Assisting New Transit Riders, Including those with Disabilities, via an App Designed for All

Project ID: CTEDD 017-05

Author(s): Sean J. Barbeau, University of South Florida

CTEDD Funding Year: 2017 General RFP

Project Status: Complete

UTC Funding: $65,000

End Date: April 1, 2019


Planning and riding public transportation can be particularly daunting for new transit riders, especially those with intellectual disabilities. Transit agencies are also challenged with balancing the demand for paratransit services and its rising costs. Additionally, paratransit can be limiting to riders – advance registration of 24 hours or more is often required to book trips and there are often long waiting times. Riders receiving travel training to use fixed-route transit gain the freedom to travel more frequently, attend job interviews and work, and become more involved in the community.

Therefore, it is in the interest of both the transit rider and the transit agency to support technologies that can aid individuals to travel independently using fixed-route transit. However, it is often difficult to commercialize and deploy technology designed only for individuals with disabilities due to the small market size.

This project enabled the large-scale deployment of technology originally created to help new transit riders, riders using a new route, and riders with intellectual disabilities by embedding it in a popular mainstream open-source real-time information transit app OneBusAway. OneBusAway has over 340,000 existing users in seven cities, and, because it is open-source, new features can be added by the universities, transit agencies, and developers that participate in the project.

This project addressed several of the most difficult skills for new transit riders to master – the real-time navigation process of recognizing an upcoming stop, requesting a stop, and exiting the bus. Integrating the feature into OneBusAway avoids traditional sustainability pitfalls associated with products designed only for users with disabilities by making it relevant for all transit riders, including those with disabilities. By leveraging an existing app with a sustainable model and support of an open-source community, transit riders with disabilities will have access to a key technology that enhances their quality of life and independence.