ROCHESTER, Minn. — A school district here recently equipped one of its fleet's transit vans with a dual-entry system to provide transportation access to ambulatory students and those who use wheelchairs.
Rochester Public Schools installed the AbiliTrax Shift N Step system to one of its three Ford Transit Vans in December, Jeff Kappers, the district’s transportation manager, told School Bus Fleet. The district uses its transit vans to transport the majority of its special-needs students and some general-education students, he added.
The Shift N Step system allows operators to shift a 34-inch wide, side-mounted wheelchair lift on a Ford Transit Van so ambulatory students can access the vehicle’s side door, according to AbiliTrax. Once the driver activates the system, the wheelchair lift shifts rearward allowing for ambulatory access.
“With the Shift N Step installed at the side door we can now provide access for all by allowing wheelchair and ambulatory passengers to enter and exit through the same OEM door,” Kappers said. “With the lift shifted back during transport, we now have a full-time emergency access path, which is a significant safety advantage to all our passengers.”
In addition to its three transit vans, Rochester Public Schools currently operates 135 route buses, 31 seven-passenger vans, and a handful of spare buses.
“The Ford Transit Van equipped with [this] AbiliTrax mobility product has brought a new level of access, efficiency, and drivability to our special transportation service,” Kappers said. “Our plans are to put more of these vans into service, and because CDLs are not required for this size of vehicle, our access to drivers is much better as well.”
The Shift N Step system was distributed to Rochester Public Schools by North Central Bus Sales in St. Cloud, Minn.