ITS JPO Home | Mobility Services for All Americans Updated December 11, 2014 10:50 AM

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Mobility Services for All Americans
2. Mobility, Accessibility, and Needs, Barriers, and Gaps

2.1 Purpose

The overarching goal of this section is to explore and prioritize the current transportation needs, services, and resultant gaps and barriers experienced by all Americans. It will define the term "transportation disadvantaged" and help the reader gain a general understanding of the general types transportation disadvantage, including:

  • The ways in which these disadvantages affect individual mobility.
  • The barriers that transportation disadvantaged individuals encounter.

By defining disadvantages and barriers to mobility, this section will illustrate how meeting the unique needs of the transportation disadvantaged community can improve the mobility and accessibility of the general population. This section will describe how all Americans access transportation services through four key trip components:

  • Understanding the system (affording and planning their trip).
  • Accessing the transportation at the trip's origin.
  • Entering, using or riding, transferring between, and exiting the transportation during the trip.
  • Arriving at the trip's destination.

The distinction between these trip components is important in because the results of the Foundation Research will discuss (in Sections 3, 4, and 5 of this document) technology solutions and remaining gaps with respect to these trip components. This section will specifically discuss the individual needs that accompany these trip components, especially for those who are transportation disadvantaged. After addressing the mobility and accessibility needs of travelers, this section will examine the current level of the service that has been found in providing transportation. It will highlight some of the success that has been found in meeting the unique needs of the transportation disadvantaged in various environments, including rural, suburban, and urban.

This section will then compare the mobility and accessibility needs with the current level of transportation service that is available; in doing so, it will point out the unmet needs that have been noted by transportation consumers. It will discuss the issues and hurdles to providing service that have compromised service providers' and program administrators' capacity to eliminate gaps.

The MSAA Foundation Research does not explicitly focus on human services transportation coordination; therefore, the discussion on service gaps should be viewed from the perspective of the consumer. The research team recognizes that certain gaps may be transparent to the consumer – for example, the lack of coordination can prevent the consumer's mobility needs from being met, yet the reason for the unmet needs is not directly apparent to the consumer. Since coordination occurs at the provider and agency level, it is discussed from these perspectives in further detail in Section 4 of this document. Section 4 includes the perspectives of:

  • Transportation disadvantaged populations.
  • Transportation service providers.
  • Program administrators.

These perspectives are included because the MSAA task has continually sought to incorporate the perspectives of all transportation communities. Their perspectives document the human services transportation issues, such as human services transportation coordination, that currently exist within each community. Section 4 will discuss in detail the specific hurdles which these groups feel should be overcome immediately and in the future.

2.2 Transportation Disadvantaged

The term "transportation disadvantaged" is defined as "persons who lack the ability to provide their own transportation or have difficulty accessing whatever conventional public transportation may be available." [48] Generally, transportation disadvantaged persons:

  • Cannot provide their own transportation.
  • Cannot use existing travel options or can only use them with great difficulty.
  • Cannot access, or have severely limited access, to transportation.

Several circumstances may affect a person's ability to provide or access transportation:

  • A physical or mental condition that limits an individual's mobility.
  • Low income.
  • Residence in a community that is not well served by public or private transit options.

Broadly, the specific demographic groups that have a tendency to become transportation disadvantaged include:

  • Seniors, especially those who are frail, have disabilities, or have low incomes.
  • Persons with disabilities.
  • Families in poverty and near-poverty.
  • Youths and others who cannot or do not drive.
  • Recent immigrants, non-English speaking persons, and others unfamiliar with public transportation services (such as tourists).

It is estimated that there are 15.5 million people in the U.S. who could be considered transportation disadvantaged, and many more Americans are at risk for becoming disadvantaged. [49] CTAA estimates that 100 million Americans are at risk of becoming transportation disadvantaged because they are unable to provide or afford their own transportation or they depend on others for their mobility. [50]

It is common for people who are transportation disadvantaged to exhibit more than one of the demographic traits discussed above. Minority groups represent a disproportionate number of the transportation disadvantaged population. Another group of people who may become transportation disadvantaged are those with disabilities and 8.1 million people who are transportation disadvantaged have disabilities. [51]

As mentioned above, there are a variety of personal limitations that may cause someone to be classified as "transportation disadvantaged." We have included a summary of these limitations and how they will be referred to later in the document below in Table 2-1.

