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Most Mobility Scooters Too Long For Public Transit

August 9, 2012 Accessibility, Featured, Public Transit 9 Comments

We’ve all seen television commercials advertising how a mobility scooter can make life easier for adults with mobility issues:


But ever notice they don’t show users on public transit? There’s a reason why, the length of these scooters means they aren’t ADA-compliant and thus have a hard time flitting in transit vehicles (both buses and trains).

Pride is a manufacturer of scooters and power chairs, many of their 3-wheel scooters are 40+ inches long and 4-wheel scooters are 47+ inches long. By contrast, my Jazzy 600 Powerchair, also by Pride, is just 36.5″ long. Why does this matter?

Several times this year I’ve seen others with long scooters trying to travel on the bus. These scooters barely fit on the lift and maneuvering them inside the bus is nearly impossible. Twice now I’ve had to move to give them the extra space to turn around. One wanted seats up on both sides to give him enough room to make a circle, he was visibly upset when the bus driver told him that wasn’t possible since one chair was already on board, my chair.

ABOVE: Mobility scooters exceed the maximum length allowed within ADA-compliant spaces, such as transit buses

Similarly, on light rail they can’t get into the fold-up seat area without blocking the aisle. Turning around is also impossible when trains are crowded.

People are buying these devices not designed for use on public transit or in ADA-compliant bathroom stalls and getting upset when it proves difficult. If you, a friend, or a relative need a device to help with mobility consider the overall length if it’ll be used on public transit.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I looked up the owner’s manual for one of Pride’s Quantum products and found the following warnings:

    Avoid exposure to rain, snow, ice, salt, or standing water whenever possible. Maintain
    and store in a clean and dry condition.

    Do not lift the mobility vehicle while seated in it.

    WARNING! Never sit on your power chair when it is being used in connection with any
    type of lift/elevation product. Your power chair was not designed with such use in mind
    and any damage or injury incurred from such use is not the responsibility of Pride.

    Pride recommends that you do not remain seated in your power chair while traveling in a motor vehicle.

    That said, there’s rules and disclaimers and then there is reality. People like you, who rely on public transportation, will ignore these disclaimers and cautions. And the greater the mobility impairment, the more likely that they will be ignored (because the alternative is no mobility), which leads to the challenges facing transit operators – are the chairs (getting?) “too big” or “too heavy”? Or should we be designing for the bigger and heavier chairs? (I’m guessing that the ADA regulations are based around manual chairs and the 95th percentile human, not morbidly obese people and lead acid batteries.) It boils down to where we “draw the line” – we can certainly accommodate anything or anyone, but at what cost? Most bus lifts are designed for a maximum load of 450 pounds. Bumping that up by a third, to 600 pounds, would likely double the cost. It’s not right to discriminate against anyone with a disability, but how much should (and can) we spend to mainstream members of a minority, at the expense of the majority? And when do we just say “Sorry”?

    • Eric says:

      Who needs bus lifts anyway? In other cities I have seen ramps lying on the bus floor, with hinges next to the door, which swing out to the curb and then the wheelchair can roll up them. Seems much cheaper and more reliable.

      • The new buses Metro has are the low-floor type, manufacturers only sell this type now. Older buses with lifts are getting phased out as new buses are put into use.

    • The issue of being seated in a moving vehicle has to do with it being top heavy, and the risk of tipping over when the vehicle makes turns. Some transit agencies secure the chair against tipping (Madison Co, KC, Greyhound). Metro and others ask and let the user decide. I decline but hold only to the adjacent seat back when turning.

      Former Metro drivers told me prior generation lifts would sometimes dump those on the lift — not good. With the new low-floor buses a ramp is used, not a lift. The amount of space provided, including turning space, just isn’t enough for some models of mobility devices.

  2. Has Metro tried to address the issue of people with walkers? People using walkers can’t climb up the stairs of the old style buses, but are not allowed to use the lifts. Perhaps they can use the newer low-floor buses, but you never know which type of bus will arrive at your stop. Seems like people with walkers are shut out of normal bus transit. are they forced to use the call-a-ride?

    • I’ve seen people with walkers use the lift.

      • That’s interesting. I personally have never seen anyone with a walker board a bus. I was told by a former Metro employee that using the lift was not allowed because the person in the walker might fall.

        • That employee must have been mistaken, the lifts have a handle on each side for a standing person to hold on.

        • That former employee is mistaken. The lift is designed for anyone who can not use the steps per ADA regulations. Just like the drivers is supoose to kneel the bus everytime they open the door to board or exit a passenger. A lot of drivers don’t want to do it so they make up untruths because they know the public is unaware and will tke their word for it.


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