February 13, 2021
By Emily F. Keller
U.S. DOT Awards $11.45M to UW Transportation Data Equity Initiative

A project led by the University of Washington (UW) to develop transportation technology for people with mobility needs, who are underserved by current mobility applications, has received an $11.45 million federal grant.

The Transportation Data Equity Initiative is a collaboration between two UW centers, Microsoft, Google, the Washington Department of Transportation, and other public and private partners.

The initiative is led by Anat Caspi, director of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology within the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the UW; and co-leader Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center. They are one of 15 teams receiving a total of more than $41 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in January 2021 for innovative technologies to improve transportation mobility and access for people with disabilities.

The project is based on OpenSidewalks, led by Anat Caspi and Nick Bolten, which was developed by the Taskar Center to augment standard street navigation data to better serve travelers with a wide range of mobility needs. Data such as sidewalk availability, whether traffic lights have auditory cues, transit station features, or steepness of a hill can improve mobility applications for those who are currently underserved by directions that are based only on the shortest route. OpenSidewalks, an affiliate project of the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative, was initially launched in 2016 as a project in the UW Data Science for Social Good program.

According to UW News, “The team will develop consistent data standards related to the pedestrian environment, transportation stations and hubs, and on-demand transit services, such as paratransit and rural community shuttles. The team will then publish and maintain APIs and data tools that will support apps consuming the data.”

In addition, three demonstration applications will be built to support trip planning for people with mobility limitations, people who are blind and visually impaired, and older adults and multilingual travelers. For more information visit https://transitequity.cs.washington.edu/.