Table 2-1. Personal Limitations
Personal Limitation Description
Cognitive Person who has a cognitive impairment including, for example, Alzheimer's, developmental disabilities, or other cognitive impairments
Dexterity Person who has limited use of the hands, making it difficult to handle fares or operate switches, knobs, etc.
Endurance Person who is frail or requires personal assistance including persons with weather sensitivities (heat or cold); may not be able to wait for long periods or travel long distances
Experience Person who is not familiar with public transportation and/or the system
Hearing Person who is hearing impaired including deaf and hard of hearing
Low income Person who is low income
Language Limited or no English proficiency; may include inability to read
Physical Person who has physical disabilities especially related to ambulation
Vision Person who is vision impaired including blind and low vision

Generally, people who are transportation disadvantaged have different traveling habits from the general population. Many people who are considered to be transportation disadvantaged work less, shop less (and shop closer to home), make fewer social trips, and do not visit the doctor as frequently as people who are not transportation disadvantaged. In general, they usually:

  • Make fewer trips than other persons.
  • Travel on fewer days of the week.
  • Travel shorter distances, but have a longer travel time per trip.
  • Have fewer travel options if their usual mode of transportation becomes unavailable. [52]

2.3 Transportation Needs

This section discusses the broad needs of general transportation users while highlighting the specific needs of the transportation disadvantaged communities.

To begin, one must understand the entire range of modal alternatives that are available to all users. These modal alternatives are summarized in Table 2-2, along with the abbreviations that will be used to refer to them later in the document.

Table 2-2. Travel Modes
Abbreviation Description
All All modes
DR Typically publicly funded paratransit and other flexibly routed service, including ADA complementary paratransit and general public dial-a-ride
FR Fixed route including bus and rail
HS Human service agency demand-response transportation
TX Taxis
VP Vanpool or carpool

The general public has several basic transportation needs throughout the four key trip components mentioned in the introduction. Again, these trip components include planning the trip, accessing the service, using or riding the service, and arriving at the destination. The specific needs that relate to these actions ensure the overall mobility of an individual. We have assumed that these needs affect all Americans and particularly those who are considered to be transportation disadvantaged. These basic needs include:

  • A need for transportation services in all communities, including rural and suburban communities.
  • A need for familiarity with how to access the transportation services, whether they are public or agency-provided.
  • A need for accessibility of publicly funded vehicles and stations.
  • A need for safe accessibility of transportation services, especially in the pedestrian environment.
  • A need for information about specialized transportation services (e.g., paratransit) such as service schedules, eligibility, and costs that is readily available to people with specialized travel needs in all communities.
  • A need for flexible availability, routes, and accommodation for equipment, escorts, etc. while using transportation services, including specialized transportation services.
  • A need for flexible payment options for transportation services to accommodate those people who need financial assistance in paying for the service.

There are many detailed needs that relate to these items. We have summarized examples of specific needs by trip component in Table 2-3 below.

Table 2-3. Mobility and Accessibility Needs
Trip Component Mobility or Accessibility Need
Understanding the system and planning the trip Need a source to gain experience with the system.
Need comprehensible origin-destination information.
Need legible schedule and fare information.
Need to understand how to transfer between vehicles (if that is necessary to complete the trip).
Accessing the system Need to locate and move to the access point.
Need the access point to be user-friendly.
Need the access point to be located in a safe environment.
Need the access point to be accessible (e.g., distance, sidewalks, waiting areas, etc.)
Need the arrival times to be reliable.
In some cases, the trip may need to be reserved in advance.
Need to understand how/where to pay for the trip.
Need the ability/means to pay for the trip.
Need to be able to recognize the correct vehicle for the trip.
Entering, using, transferring, exiting the vehicles Need to identify and move to the boarding area of the vehicle.
Need to be able to board the vehicle.
Need to pay the fare (this includes being able to afford the fare, having a method of payment available, and being physically able to insert payment into the fare system)
Need to understand on-board announcements.
Need to respond to regular on-board announcements and selected special announcements.
Need to travel on/ride the vehicle while in motion (e.g., need adequate/comfortable seating or standing areas, storage areas, handrails, etc.).
Need to be aware of evacuation procedures while on the vehicle.
Need to be able to evacuate the vehicle in case of emergency.
Need to have reasonable transferring opportunity to other vehicles or modes during the trip.
Need to move to the exit/doorway, exit the vehicle, and reach the platform/destination point.
Arriving at the trip's destination Need to recognize/identify the destination and/or notify the driver of the desired destination.
Need the exit point to be user-friendly.
Need the exit point to be located in a safe environment.
Need the exit point to be accessible to my destination (e.g., walking distance, pedestrian friendly, sidewalks, crossing signals).

