Center Identification Number: 77711
Project Title: Travel Assistant Device (TAD) to Aid Transit Riders with Special Needs
Sean J. Barbeau
Philip L. Winters
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
External Project Contact:
Public Transportation Office
I. Project Objective/Problem Statement
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recognizes that the benefits of
transit such as increased mobility and reduced congestion depend on
increasing ridership. Therefore, one key performance measure of success for
transit agencies is the increase of ridership over the previous year. This
proposal seeks to develop a software application, Travel Assistance Device
(TAD), which uses multimedia cell phones with built-in global positioning
systems to overcome the challenges facing new transit riders, especially
those who are cognitively disabled. This device could increase fixed route
transit use among the cognitively disabled. While riders with cognitive
disabilities are the initial target market for this application, TAD could
be used by any traveler, such as tourists who are unfamiliar with the region
and its transit system.
Navigating the transit system can be a major obstacle for attracting new riders, especially for special needs populations. A range of techniques, from advertising to online trip planners to the use of travel trainers, is used by transit agencies to overcome this barrier to increase ridership. Research has found that current informational materials do not fully meet this need. According to the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), approximately half of the general population surveyed could not successfully plan an entire trip on the fixed-route transit system using printed information materials. This situation is magnified for many of the 50 million Americans with disabilities who depend on transit as their primary means to and from school, work, doctor appointments, and other essential activities. For those with cognitive disabilities (approximately 14.2 million Americans, or 6.9% of the population), it is especially daunting to plan and execute a trip without personal assistance from travel trainers provided by the transit agency or other group, especially on their first few trips.
For example, for travelers who need to journey from home to work via
public transportation, multimedia alarms and reminders can be used to inform
them when to board and when to deboard. Their location would trigger their
phone to alert them to pull the cord for the next stop. These
alarms could take a variety of forms (depending on the specific client),
such as ringing, vibrating, playing a recorded audio message and showing a
picture/video of the next stop or landmark.
Alarms could be triggered if the travelers deviate from their planned route. In addition, other people (e.g., parent or guardian, social worker, and travel trainer) could be notified of such deviation from route. The cell phone provides an easy way for these individuals to contact the traveler to advise them of what they are supposed to do next (e.g., get off at the next stop).
CUTR’s prior work, funded by Florida Department of Transportation through the National Center for Transit Research, with Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled pocket PCs and cell-phones, in addition to recent advances in mobile communications technology, have led the research team to conclude that “GPS-enabled” cell phones could serve as personalized Travel Assistant Devices (TAD). That project included the development of software that uses GPS-enabled phones to collect travel behavior data such as travel path and travel speed and provide personalized advice based on that behavior. Another project has demonstrated the ability to collect digital pictures recorded by cell phones and display these images on a map-based web page. Also in final development is the use of using GPS information to deliver targeted text messages based on the location of the cell phone.
The project team will design and develop a software system based on GPS-enabled cell phones to act as a TAD for transit riders. Various forms of informational prompts will be delivered to the rider in a “just-in-time” method such as triggering the phone to ring and vibrate when the rider should pull the stop cord in order to arrive at the correct stop. Other, more complex communications may include delivering an audio message from the phone that would tell the person what to do based on their current location. For the sight or hearing-impaired, the phone’s vibrate feature could alert them to a nearing stop. Automated alarms can also be triggered and the travel trainer remotely alerted if a rider wanders off his or her pre-determined path. Traditional phone communication is possible between the rider and the trainer, which will allow the rider to be guided to the correct location if lost. More advanced information, such as directions or maps based on the current location of the rider, could also be accessed by the trainer or family members at any point.
This project will be conducted in two phases:
The project objectives for Phase 1 include:
The following tasks will be conducted in Phase 1. The development of Phase 2 scope will be part of the final report.
Task 1. Identify requirements for working with individuals with mental/cognitive/physical conditions.
o Review and satisfy USF’s Institutional Research Board (IRB)
requirements for research involving human subjects with mental/cognitive or
Task 2. Conduct literature review and technology assessment.
o Conduct a literature review to investigate the possibility that the
concept is similar or duplicative of other investigations, applications or
Deliverable: Technical Memorandum 1 –Summarizing Task 1 and Task 2
Task 3. Develop Travel Assistant Device software for cell phone and central database software
o Using information gathered in Task 2, identify a particular model
GPS-enabled cell phone for a GPS enabled cell carrier that has multimedia
capabilities and supports 3rd party application access to the GPS data.
Task 4. Develop web page with map interface
o Design and create web page interface including a map using GIS software,
such as the GoogleMaps API.
Task 5. Conduct small scale pilot test with transit riders
o Identify up to six households with transit riders with special needs who
are willing to participate in pilot testing of TAD and are appropriate
Task 6. Phase 1 - Final Draft Report
o Prepare draft final report, including a draft scope for Phase 2 (if
appropriate), and submit for review and comment.
Progress Reports will be submitted on a quarterly basis to the Research Center for processing. The first Quarterly Report will become due 3 months after a Notice to Proceed is issued to the consultant by the Department. The deliverables will be a technical memorandum summarizing Task 1 and Task 2 and a final report, in both draft and final forms, as well as a two page summary to be included in the FDOT “Accessing Transit” report. Once approved by the FDOT Project Manager and the Research Office, the contractually required number copies of the final report, an electronic version, and an electronic version of the project summary will be submitted to the Research Office.
IV. Project Schedule
V. Project Budget
Notes: This budget does not reflect any federal participation. The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above. Budget requests includes salaries for clerical and administrative staff, postage, telephone calls, office supplies, general purpose software, subscriptions, and/or memberships.
Up to 7 cell phones with cellular service will be purchased under this project.
Local travel to test the prototype application and cell phone on public transit will take place.
National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · www.nctr.usf.edu · Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org