoid these times.
• Staff should be trained in how to help people with accessibility issues (it was noted that those at Blackpool bus station are excellent).
• Use non-slip flooring.
• Include a ‘safe space’, refuge area or quiet room for people with learning difficulties/severe anxiety or disabilities (but this would need to be monitored so it is not abused).
• Close the building at night to deter people from sleeping there.
• Issue highlighted at Huddersfield bus station: security barriers installed at bays create limited turning space, meaning that wheelchair users cannot get onto buses.
• Any barriers around stands need to be full boards not just gates (to avoid guide dogs/sight canes going under them and causing people to walk into to them).
• Use beacon lights that come on in event of fire/emergency and encourage people towards exits (fire alarms have to be visual as well as audible).

Environment and sustainability
• Hedgerows and more green space would be good for wildlife.
• It was noted that the Sainsburys car park is a bird watching spot due to its berry trees and that this type of foliage would be good in the bus station.
• Desire for solar panels – it was noted that these were planned, as well as a green roof and green walls.
• Desire for charging points for electric buses – it was noted that the infrastructure was being put in place to enable this.

Signage
Keep signage similar to what is planned for the new rail station to avoid confusion.
• Include visuals on important signage, including signage for bus routes and bus destinations if possible. As part of this, ask local people how they recognise routes, because many worry whether they are getting on the right bus.
• Signage should be large with appropriate colour contrast. Consider best colours for both the visually impaired and those with dementia and use one consistent colour for queueing areas and another consistent colour for walking areas. Avoid monochromatic colour schemes.
• Signage should be at eye level, including for wheelchair users (or additional eye level additional signs should be added).
• Where possible, signs should also be in Braille (but it was noted that it should be communicated clearly if this is the case). However, it was also noted that repeated usage is the best way someone with accessibility requirements will get used to the bus station and that other types of signs (e.g. audible) can often be a better alternative to Braille.
• Any Real Time Information (RTI) displays should have an audio option, as well as options for other languages.

Wayfinding
• Avoid diagonal crossings and acute angles in pathways.
• The route through the Zion Chapel is a lovely idea.
• Need to consider ease of getting from one stand to another.
• Need for wayfinding lines from the surrounding public realm through the bus station itself – potentially in the form of tactile and/or high contrast paving. This is needed both on the main concourse and at stands to help visually impaired users find the doors. Any tactile markers need to be located at consistent points across all stands (as at Huddersfield station).
• Tactile flooring should be used on road and step edges.
• Need to be able to easily find out what stand you’re at, potentially through tactile guidance on the floor and tactile stand references (not necessarily Braille). Noted an audio button can be helpful, but it can be difficult to find the button.
• Some people prefer talking/audible stands but noted that they need to be robust and well maintained if they are to be effective. They are a particularly useful way of advising when bus doors are opening and what bus is arriving when.
• Audible messaging should be linked to an induction loop. Near frequency radio tags would also be useful – these make sounds depending on how close to a bus stand you are and can be linked to induction loops.
• Announcements need to be loud and clear, but too many can be distressing for those with autism. As a result, unnecessary announcements unrelated to bus travel and safety should be avoided.
• Potential to use Bluetooth beacons to aid wayfinding – Manchester Airport cited as a good example of this. This would also be useful during temporary works. There may be potential to do a pilot study with ‘Beacons on Buildings’ (Microsoft).
• Avoid using glass and metal surfaces that reflect light. If glass surfaces are proposed, ensure that they are patterned to prevent the visually impaired and/or guide dogs walking into them.
• It would be good to link to the SignLive app, which provides sign language interpretation on demand. Other options for providing this interpretation, and translation into other languages, could be explored (e.g. a Skype or conference call hotline).

Toilets
• Desire for an accessible changing facility in the new bus station – you can never have too many in the town centre.
• Toilets will be in a more central location, which will be better.
• Need for a Changing Places toilet as there are none near the bus station.
• Design of toilets needs to be carefully considered – Square Chapel is a particularly good example of accessible toilet design.
• There should be a ‘flow’ within the toilet – potentially moving right around the room from toilet to sink to hand dryer. A problem is that accessible toilets are not designed in a routine way and this can make them hard to navigate for visually impaired users.
• The toilet should be easy to find, and there should be an accessible toilet as well as general public toilets.
• No charging for toilets.
• Consider use of radar keys.