At any time, a transportation user may require additional accessibility or service during their transportation to accommodate a special circumstance. Some examples include:

  • Accommodating the special needs of persons with multiple disabilities.
  • Traveling with packages, luggage, or bulky equipment.
  • Taking a trip which requires linked or multi-purpose trips.
  • Having a varied ability to drive or operate another self-controlled vehicle.
  • Having an economic or social consideration that keeps a person in their own home or in a dependent living situation.

While all of these diverse needs should be considered when building or modifying a transportation system, we felt that the broad list of needs required prioritization. In order of importance, the transportation mobility needs are summarized below:

  • The need for service – Simply put, services must exist that facilitate a traveler's desire to move from point A to point B during various times of the day and week.
  • The need to know about the service and how to plan a trip – Unless a traveler is aware of the existence of transportation service and understands how to plan a trip and use the service, the service cannot fulfill that individual's needs.
  • The need for accessibility – Assuming that service is available, that the traveler is aware of the service, and understands how to plan the trip and use the service, the traveler also needs to be physically able to access and exit the system. This need applies to all individuals, but is of particular criticality to many of the nation's transportation disadvantaged.
  • The need for reliability – Advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders clearly identified the need for transportation services to be reliable in terms of the service areas, schedules, and accessibility of vehicles. This is particularly important if transit is to compete as a viable alternative to other modes of transportation.
  • The need for flexibility – Finally, to be of maximum utility to the user, transportation services must be flexible. That is, the services need to be able to accommodate unexpected changes in a traveler's desired itinerary (e.g., change in appointment time, desire to add destinations to a chained trip, etc.).

If the general mobility and accessibility needs are not recognized and met, the ability to travel may be severely compromised; this can also be true for those individuals who have specialized accessibility or service needs. Travel needs become barriers because these needs cannot be fulfilled. For example, understanding fare and schedule information may not be difficult for persons with average cognitive skills, vision or hearing, but a person with limitations in these areas could experience difficulties that would prevent them from using public transit or other transportation services. Barriers are discussed in detail in the next section.

2.4 Barriers

In the case of transportation, a barrier is something that makes it difficult or impossible for a person to understand, access, or use transportation services. Some barriers relate to the general needs of travelers. For example, in some communities, transportation services are either extremely limited. This is clearly a barrier affecting anyone who needs transportation. In general, we have identified several types of barriers that may prevent individual transportation needs from being met. These barriers relate to:

  • Vehicle accessibility. These barriers include any situation that causes difficulty in boarding or disembarking from a transit vehicle, or may prevent people from utilizing services altogether. It would include items that make using transportation especially difficult for disadvantaged groups, including:
    • Having a long distance to walk to access transportation services.
    • Having to go up or down stair to enter or exit a vehicle.
    • Having to move rapidly or in a crowd while on a moving vehicle.
    • Slippery floors, lack of handrails, or not enough seats on vehicles.
    • Not having enough space on the vehicle for mechanical aids.
  • Information. In some cases, people do not access transportation services because they do not know the details in how to do so. These types of barriers include:
    • Pre-trip information (e.g., published schedules, fares, transfer information, routes, etc.) that is hard to understand or unavailable.
    • Riders not knowing when a specific vehicle will arrive at the stop where they are waiting.
    • Riders not knowing when to disembark from the vehicle once they are on board.
  • Financial status. A common barrier for the transportation disadvantaged to encounter is not being able to afford their trips.
  • Funding. A lack of efficient or flexible funding resources (at both State and Federal levels) can prevent government agencies and transportation providers from meeting all the needs of their constituents, especially those in rural areas or those that require specialized services. In some areas, funding constraints can prevent service entirely. In another example, regular maintenance of new or AT (such as ramps) may not be performed due to a lack of funding. For an individual who needs a ramp on the vehicle to access it or for an individual who resides in a rural area and does not own an automobile, the entire transportation system becomes inaccessible.
  • Environmental situations. Environmental barriers inhibit people's ability to get to the transportation services. For example, some people may not access transportation services if there is no shelter from the elements where they wait to access the service. They also may be reluctant to walk from their home to the service if there are unsafe pedestrian street crossings or they are unsure of the route from their home to the access point.
  • Human interaction. People who are transportation disadvantaged may require additional interaction with transportation service employees. Sometimes, there is a lack of staff members who are trained to understand how to meet the needs of disadvantaged communities. Additionally, when utilizing public transportation, there is a lot of interaction with other passengers. When other passengers are unfamiliar with the travel needs of persons with disabilities, for example, this can cause an uncomfortable situation for both parties. If a transportation user perceives that the service they are getting is not user-friendly, or other riders are uncomfortable around them, this may prevent them from accessing the transportation service they need.
  • Service coordination. In some cases, a lack of interagency coordination and cooperation makes it more difficult or confusing for individuals, especially the transportation disadvantaged, to access transportation. Coordination does not necessarily mean consolidation; coordination can range from informal agreements to fully integrated systems. In some cases, transportation consumers are simply unaware of the transportation resources which are available in a particular community. In other cases, improved interagency coordination can increase the amount and availability of transportation services. In some cases, technology can facilitate improved coordination. The barrier resulting from lack of coordination ties to many of the other barriers, particularly funding, financial, and information-related barriers.

