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Curtin student helps improve public transport for older transit passengers

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A student-led research team seeking to improve Perth’s transport solutions for the elderly have measured the accessibility of seven Perth railway stations, with Midland topping the list.

Grace Lin, a PhD student from Curtin University’s Department of Spatial Sciences who recently won the national 2014 Esri Young Scholars Award Competition for excellence in geospatial study, led the research which developed a tool for determining train station accessibility.

The team then tested the tool on Cannington, Claremont, Greenwood, Midland, Murdoch, Warnbro and Warwick stations, using government information and data gathered directly from transit users.

Ms Lin said by looking at the factors affecting accessibility, the study found Murdoch and Midland to be the most accessible to the elderly, while Greenwood was found to be the least.

“By mapping and analysing the location of key infrastructure, such as ramps and lifts, alongside direct road access, park and ride options and the community’s perceptions, we provided a comprehensive picture of each station’s accessibility,” Ms Lin said.

“For instance, Midland had really great walking accessibility, with shopping opportunities and health care right nearby the station, which was reflected in its high patronage.

“On the other hand Greenwood had the lowest elderly patronage of the seven stations examined, and also had low seat availability, lack of street parking, low intermodal connectivity and far away shopping opportunities.”

Dr Jianhong (Cecilia) Xia and Dr Todd Robinson of Curtin’s Department of Spatial Sciences co-supervised Ms Lin’s PhD study.

Dr Xia said this was one of the very first studies that used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to provide an insight into issues surrounding accessibility to transport in Perth, and would be used to build a framework for future infrastructure placement.

She said the study was particularly relevant for Perth, where railway transport makes up a large share of daily travel undertaken by residents.

“Data from 2011 showed nearly one in 10 people living in Perth boarded a train every day,” Dr Xia said.

“At the moment, about one-fifth of Perth’s population is aged older than 60, and this number is expected to drastically increase as a result of the ‘baby boomer generation’ coming through.

“This group is wealthier, healthier and more involved in activities than previous generations of the same age, therefore it is critical to ensure train stations are accessible to the population of Perth and will remain so over the long-term.”

The Esri Young Scholars Award competition celebrates excellence in geospatial study and, more specifically, the creative use of GIS technology – or smart mapping – to solve commercial and community issues.

For winning the competition, Ms Lin will attend the United States’ Esri User Conference in July and will present her project to more than 15,000 spatial science professionals.

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