Improving accessibility to transport in Göteborg (Sweden)

By News Editor / Updated: 27 Mar 2015
In 2005 Göteborg embarked on a six-year project to improve public transport for people with reduced mobility. As part of this, the city’s public transport authority identified and removed obstacles and barriers on streets and public areas, adapting in the process all tram and main bus stops. This, and its other work on improving accessibility, helped Göteborg win an award in 2014 for Europe’s best accessibility project.

Göteborg’s KOLLA (Kollektivtrafik för alla) project, which started in 2005, was a collaboration between the regional Public Transport Authority (PTA), Special Transport Services and Traffic and Public Transport Authority to improve public transport for people with disabilities.

KOLLA consisted of a variety of sub-projects, including a remodelling project to remove obstacles and barriers on streets and public areas, adapting all tram and main bus stops and the 70 most-used ‘ordinary’ bus stops; and expanding the network of the Flexline bus – a special bus service for people with reduced mobility. The PTA invested approx. € 30m in the project between 2005 and 2011.

Göteborg is Sweden’s second-largest city with over 540 000 inhabitants. It approved its transport strategy, Göteborg 2035 Trafikstrategi För En Nära Storstad (available to download below), in February 2014.

In action 
Before commencing the remodelling work, Göteborg’s PTA performed an ‘obstacle inventory’ to identify the work that needed to be done.  This involved selecting at least one pedestrian path in each residential area that would lead to each adapted bus stop, particularly one that had good conditions for people with reduced mobility in terms of width and gradient.
The pedestrian paths were digitally photographed, measured and added to mapping software in hand-held computer used by a PTA employee. About 6 500 ‘easily remedied’ obstacles were inventoried.  They were each given a unique ID code and then, together with the data on the hand-held computer, inputted into a desktop computer for processing. During the transfer to the database, the data is verified and an action report is automatically generated. The reports contain photos and information on each obstacle, and are delivered to the PTA’s building managers for assessment. Some of the elements assessed for potential improvement included:
Pedestrian passages
  • Solutions included creating 6cm raised ‘waiting’ platforms in the middle of zebra crossings for the visually impaired, with a 0cm levelled section beside them for people with disabilities to easily cross the road.
  • The PTA assigned three general solutions: contrast marking, moving or removing. Removal was assigned if the pole reduced the width of the walkway to less than 0.9m.
Ramps and stairs
  •  The PTA considered it mandatory to include railings on both sides of stairs and ramps, with contrast markings on the first and last step.
The KOLLA project also looked to improve the service provides by the Flexline, a bus line for people with reduced mobility that has vehicles with step-free access and a ramp. When the project began, there were eight Flexline buses; today, there are 20 Flexline buses and the network covers almost the whole city.
For more information on Göteborg’s proposed measures, please see the ‘Easily remedied obstacles’ document at the bottom of the page.
Göteborg’s goal was to make all tram and bus-stops accessible to people with reduced mobility. Thanks to the KOLLA project, 83 per cent of tram and tram/bus stops (210 and 104, respectively) and 100 per cent (195) of special bus stops (stops with longer platforms to accommodate longer buses) are now accessible. Just over 40 per cent of ordinary bus stops (1654) have been made fully accessible. In total, Gothenburg hopes to transform 2163 stops, found across 824 different locations. The KOLLA project also installed a number of new benches; improved ramps, stairs and crosswalks; and removed, marked and moved a number of poles. In one neighbourhood alone, Majorna, around 700 obstacles were addressed to the cost of € 200 000.
The expansion of the Flexline was completed as scheduled and most of the bus stops that were planned to be rebuilt were finished. Those that weren’t are planned for major reconstruction in the future. The reconstruction of the stops was the most expensive part of the KOLLA project, exceeding 300m Swedish krona (€ 32.2m). Half of all old and new trams and buses were also equipped with ramps during the project, while software in the vehicles was replaced to enable electronic information displays at bus stops to work properly. 
To see photographs of some of the improvements, see the bottom of the page.
Challenges, opportunities and transferability 
Göteborg was able to implement the KOLLA project because it calculated that it would eventually pay for itself; the improvements would lessen the need for people with reduced mobility to use special transport services, thus decreasing the associated operational costs. Over the course of the five-year project, which ended in 2010, the number of special transport services dropped by 220 000 trips – an equivalent saving of about 35m Swedish krona (€ 3.8m).
A new pricing system was planned to be introduced as part of the project, but politicians at a special transport committee rejected the proposals, citing fears that the system was ‘too segregating’.
Göteborg says that cities thinking of embarking on similar projects should consider that changing habits and attitudes among travellers – and city employees – takes time. Consultations with the traveller target group and its related organisations were very important, as were ensuring that the improvements were co-ordinated well and implemented at the same time. A culture of regular feedback in this process is essential. The city also provides training for all public transport employees on how to be aware of the needs of travellers with disabilities. A recent passenger survey showed that satisfaction with how drivers treat passengers and how they drive is now at 92 per cent – a 5 per cent rise since the surveys started in 2008.
The city´s leadership has set clear and ambitious goals in its 2015 budget on how accessibility for people with reduced mobility should further improve.  One of the goals is to remove easily remedied obstacles in all municipal public buildings and public places by 2018. Addressing an individual’s needs is at the heart of the city’s vision – particularly improving their ability to participate in the ordinary labour market. Göteborg ultimately hopes to help match employers and job-seekers. Improving accessibility for people with reduced mobility is a key factor in this goal.
Walking and cycling
Transport for people with reduced mobility
Northern Europe
Roland Ahlgren
News Editor
27 Mar 2015
27 Mar 2015