As we discussed in the previous section, the transportation needs of individuals may become the barriers which prevent those needs from being met. We have chosen to summarize the barriers that are especially common for travelers to encounter, particularly those who are transportation disadvantaged. To remain consistent, we have also summarized them by trip component in Table 2-4.

Table 2-4. Mobility and Accessibility Barriers
Trip Component Transportation Barrier
Understanding the system and planning the trip Public transportation service (any/all modes) is not available.
No training or instructions available on the system.
No training materials or instructions available in special formats for individuals with cognitive, hearing, and/or vision impairments.
Limited service, or service is not available at desired times or to desired destinations.
No door-to-door planning (i.e., seamless, multi-modal service) available.
Accessing the system Long distance to travel/walk to access the system.
No sidewalks/curb cuts/pedestrian signals around the access point (making access unsafe for certain transportation disadvantaged groups)
No shelter or other comfortable waiting area to use while waiting to access the service.
Service not reliable (e.g., on-time performance, equipment breakdowns).
Fare is too expensive.
Entering, using, exiting the vehicles Stairs needed to access a vehicle (may be difficult for persons with physical disabilities, low vision).
No storage for an assistive device.
Inadequate seating or standing space, handrails, etc.
No evacuation procedures posted on the vehicle
Service staff not trained to assist persons with disabilities.
Other passengers not used to encountering issues of the disabled.
Arriving at the trip's destination Long distance to travel/walk to access the destination.
No sidewalks/curb cuts/pedestrian signals around the destination point.

2.5 Current Service

Transportation providers and government agencies have taken many steps to ensure that the mobility and accessibility needs of the general population and the transportation disadvantaged are met in all modes. Essentially, agencies and providers have begun to use technology and increased coordination to improve the level of service they offer to their customers. In addition, many groups are providing technical assistance to providers and agencies who are working to increase their use of both technology and coordination. The following sections will briefly discuss how adequate staffing and customer training can be used to overcome barriers.

2.5.1 Technology

For the purposes of the MSAA task, when we discuss "technology," we are referring in large part to transit-based ITS. ITS applies advanced and emerging technologies to all aspects of the transportation system. The main goal of implementing ITS is to improve the mobility, safety and productivity of the transportation system. ITS technologies typically work to improve the efficiency of information processing, communications, control, and electronics within surface transportation.

In addition, the technology discussion includes AT, which assist individuals with disabilities to access transportation. Examples include intelligent pedestrian signals, Talking Signs, talking bus stops, personal way finding aids, automatic restraint systems, and personal location devices.

In addition to ITS and AT solutions, the MSAA Phase 2 research has noted physical solutions that can be implemented to meet the needs of the transportation disadvantaged. Many of these solutions relate specifically to vehicle accessibility, environmental, and, to some extent, information barriers. These solutions include:

  • Low floor vehicles.
  • Kneeling buses.
  • Ramps and lifts.
  • Raised platforms for rail.
  • Elevators and escalators.
  • Hand rails.
  • Devices that fill gaps between vehicles and boarding platforms and between cars.
  • Braille signs.
  • Color-coding (on system maps).
  • Simplified maps.
  • Tactile surfaces.
  • Inventories of areas of difficult for pedestrian access.

