Easier, more complete travel for underserved communities

Easier, more complete travel for underserved communities
Jul 15, 2021
2 MIN. READ
We’re combining technology deployment, operations support, and stakeholder engagement strategies to help travelers with access and mobility challenges

Inaccessible, inefficient, or unaffordable transportation is a barrier for many underserved communities. It can mean limited job opportunities. Missed healthcare appointments. Inconsistent school attendance. And can hinder the ability of community members to achieve a higher standard of living.

Consideration for a traveler’s journey

We’re part of a team addressing transportation accessibility challenges in Buffalo, New York, one of five pilot sites for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Complete Trip - ITS4US program.

The ITS4US program seeks ways to solve mobility challenges for all travelers through innovation. But with specific consideration for people with disabilities, older adults, low-income individuals, veterans, and limited English proficiency travelers. It also contemplates all stages of a traveler’s journey—including key transitions like boarding a vehicle or navigating to or inside a building—enabling a "complete trip."

The ITS4US Buffalo pilot project will initially focus on travel to, from, and around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and nearby neighborhoods by developing an accessibility-focused transit trip planning app, community shuttles, wayfinding, and indoor navigation technologies.

“In the first phase, we’re supporting the development of the concept and the detailed deployment plan for the pilot,” explains Deepak Gopalakrishna, project manager of the Buffalo ITS4US pilot. This phase will involve a robust stakeholder engagement strategy that includes public- and private-sector partners, as well as the general public, to identify user needs and develop solutions to improve trip making and travel in the pilot area.

End-to-end travel support

The goal of the pilot is to create a system that is an end-to-end travel companion for travelers with disabilities or with mobility needs. The system provides turn-by-turn directions and includes active trip-making support. It also integrates with existing and new transit services, including a proposed on-demand community shuttle service that includes electric self-driving shuttles as part of the fleet. 

We also intend to include location identification technologies around the campus for wayfinding and navigation support. Additionally, two intersections on campus will be fitted with mobile communications connectivity intended to help pedestrians with low vision locate the crosswalk, align themselves, and safely cross the intersection.

“Through this pilot, we are planning to improve the ability of employees, nearby residents and visitors, especially travelers with disabilities or mobility needs, to access the medical campus for essential services and transit connections.” – Jaime Hamann-Burney, BNMC Inc.

“Design choices play a big role in travelers choosing to use public transit services. The earlier you factor in the needs of underserved groups and how you factor their needs into the technology is key to increasing use of transit in Buffalo,” Robert Jones, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority says. “It’s gratifying to know that the pilot will enable increased use of transit to groups of people who often have trouble accessing essential services. Technology deployed in this pilot could be a model for other parts of Buffalo as well."

 

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