New technology provides Palm Tran riders touch-free wheelchair securement on buses

Oct. 29, 2020
Palm Tran is installing a new system to give mobility-challenged passengers greater independence and ensure bus operators maintain safe social distancing.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In a matter of seconds, passengers using a wheelchair can safely secure themselves on buses, without the physical assistance of operators. Palm Tran Public Transportation is in the process of installing the QUANTUM system in all fixed-route buses. 

“This is one of our technological advancements and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton Forbes. “The future of the transportation industry relies on more contactless options and Palm Tran is going to be on the forefront of that movement.”

The QUANTUM system is the only type of wheelchair securement that does not require assistance from bus operators. Mobility passengers can independently push a button that releases the arms of the QUANTUM system, which then locks the wheels into place for the duration of the trip. Subsequently, the passenger can push the same button to release the arms when ready to depart the bus.

“Coming from a background in paratransit, I know how much our riders value that sense of freedom and independence,” said Palm Tran’s Interim Director of Operations Chad Hockman. “Not only does this system affirm their dignity, but I see how much more at ease it puts our bus operators too.”

Palm Beach County is affixed in what was once a hot zone of positive coronavirus cases. Palm Tran is using approximately $1.1 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Actto purchase the new systems made by Q’Straint, an industry provider of mobility solutions for public transit. Hockman said the first system was installed in July and a total of 113 buses within the fleet will have the new technology by the end of the year.

QUANTUM not only gives the option of autonomous use, but it also improves the efficiency along the agency’s routes. From the time the passenger boards the bus, the new system takes less than 60 seconds to secure the wheelchair in place.

“Protecting our frontline workers is always a priority,” added Forbes. “But to operate safer and swifter is truly an accomplishment.”

While the new devices provide contactless wheelchair securement for one passenger in a wheelchair, operators will assist if a second passenger in a wheelchair needs to board the bus. Operators will also lend assistance if the wheelchair ramp is out of order.

Palm Tran took numerous steps to ensure the safety of bus operators- such as implementing rear-door boarding and installing plexiglass barriers before fares were reinstated. Palm Tran also confirmed the agency is in the process of developing a touchless payment system.

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Nov. 6, 2013