- Suppose we define a "special transportation need" as a need not possessed by the
majority of the population.
This is a significant concept, because if a transport system is to be viable and
to have the potential to relieve traffic congestion then it must cater for the
majority. That is why when most of the London Underground was built, it catered
for the majority but not for wheelchair users.
Nowadays we rightly want our transport system to cater for significant
minorities as well. But there's no point in designing a transport system for
them if it makes the route unable to fulfil its function for the majority. I
once travelled on a rural bus route where the driver told me that his company
had had to buy a new vehicle (with higher fuel consumption) to fulfil
inclusivity requirements, and he also showed me where money had been spent to
enable level boarding at a village bus stop -- a facility that had never been
needed. Several years later the service was axed. What good was that to anyone ?
I think it is generally accepted that 1 wheelchair space in a bus is equivalent
to 5 spaces for people belonging to the majority. I presume this refers to
standing space, but even a seat takes less space than a wheelchair because
people don't need so much room to manoeuvre into it. I mention this in order to
make the point that the need for seats by the majority is by no means equivalent
to the need for wheelchair space, even though both are needs that the transport
system should aim to meet.
As for public announcements, they are certainly not a "special need" for hearing
people, who managed quite well without them until recently. Wasn't one of the
main driving forces behind their provision another minority class, people with
restricted sight ?
The issue of whether dignitaries have special needs is one that has long been
controversial in London, where diplomats have claimed exemption from parking
charges and the congestion charge, and now there is the question of bus lanes
and pedestrian crossings being suspended so that Olympic officials and sponsors
can whizz around in their supercars. My own opinion is that if diplomats want to
use their cars they should have to pay for it, and having given a commitment to
"green" the Olympics London should surely be entitled to ask officials and
sponsors to find other means of getting around.