Low floor wheelchair buses are nothing new – it was over two decades ago that they first appeared in Melbourne. You might expect finding an accessible bus shouldn’t be too hard, but unfortunately for anyone who has trouble making their way up stairs, high floor buses are still common in one part of Melbourne.
The Public Transport Victoria website has this to say about accessible buses.
More than 80 per cent of Melbourne’s bus services are wheelchair-accessible on weekdays. Most bus services are wheelchair-accessible on the weekend and public holidays, except bus routes 453, 455, 457, 458 and 459, which operate in the Melton area and bus routes 431, 432 and 404, which operate in the Footscray / Yarraville area.
However the above raises more questions – why should Melbourne’s west miss out on wheelchair accessible buses on weekends?
When you look at who operates the listed bus routes, a possible reason soon starts to emerge.
The common factor is Sita Buslines – which raises the questions as to why they don’t have wheelchair accessible buses.
Digging deeper into the company’s fleet is easy – on the ‘Australian Bus Fleet Lists‘ enthusiast website you can find a list of every virtually every single bus in Australia, broken down by bus operator – the fleetlist for Sita Buslines is here.
After some time spent massaging data in Excel, I came up with this table.
|High floor||Low floor||Total|
I then collated the delivery dates of the current Sita Buslines current fleet, broke it down by high and low floor, and then graphed the results.
So what does that tell us about the Sita Buslines fleet?
- over thirty percent of their buses are still high floored,
- as late as 1999 brand new high floor buses were still being purchased,
- it took until 2001 for Sita to receive their first low floor bus,
- widespread adoption of low floor buses didn’t start until 2008.
For the purposes of comparison, in 1995 Melbourne’s first low floor bus entered service, and by 1999 virtually every operator in the city had at least one in their fleet. In the years since, high floor buses have been progressively retired as they reach their end of life, being replaced by the low floor buses that are seen in service today.
It makes the Sita Buslines of the late-1990s look a little backwards, doesn’t it?
The Victorian Government ‘Accessible Public Transport Action Plan 2013-17‘ included the following table showing current progress against the DSAPT (Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport) targets.
From an initial inspection it looks like Sita Buslines had no trouble meeting the 2012 target, despite their apparent early dislike of low floor buses.
Note that Sita Buslines isn’t the only bus company in Melbourne still with high floor buses – Transdev has a handful of buses dating back from the early 1990s still in service, albeit only in peak hour.
Over on the Australian Transport Discussion Board ‘venturatiger’ posted a section of photos of Melbourne’s early low floor buses – at the time operators treated them as the pride of their fleet, and painted them in special liveries to promote the lack of steps.