Travel Assistance Device Deployment to Transit Agencies
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Travel Assistance Device Deployment to Transit Agencies

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      Final Report
    • Abstract:
      The ability to travel where and when one desires is a basic requirement for independent living that most people take for granted. To travel independently, a transit rider practices at least 23 skills including finding the route, arriving at the correct stop on time, and determining when to exit at destination. Travel trainers who provide one-on-one instruction on public transportation, report that recognizing a landmark near the desired bus stop, requesting a stop at the proper time, and exiting the bus at the destination stop are among the most challenging skills to master for individuals with cognitive disabilities. Parents/guardians are often reluctant to encourage the use of fixed-route transit due to their own hesitations about a person's abilities and well being. Prior studies by the research team developed the Travel Assistance Device (TAD) mobile phone software application that addresses these challenges and supplements the trainer’s instruction. TAD provides various informational prompts including the audio messages “Get ready” and “Pull the cord now!” and vibrates to alert the rider to pull the stop cord. These prompts are delivered to the rider in real-time as he or she rides the bus using the embedded global positioning system (GPS) technology in off-the-shelf cell phones. TAD’s real-time location of the rider can be viewed by the travel trainer or family member through a Web page. Previous testing of TAD with the local transit trainer and 12 cognitively disabled individuals on the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) bus system successfully demonstrated this proof of concept. Even with TAD’s standards-based approach, the challenges of deploying TAD to other areas – both technical and resource requirements – were largely unknown. This project deployed TAD to four additional transit agencies in Miami-Dade, Broward, Sarasota, and Pinellas counties in Florida and identified the technical, policy, and administrative hurdles for the adoption of TAD at transit agencies. These deployment tests demonstrate that the TAD application performs successfully in additional cities by using commercially available GPS-enabled cell phones and existing bus stop and schedule datasets provided by transit agencies in the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format. The diversity in how transit agencies provide travel training services, and the extent of the assistance provided by travel trainers, will affect the implementation of TAD. In particular, transit agencies will likely require a local champion, at least in the preliminary stage, to coordinate with early users of TAD at the agency and facilitate a smooth adoption of the technology. Furthermore, having the buy-in of top level management seems to be a necessary component to testing TAD, especially at agencies that do not have designated travel trainers. It was concluded that the availability of an active travel-training program better facilitates TAD deployment to that agency. A human behavior analysis study discussed in this report provided supporting evidence that TAD has a positive effect on the ability of individuals with cognitive disabilities to travel independently using public transportation. Implementation of this research will be the operation of the TAD system to serve transit users, particularly novice riders, seniors, tourists, and individuals with disabilities. To achieve that objective, USF’s Division of Patents and Licensing has licensed TAD to Dajuta, a Florida company that will handle the daily operation and support of the TAD system and train travel instructors to use TAD with their trainees.
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