2.5.2 Coordination

Through efforts like the Interagency Transportation Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, the UWR program, and the TCRP, there has been a large increase in the recognition of the benefits of enhanced coordination of human services transportation.

There are many coordination efforts taking place throughout the Country at State and local levels. While the main goal of all coordination efforts is to increase interagency cooperation, by doing so, agencies and providers are also making transportation more usable by increasing mobility and accessibility for all users. In addition, coordination efforts frequently rely on some of the ITS technologies that were discussed in the previous section to improve interagency coordination. Thus, the coordination-related efforts of the CCAM and the UWR program may be helpful in increasing the awareness of research conducted as part of the MSAA initiative while also overcoming some of the mobility and accessibility barriers caused by a lack of agency or provider coordination.

2.5.3 Training

Many of the needs of the transportation system user can be met through either training the provider's staff or training the users themselves.

Staff training can help drivers and station attendees become familiar with serving people with impairments. Training can help raise awareness of the needs of the transportation disadvantaged among the provider's staff. Training will typically be comprised of how to communicate effectively with various disadvantaged groups and how to assist these users while they are in the transportation system. Training has been a key piece of the technical assistance provided under the CCAM; for example, the American Bus Association (ABA) developed a course on serving people with disabilities for ESPA.

Another important training element is transit user training. This can help individuals, particularly those who are transportation disadvantaged, understand the transit systems in their communities. The term "travel training" specifically refers to training individuals (usually those with cognitive disorders) on how to access and use public transportation. There are other forms of transit user training. Orientation and Mobility training, for example, specifically helps people with vision impairments travel more independently. Peer-to-peer training and simple transit system orientation sessions can help introduce transit services to new users.

The CCAM has summarized many types of technical assistance and training resources on its website: www.unitedweride.gov. The website provides contact information for the many organizations that offer technical assistance to providers, agencies, and users. This assistance includes delivering education on, and building awareness for, ITS technologies and coordination efforts. Currently, the CCAM technical assistance page is particularly focused on those efforts that relate to the human services transportation system.

2.6 Gaps

This section will help to document the current gaps (deficient areas) in providing transportation services to both the general community and the transportation disadvantaged. It will also discuss what prevents service providers and program administrators from meeting the needs of these communities.

A 2002 Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) survey [53] collected information on the frequently occurring problems (by mode) that transportation consumers (passengers) reported. These gaps generally related to the four trip components presented in this document. Some examples of the problems reported by consumers, by trip component, include:

  • Understanding the system and planning the trip.
    • Users cannot get to the places they want or need to go based on time of day or location.
    • The system used always requires advanced planning or reservations.
    • There is no service available in particular areas.
    • The number of rides an individual needs is not available on one specific mode.
      • The number of trips an individual needs is not affordable to him or her on a particular mode.
  • Accessing the system.
    • There is no protection from the weather or other environmental conditions while an individual waits for a ride.
    • There is no assistance available to help an individual from their home to the access point.
    • The departure times are not reliable.
  • Entering, using, and exiting the vehicles.
    • Individuals cannot see, hear, walk, and/or stand as required by the system they are using.
    • The vehicles are not clean or comfortable.
    • The drivers and customer service staff are rude and unfriendly.
  • Arriving at the trip's destination.
    • The arrival times are not reliable.
    • Individuals cannot get assistance in getting to their destination from the departure point.

Specific consumer problems that were reported in the 2002 BTS survey are summarized in Table 2-5.

As part of the MSAA Foundation Research Task, the SAIC team conducted six discussion groups. The participants in these groups represented public transit agencies, community or non-profit transportation providers, public administrators, or consumer groups. The purpose and summaries of these group discussions are described in Section 4 of this document; the SAIC team, however, observed how each group discussed similar service gaps that related to what became known as "the human factor." We felt it was important to highlight these service gaps within this section, as they were used to highlight those needs that remain unmet. Some examples of these types of gaps are:

  • Fear of Using Public Transportation. Among passengers, especially seniors or those with vision or cognitive disabilities, there is frequently a fear of using public transportation successfully. This fear can prevent some individuals from attempting to access the transportation system, which then makes them dependent on demand-response service or their friends and family if they wish to be mobile; in other cases, it may confine individuals to their residences.
  • The Human Factor. Elsewhere in this document, we discuss how technology can be used to improve the mobility, safety, and productivity of the transportation system. The discussion groups made a clear point that technology solutions often rely on a human component to make them user-friendly for the passengers. For example, automatic stop announcements on buses are only useful if the driver turns them on or ensures that they are loud enough to be heard. As another example, some persons who have had brain injuries, for example, find it difficult to process information quickly. Transit personnel need to be aware that some passengers still may require additional assistance.