Commercial opportunities
• Several people like the newsagents in the current bus station and are glad that it is being kept in the new design.
• Would be nice to have external seating for a café.
• Accessible technology companies may be interested in developing and supplying some of their services.
Site levels
• The new design is better as there is less need to walk up steep hills. The series of gradual gradients proposed to tackle the existing challenging site levels was appreciated.
• Rochdale bus station a good example of coping with gradient changes.
• A levelling lift, as at Dean Clough, would be very useful. However, it would be better if any lift was slightly further away from steps and bigger than the Dean Clough one.

Connectivity and interchange
• It would be good to have a shuttle bus to the rail station, which should be linked in with the A629 Phase
2 project. There was also a desire for a town centre shuttle bus that goes around the landmarks in the town.
• Scooter hire/wheelchair hire would be beneficial at the bus station. It was noted that Age UK do this in the Woolshops already.
• Any options to change the existing cobbles to retain the shape but make them flatter for the drop off point would be good.
• The current drop-off area is badly situated and, combined with the slope of the site, makes it difficult to change onto a bus. It was noted that in the new bus station the drop off area would be next to the Zion Chapel and have a direct route into the building.
• A bike hub would be good in the town centre, and it was noted that E-bikes are a good option for Halifax. Related to this, it would be useful to have cycle changing facilities at or near the bus station.
• All entrances should be ramped (not just stairs). Any ramps need to accommodate people who may be pushing a wheelchair.
• Winding Road is very busy, especially at peak times, and this may affect the flow of buses leaving the bus station.
• Bus stand design needs to accommodate the space needed for a wheelchair user to get onto the bus using a ramp. Kerbs need to be designed to ensure ramps can be used to board/dismount buses.
• Level drop kerbs at road edges and walkways.
• People struggle carrying shopping from Sainsbury’s and wheel chair users find it hard to access the C68 bus service. There is potential to work with Sainsbury’s to improve signage and ease of use.
• It would be good to have a link to the Maurice Jagger Community Centre, as a number of people with accessibility requirements and the elderly will spend time there.
• Interactive information points to be accessible to people with impaired vision and for users with reading
difficulties.

Comfort and ease of use
• New design looks light and airy. In particular, improved heating and reduced draught will be welcome.
• Would like more casual seating, not just at stands. Seating with spaces for wheelchair users would also be a good addition. When choosing seating, consider the appropriate height and include at least some with arm rests.
• As far as possible, ensure pavements are broad and flat.
• Focus on potential new bus station users who are unsure what to do – make it as easy as possible for them to get around.
• It would be good to have an area where dogs can have access to water.
• It was noted that people with learning difficulties feel much calmer at Huddersfield bus station as the little seating areas next each stop mean they can relax knowing they are at the right stop.
• Automatic doors should be programmed to open and close at the same times/frequencies, so people know what to expect.
• Avoid excessively bright lighting and consider the use of diffused lighting.

Engagement and communication
• Communication should not just sell the new build, but also explain it so that people can easily understand the changes and what that means for them. Any communication should be across a range of channels and in a range of formats.
• Desire to test the bus station out when it is built– suggested preview event for those with accessibility requirements to allow them to familiarise themselves with the site ahead of public use.
• Need to continue engagement throughout the pre-construction period (and during construction) to enable details to be discussed.
• It would be helpful to have a model of the proposed bus station at consultation events for those who are visually impaired to able to visualise the plans. It would also be good to have a microphone and audio loop for speakers at future consultation events.

Other
• Consider the acoustics of the building for the hearing impaired. Can anything be done to muffle the sound, like panels or plants?
• As well as on signage, consider the use of contrasting colours for barriers, doorframes, bins and furniture.
• Healthy Minds should be consulted.
• Need to be aware of people with hidden disabilities.