Transportation Data Equity Initiative

Detailed, accurate data about pedestrian spaces, travel environments, and travel services are crucial for trip planners, trip concierges, wayfinding applications, and exploratory mobile applications—particularly those that serve the needs of people with disabilities, older adults, veterans, and suburban and rural populations. This multi-year effort will contribute to a “new mobility ecosystem” that will allow more people to access more destinations than ever before.

This project, led by researchers at the UW Taskar Center for Accessible Technology and the Washington State Transportation Center, will develop a national pipeline of sidewalk data intended to help all people navigate more easily. The project will also help extend the national data standards for on-demand transit services (GTFS-Flex), which are used extensively by people with disabilities, and for the mapping of multi-level transit stations (GTFS-Pathways).

The project will demonstrate the use of those data and standards in three applications. An extension of the Taskar Center’s multi-modal, accessible travel planner Access Map will facilitate A-to-B trip planning for people with mobility limitations. An expansion of Microsoft’s Soundscape app will help blind and visually impaired people navigate the environment. And a 3-D virtual simulation tool built by Unity Technologies will allow older adults and multilingual travelers to navigate transit stations. The applications will be deployed in six counties: two each in Maryland, Oregon, and Washington state.  

Community input and participatory design will be central aspects of the project. The team invites travelers with accessibility concerns and professionals working in the areas of transportation, land-use planning, and human services to participate.

The first year of the project will consist of finalizing the detailed plans required to build the necessary data infrastructure and to develop or improve the software needed for the mobility applications. In years 2 and 3, the researchers will generate the necessary data, extend the data standards, and build/extend the applications. Field tests will be conducted in years 4 and 5. 

Affordable and reliable transportation allows people access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing, and community life. Transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. Developing and deploying these tools, and their use of accurate, detailed information about pedestrian spaces, travel environments, and travel services, will help address the needs of pedestrians of all abilities and will be important to creating healthy, inclusive, and resilient cities.

Transportation Data Equity Initiative website

Principal Investigators:
Anat Caspi, Computer Science and Engineering, UW
Mark E. Hallenbeck, Washington State Transportation Center

Sponsor: USDOT

Team members:
Cambridge Systematics
City of Bellevue
Studio Pacifica
Unity Technologies

Participating organizations:
Washington State Department of Transportation
Oregon Department of Transportation
Maryland Department of Transportation
Several corporate partners will also contribute data to the data pipelines

In the News

The Transportation Data Equity Initiative–working to improve mobility for everyone. Generations Today, American Society on Aging, July-Aug. 2021

$11.45 million federal grant will develop transit, mobility tech for underserved groups, UW News, Jan. 27, 2021

U.S. Department of Transportation announces over $41 million in awards for innovative technologies, US Department of Transportation, Jan. 6, 2021