    The discussion groups pointed out that in many cases, human assistance may not be available to passengers once they access the system, or it may only be available at certain access points. This points to a need for human assistance throughout the transportation system and at all access points; in many systems, this is not available.

    The general point is that many of the technology solutions discussed in the next chapter can be enhanced by incorporating a human element – as the discussion groups said, the human factor, including passenger assistance, will make the difference as to whether technology will work for the passenger; likewise, the jobs of transportation service personnel can be made more effective through the use of technology.
  • Lack of Customer Service Orientation. In general, transportation systems sometimes do not showcase a customer-service oriented attitude or service approach. This can cause the system/passenger interaction to become stressful, especially for those passengers who are transportation disadvantaged. For example, in some cases, the drivers or station attendants may have limited English proficiency and not be able to provide assistance to an English-speaking patron. Or, a customer with limited English proficiency may have difficulty understanding how to use the system if the driver or station attendant cannot communicate in their language. Even if materials are provided in languages other than English, not all people can read well enough to understand how to use the system. Additional help may be available from various community groups or through targeted hiring of bilingual employees.
  • Lack of Familiarity with Service Area. In the case of demand-response service, some drivers may not be sufficiently familiar with the geographic area they are servicing; they then must ask the passengers for directions. In the case of a visually-impaired person, this is an obvious gap that could prevent them from reaching their destination. A solution is for drivers to review their schedules in advance and to ask dispatch for help in finding unfamiliar addresses. In-vehicle navigation systems also can help take the guesswork out of finding an address.
  • Ongoing Consumer Training. The discussion groups also brought up concerns about the need for consumer training and how it can help passengers become familiar with the transit system. It was pointed out by the advocate discussion groups that many consumers may not have easy access to the Internet or know how to use published schedules even if they are in accessible formats. They need training as part of community center programs and other efforts to educate the public about transportation resources and how to use the system. It was suggested that using training librarians and community center personnel to educate users about how to access transportation information would also enhance access to transportation resources.

2.7 Summary Table

Throughout this chapter, we have discussed the needs, barriers, and gaps affecting travelers in terms of the four trip components. The main goal of this document is to capture the "as-is" picture of transportation service in the United States while illustrating the relationship between the needs and barriers of both the general population and the transportation disadvantaged. To present this single snapshot view, we have created Table 2-5, which summarizes all of the information contained in this chapter (i.e., needs, barriers, personal limitations, travel modes, and consumer gaps) by trip component.

The summary table depicts the complete relationship between needs, barriers, and the reported gaps. The gaps listed are from the consumers' and discussion groups' perspectives. The service gaps, which were identified during the discussion groups, relate to the bold headings under which they were discussed in Section 2.6:

  • Fear of using public transportation.
  • The human factor.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
  • Lack of familiarity with service area.
  • Need for ongoing consumer training.

The table combines the information contained in previous tables; therefore, the information is consistently presented by the trip component to which it refers. Ideally, this makes the table easy to reference and reduces the redundancy of the information it contains.

The first two columns relate transportation needs to the mobility and accessibility barriers which are commonly encountered by both the general public and the transportation disadvantaged communities. We have also included the previously introduced element of "personal limitations." This column is meant to list those personal limitations that make meeting these needs more difficult. The table also includes the transportation modes where the needs are more commonly required. The next column, "gaps," identifies the deficiencies within the current service. It should be noted that most barriers are found in all types of situations, including urban/metropolitan, small urban, and rural areas. Some barriers are more commonly found in particular areas. For example, a lack of transportation availability is more pronounced in rural areas; however, this condition can still occur in urban and suburban areas, particularly in low density service areas. This table also will be used as a frame of reference for the technology discussion.

