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Device gives Manatee wheelchair bus riders independence

Quantum, shown above, is a device being tested by Manatee County Area Transit that allows wheelchairs and motorized scooters to lock in on a bus without the help of the bus driver. Quantum is on one MCAT bus and it's route is along Manatee Avenue West from Interstate-75 to the Manatee County Public Beach.
Quantum, shown above, is a device being tested by Manatee County Area Transit that allows wheelchairs and motorized scooters to lock in on a bus without the help of the bus driver. Quantum is on one MCAT bus and it's route is along Manatee Avenue West from Interstate-75 to the Manatee County Public Beach.

Manatee County Area Transit is evaluating a new device that gives bus riders who use a wheelchair more independence while boarding and exiting.

Wheelchair passengers who board the one bus testing “Quantum” can simply roll into the device’s wheelchair securement station as a car might roll onto an automatic car wash then push a button allowing their chair to be automatically locked in without the help of the bus driver.

“It provides independence for the passengers,” said MCAT Transit Manager William Steele. “But it also saves time because the operator doesn’t have to get up and it’s less cumbersome because you don’t have to use old-fashioned securement straps and four-point tie-downs. It seems like a win, win, win proposition.”

Q-Straint, the company that makes Quantum, calls it “the transportation industry’s first fully automatic rear-facing wheelchair securement station” and touts that the operation takes less than 25 seconds.

MCAT is one of a number of Florida transit systems in a pilot program to test the device for Q-Straint, which hopes it will be included in the next statewide bus procurement contract in Florida, Steele said.

After the bus driver lowers the ramp, the wheelchair bus rider, if able to mount the ramp without help, then enters the station without turning around and without driver assistance, Steele said.

Once the Quantum device locks the chair in by activating a clamp, the wheelchair rider would be facing the other passengers, something that Steele will also evaluate to see if that creates any discomfort for the wheelchair riders.

Those who would like to help MCAT evaluate Quantum can find the one bus on MCAT’s Route 3 – which offers passengers 30-minute service frequency along the Manatee Avenue corridor from Interstate-75 to Manatee County Public Beach, Steele said.

Quantum will also secure powered scooters, Steele added.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

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