November 21, 2021
By Emily F. Keller
OpenSidewalks Collaboration with King County Metro and MV Transportation Wins METRO Innovative Solutions Award

A METRO Innovative Solutions Award was recently awarded to King County Metro (KCM) and MV Transportation for the development of CommonPaths, a new application that collects and integrates granular data about sidewalk and pathway conditions that influence pedestrian mobility, including for people with disabilities. The application can provide a basis for generating automated accessibility condition analysis, providing navigation instructions, and supporting transportation planning and research.

According to the CommonPaths website “CommonPaths is a multi-tenant GIS recording and reconciliation system to collect, process, and distribute pedestrian pathway data. The system can collect and serve high-fidelity pedestrian pathway information in a standardized and computable format. It can accurately describe, translate and serve the data in a usable and actionable format for consumption by various applications and users with mobility impairments.”

CommonPaths was built in partnership with the University of Washington’s (UW) Taskar Center for Accessible Computing Technology and OpenSidewalks, an affiliate project of the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative that was initially developed by Anat Caspi and Mark Hallenbeck in the 2016 Data Science for Social Good program at the UW eScience Institute.

OpenSidewalks uses community engagement and crowdsourcing to collect detailed data on pathway features like steep hills, curb cuts, uneven surfaces, and crossing street traffic, which are not consistently or uniformly collected as part of the transportation network. OpenSidewalks suggests standardized, transportation network-focused methods for collecting this data, and seeks to ensure data consistency and longevity through the use of OpenStreetMap, open standards and open technology.

As Alex Roman writes in Metro Magazine, “CommonPaths’ novel approach to pedestrian pathway data collection has revolutionized the way KCM collects data and assesses pathways in the built environment, which will lead to more accurate routing instructions for pedestrians and enable new tools and analysis techniques for measuring transit system accessibility, while reducing overall cost, complexity, and uncertainty for the agency.”

Following the first release of CommonPaths in early 2021, serving KCM and the Seattle and Puget Sound region, MV Transportation has promoted an expanded version of the system to transit agencies nationally as “MV Pathways.”