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App Makes Public Transit Easier for Riders with Disabilities

INIT Innovations in Transportation, which has developed software for use with buses, light rail and trains since 1999, designed ASSISTIVEtravel, a passenger information and journey planning app.

public transit_shutterstock_1146028094
Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen
(TNS) — A company based in Chesapeake, Va., has launched an app designed to make public transit more accessible to riders with visual, hearing and mobility impairments.

INIT Innovations in Transportation, which has developed software for use with buses, light rail and trains since 1999, designed ASSISTIVEtravel, a passenger information and journey planning app.

Ann Derby, INIT’s director of marketing and events, said the app is available only in Singapore at this point.

But, she said, as more countries become more inclusive, there will be a huge demand for technology that helps impaired riders use mainstream transit services.

“If the impaired are able to move around independently, they will be able to work and pay taxes,” Derby said. “So far, many countries have offered para transit services for the impaired rider, but the investment costs are high compared to a technology enabling these passengers to use the same public transit system that is offered to the larger population.”

The app was born out of two research projects: the first was to develop a public transit system that provided barrier-free access for passengers with special mobility needs and the second focused on the interfaces between the vehicle and the mobile devices of the passengers.

Derby said INIT used the knowledge acquired in the two projects to develop the ASSISTIVEtravel app, which was launched in 2019 in partnership with the Singapore’s Land Transport Authority.

“The move behind the creation of this app comes from the government mandates to include and accommodate people with disabilities to ride public transit,” Derby said.

Derby said it’s equivalent to having a travel companion to guide you through your journey.

“For instance, a mobility-impaired rider can alert the driver before the bus arrives that he is in a wheelchair,” Derby said. “The driver can respond that there is a wheelchair space available on board and that he can help him board, if necessary.”

The app, which triggers external announcements to a rider, provides a sense of security to alert them that the bus is nearby.

“In fact, when the app was first launched in Singapore, a visually impaired rider actually broke into tears when she heard the bus arrival announcement for the first time,” Derby said. “For her, the announcement removed the worry of being left at a stop or getting on the wrong bus.”

Other features include lists of bus stops, maps with augmented reality and trip status notifications.

Dirk Weisser, INIT’s head of research and development, said they are very proud to have created a solution that provides barrier-free mobility to riders.

“Usually you think of barriers as steps or stairs, the height of a vehicle, sidewalks or wheelchair incapacity on board the vehicle,” Weisser said. “We have torn down the barriers beyond these outside forces. We are enabling people to participate in public transport, empowering them to live, work and enjoy life the same as anyone else.”

The cost for the app is dependent on an agency’s fleet management system, but can be implemented with or without an INIT fleet management system.

The app can be configured based on individual agency specifications or country requirements.

Derby said there is interest to implement it in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Europe, including Verona, Italy.

©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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