The table presents the trip components in the order in which they would be encountered by a transportation system user. Again, these four key trip components, in order, are:

  • Understanding the system and planning the trip.
  • Accessing the system.
  • Entering, using, exiting the vehicles.
  • Arriving at the trip's destination.

The table requires that certain assumptions to be made. Some barriers and gaps are broader. For example, many of the human barriers can be encountered at any stage in the trip. We have tried to classify them according to the trip component where an individual is most likely to encounter them. To provide an illustration, the gap " service staff are not trained to deal with persons with disabilities" is most likely to be encountered while an individual is using the transportation service; this is not to say that it could not also be encountered during trip planning.

There are currently several solutions in place that aim to overcome these barriers and gaps. The next section of this document (Section 3) discusses how current ITS and AT solutions are being used to meet and overcome current service gaps.

Table 2-5. Mobility and Accessibility Needs, Barriers, and Gaps in Relation to Mode
Travel Needs Barriers Modes Personal Limitations Gaps
1. Understanding the System and Planning the Trip
Transportation service availability.
  • There is no service available in certain areas, to certain destinations, at certain times of day.
FR
DR
VP
All
  • I can't access the mode from where I live.
  • There is no service in my area.
  • I can't travel at my own convenience.
  • I can't get to the places I need when I need to go.
  • Particular modes are unavailable due to a condition of mine.
Comprehensible origin-destination information.
  • No experience with the system.
FR
DR
  • Cognitive
  • Experience
  • Language
  • I can't get the information I need to schedule and take trips.
  • I don't know what service exists in my area.
  • Lack of ongoing consumer training.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
Legible schedule and fare information.
  • There is lack of information available.
  • The information is not in a format which I can use.
FR
DR
  • Cognitive
  • Vision
  • Language
  • I can't afford all the trips I need on this mode.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
Vehicle transfers are required to complete the trip.
  • There is no information on transfers available (printed, aural, etc.).
FR
DR
  • Cognitive
  • Vision
  • Language
  • Hearing
  • The human factor.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
"Door-to-door" trip planning, including linked or multi-destination trips (i.e., seamless, multi-modal service).
  • Multi-modal trip planning is not available in certain areas.
  • It can be difficult to accommodate multiple passengers without encountering excess delay.
FR
DR
All
  • The human factor.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
2. Accessing the System
Access point provides a safe environment.
  • The access point is too far to walk.
  • There is a lack of sidewalks, curb cuts, or pedestrian signals nearby.
FR All, especially:
  • Physical
  • Vision
  • Endurance
  • There is no protection from the weather while I wait for my ride.
  • I don't feel safe while waiting to ride.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
Access points are easily reached and there is a clear path of travel to and from this point.
  • For certain disadvantaged groups, even a short distance may be too far to walk.
FR
DR
  • Physical
  • Endurance
  • This mode isn't available to people like me.
  • I can't get help from my home to the access point as needed.
Vehicle pick-up times are reliable.
  • There is a lack of confidence in the service (existing or perceived unreliability).
FR
DR
All
  • I can't count on specific departure times.
  • I have a long wait before being picked up.
  • I can't get a ride soon after I decide to travel.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
Some trips need to be reserved in advance.
  • System does not allow me to reserve my trip in advance.
  • System is overloaded with request calls and does not function properly.
DR All
  • Most DR systems require advance planning – no flexibility.
  • It is difficult to schedule a ride.
Payment for the trip and using the fare payment system.
  • Fare is unaffordable or the passenger does not have the financial ability to pay the fare.
  • A passenger is physically unable to pay the fare.
FR
HS
DR
  • Low income
  • Physical
  • Dexterity
  • Users in need are not aware of the services available to them.
  • I cannot get the number of rides I need paid for.
Recognize the correct vehicle.
  • Vehicles do not indicate which route they are traveling.
  • Waiting passengers are not aware of when the next vehicle will arrive.
FR
DR
All blank
Notification of vehicle arrival is provided. blank FR
DR
TX
All, especially:
  • Cognitive
  • Vision
  • Experience
blank
3. Entering, Using, and Exiting the Vehicle
Ability to board the correct vehicle. blank FR
DR
TX
All, especially:
  • Cognitive
  • Vision
  • Experience
blank
Ability to enter and exit the vehicle.
