Blind and visually impaired transit riders often report difficulties with a variety of transit-related challenges, including:
• Planning a safe route between the origin address and the nearest transit stop or station
• Identifying the actual transit stop or station entrance
• Navigating between a transit station entrance and the correct platform
• Identifying which bus or train to board
• Identifying the appropriate stop to deboard
• Navigating between the vehicle and the most appropriate transit station exit
• Planning and following the best and safest route between the transit stop or station and the final destination
Traveling on transit is like sailing a boat. In the same way that a good captain can navigate his sailboat through the roughest waters, avoiding underwater shoals, submerged reefs and dangerous cross currents, Transit Pilot would be able to assist any blind, visually impaired or mobility-impaired transit user to navigate from origin to destination safely and efficiently.
Transit Pilot is envisioned as a smart phone app that uses data provided by transit agencies, other transit riders and other third-party mapping services and social media sites to create a comprehensive and detailed environment where users can plan and execute their trips on transit. Information which would be gathered and used by Transit Pilot would include:
• Detailed network of a metropolitan area’s streets with sufficient detail to pinpoint any physical address as well as the ability to match a smart phone’s current location with a physical address
• Map of all transit routes within the metropolitan area with detailed schedules for each route – For each route, the app would be able to identify the provider, the transit mode (bus, streetcar, trolley, light rail, commuter rail, etc.), the frequency and the days and hours of service.
• Geocoded points for all bus stops and transit stations within the metropolitan area – For each stop or station, the app would be able to identify which routes are served by day of week, time of day, etc.
• Information about the accessibility of specific streets and segments of streets – This information would be able to be directly entered into the app or mined from other social media sites, thereby enabling any subscriber to receive all information, regardless of source.
With the information housed within Transit Pilot, the user would be able to enter starting and ending addresses. With this information, Transit Pilot would present up to five travel itineraries based on user-defined priorities, including, but not limited to: fastest time, all bus, all rail, shortest walking distances, etc. The app would also provide walking directions between the user’s origin and the nearest transit stop or station and between the end point stop or station and the user’s final destination. If there is accessibility-related information available for the user’s path of travel between origin and transit or between transit and destination, the app would provide this information, and because transit stops and stations would be geocoded, Transit Pilot could guide the user to the stop and provide notification to the user when he/she has reached the stop or station. Transit Pilot could also include way-finding information for complex stations which could guide the user between the entrance he/she has entered to the desired platform or stop. At the stop or station platform, Transit Pilot could be designed to interact with transmitters installed in transit vehicle head signs in order to announce the line or destination of approaching vehicles. While on board, the app could use the vehicle’s GPS location to announce major stops or stations and to notify the user of the distance to his/her point of disembarkation. This app would be able to support transfers. At the user’s destination, the app would work in reverse, pointing the way between the transit vehicle and the entrance of the station (if applicable) and on to the user’s final destination.
To make the app more user-friendly, Transit Pilot could include:
• Links to transit agency websites
• Links to transit agency phone numbers with call-out capabilities
• Information about fares and a fare calculator
• Links to post status updates to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
• Ability to message other users and to send itineraries to other users
• Ability to plan simultaneous trips for multiple users—either from the same origin or to arrive at the same destination and at the same time (such as planning trips for multiple attendees of a lunch meeting) (Urban Pulse is an app which possesses at least some of this functionality.)
• Level path-of-travel mode – This mode would conduct all trip-planning using accessible routes and would flag any path-of-travel which is either accessible or which may not be fully wheelchair accessible
There is a lot of development here, but this is the type of app that would help with a number of very difficult transit tasks. These include: route planning, navigation to/from transit stops, identification of the actual stops, determining which vehicle to board, way-finding along a route, identifying the desired stop and navigating between transit and the final destination. This app may also have relevance for people using mobility devices and non-disabled travelers who want a good end-to-end app for planning and executing a trip—and particularly in an unfamiliar city or metropolitan area.
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