Building Equity into the New Mobility

People with disabilities, older adults, and other populations are often underserved by modern mobility applications because they do not contain or account for key pieces of information about the physical environment, access, and services. This project is designed to supply the sidewalk, transit path, and on-demand transit service information necessary for modern technology applications to provide mobility benefits more equitably.

Why is data equity important?

All travelers need information they can trust. Detailed, accurate data about pedestrian spaces, travel environments, and travel services are crucial for any usable trip planner, trip concierge, wayfinding application, or exploratory mobile application. Many populations, including people with disabilities, older adults, veterans, and suburban and rural populations are underserved by current applications because they are missing key pieces of information about sidewalks, travel environments, and community transportation.

What is the “new mobility”?

“Transportation equity means giving people options to choose from, and letting them pick, what works best for them.” -Amy Huang, Community Capacity Planning Specialist in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods

The adoption of data standards, digital cartography, and data-intensive technologies has transformed mobility and access to travel in the past 15 years. Traveler-facing tools, including mobility and wayfinding apps (such as Google Directions (TM), Transit App (TM), MOOVEL, OneBusAway, and NextBus), have given travelers unprecedented abilities to discover transit services, be conveniently directed to transit locations, be able to compare travel options, filter possibilities by expressing personal travel preferences, and streamline trip information in one application. This convenience should not be underestimated: it is transforming not only travelers’ access to transit information but also how people actually use and experience public transit overall, and it has even been linked with downstream impacts on determinants of health. Through the “new mobility ecosystem,” more people are accessing more destinations with transit than ever before.

However, populations that have historically experienced travel disadvantages have yet to benefit from “new mobility” in the same way. As the transportation industry changes, it is important to reassess access to transit and mobility and, in particular, to ensure that the new ecosystem equitably supports people who have traditionally been transportation disadvantaged. Travelers with disabilities remain under-served because of pressing information needs that would enable equally seamless access to travel but that are currently understudied, unevaluated, and unaddressed.

Starting with data standards

Our team of private and public partners is sustainably building and accelerating the future of equitable mobility and access to transportation by creating, improving, and extending data formats to describe (a) the pedestrian built environment (sidewalks and footpaths) [OpenSidewalks] (b) transportation stations and hubs (from bus stops to multi-level transit hubs) [GTFS-Pathways], and (c) demand-responsive travel services [GTFS-flex].