  • The vehicle is not the same level as the platform or stop.
  • There is no storage available (for assistive devices, packages, luggage etc.).
FR
DR
TX
VP
  • Physical (assistive devices)
  • Vision
  • I can't get in and out of the vehicles as needed.
  • I can't get help with packages, wheelchairs, etc., as needed.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
Ability to travel on the vehicle while in motion, i.e., move to and from the entry point to the seat/riding location. For example, adequate/ comfortable seating or standing areas, storage areas, handrails, etc.
  • It is difficult to move around the vehicle.
  • The vehicle does not have adequate seating.
  • Crowding.
FR
DR
  • Physical
  • Vision
  • I can't see/hear/walk/stand as required by this system.
  • The vehicles aren't clean.
  • The vehicles aren't comfortable.
  • The driver and customer service staff are rude and unfriendly.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
  • My trip takes too long (DR only) – I am unable to ride this long (Endurance)
On-board and other special announcements are provided.
  • Announcements are inaudible, or turned off.
  • Individuals cannot respond to these announcements.
FR All, especially:
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Cognitive
  • The human factor.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
Reasonable travel time. blank FR
DR
HS
All, especially:
  • Cognitive
  • The services I need to access are too far away for me to travel comfortably or conveniently.
Transfer to other vehicles or modes during the trip.
  • Transfer points/procedures may not be accessible.
FR
DR
HS
TX
  • Physical
  • Cognitive
  • The human factor.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
  • Ongoing consumer training.
The vehicle stops in convenient locations or as the rider requests.
  • On-demand stops are not permitted/possible.
FR All
  • The human factor
Evacuation procedures are posted within the vehicle.
  • Instructions are not posted.
  • Instructions are not posted in an accessible format
FR
DR
All especially:
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Cognitive
blank
Evacuate the vehicle in case of emergency.
  • Assistance is not available should it be required.
FR
DR
All especially:
  • Physical
  • Vision
  • Cognitive
  • Service staff is not trained to deal with persons with disabilities.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
  • Other passengers are not used to encountering issues of the disabled.
4. Arriving at the Trip's Destination
Recognize the correct destination. blank FR
DR
  • Cognitive
  • Visual
  • Hearing
  • Language
  • Experience
  • The human factor.
  • Lack of familiarity with service area.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
  • Ongoing consumer training.
Exit point is relatively close to the user's destination.
  • For certain disadvantaged groups, even a short distance may be too far to walk
FR
DR
  • Physical
  • Endurance
  • This mode isn't available to people like me.
  • I can't get help to my home/destination from the exit point as needed.
Need the exit point to be located in a safe environment that is accessible to my destination. (e.g., walking distance, pedestrian friendly, sidewalks, crossing signals).
  • The exit point is too far to walk.
  • There is a lack of sidewalks, curb cuts, or pedestrian signals nearby.
  • Some individuals may have a difficult time orienting themselves in the right direction to get to their destination.
FR
FR
All, especially:
  • Physical
  • Vision
  • Endurance
  • There is no protection from the weather while I wait for my ride.
  • I don't feel safe while proceeding to my home/ destination.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
Vehicle drop-off times are reliable.
  • There is a lack of confidence in the service (existing unreliability).
FR
DR
All
  • I can't count on specific arrival times.
  • Fear of using public transportation.
  • Lack of customer service orientation.
Footnotes
  • U.S. General Accounting Office, Transportation Disadvantaged Populations – Some Coordination Efforts among Programs Providing Transportation Services, but Obstacles Persist. Washington, D.C. GAO-03-697, 2003.
  • R. Wallace, P. Hughes-Cromwick, H. Mull, and S. Chasnabis, Access to Healthcare and Non-emergency Transportation: Two Missing Links (presented to the Transportation Research Board), January 2005.
  • George W. Bush, "The President's New Freedom Initiative for People with Disabilities: The 2004 Progress Report," March 2004, http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/newfreedom-report-2004.pdf
  • R. Wallace, P. Hughes-Cromwick, H. Mull, S. Chasnabis, Access to Healthcare and Non-emergency Transportation: Two Missing Links (presented to the Transportation Research Board), January 2005.
  • Straight, Community Transportation Survey, American Association of Retired Persons. Washington, D. C., 1997.
  • R. Wallace, P. Hughes-Cromwick, H. Mull, and S. Chasnabis, " Access to Healthcare and Non-emergency Transportation: Two Missing Links." (presented to the Transportation Research Board), January 2005.

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