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Brooklyn News Review

MTA piloting device to automatically secure wheelchairs in place on buses

The MTA is piloting a device allowing wheelchair users to automatically secure themselves in place on buses, without the assistance the driver.

Q’Straint‘s Quantum Self Securement Station will be added to ten buses on the M7 line, running between Chelsea and Harlem, by the end of the week, the MTA said Monday afternoon, and will remain in place for a six-month pilot. The buses with the Quantum tech will be denoted with a decal on the outside.

The tech is designed to allow riders using wheelchairs to secure themselves in place just by pushing a button. Once a rider is in place against the “backrest,” they can push the button on the bottom of a seat and let the device’s “securement arm” lock against their wheels. To disembark, a rider can request a stop and then simply push the button again to release the device’s grip, get off the bus, and be on their merry way.

That’s in contrast to the status quo, where a bus driver has to assist a mobility-impaired person to secure them in place in a bus’s wheelchair-accessible area.

The button on the Quantum device.MTA

“We are excited to test this new automated technology that can greatly improve the commuting experience of passengers who use wheelchairs,” said Rich Davey, president of MTA New York City Transit, in a statement. “It allows customers to board and secure themselves more quickly and effortlessly, while requiring minimal to no assistance from the bus operator – promoting independence and autonomy over their own journey.”

Bus drivers can still assist riders in using the device, but it is designed to be usable without any assistance. The MTA hopes that the device can streamline the boarding process for passengers with disabilities.

“I am thrilled that the MTA has started this pilot program and think this could be a game changer for bus riders and operators,” said Dustin Jones, a wheelchair user and advocate for disabled riders as president of Unite for Equal Access NY. “In addition to having the traditional securement spot, the new Quantum self-securement system will allow more freedom and access to passengers who use wheelchairs, giving us the option to secure ourselves with little to no help from the operator.”

Jones got to take the securement device for its inaugural spin on the M7 on Monday.

The pilot comes on the heels of another major accessibility pilot on MTA buses, with the agency retrofitting buses with space to fit open strollers, a longtime point of contention for parents. In March, the MTA announced it would expand the stroller pilot to more than 1,000 buses on 57 routes by this fall.