Mobility needs for the disabled today are largely supported through costly and challenging-to-use paratransit services. If autonomous shuttles are designed with the needs of people with disabilities in mind, the system could start serving all people equally. Researchers at Texas A&M University are working on designing vehicles that can identify the best place to stop the vehicle for those who need a wheelchair ramp, improving seating arrangement and rider assistance programs, and making sure those who are vision impaired can utilize these vehicles on their own.
Similarly, a new look at vehicle size provides an opportunity to provide faster, more efficient service in low-density areas. Right-sizing vehicles for occupancy, including offering lower ridership routes via shared micro transit or shared four-passenger vehicles, allows greater capital investment in main line transit systems with greater demand, while protecting transit dependent populations regardless of location. Many agencies are exploring these capabilities with micro transit pilots.
Achieving this potential requires action today. Partnering and piloting to build expertise in these technologies and their capabilities will provide a deeper capacity from which to achieve transit’s core mission: to move people safely, efficiently and economically between locations.
Collaborative multi-agency and multi-disciplinary working groups are a great first step toward following this advice, staying educated on the latest issues, and having deliberate and measured conversations without jumping to inaccurate or incomplete conclusions. Many agencies are doing just that, assembling with the intent of increasing dialogue. And it’s that dialogue that will be an important enabler of any future regulation, legislation or policy.
Sahar Shirazi, planning and policy lead for automated vehicles and emerging mobility at WSP USA, helps clients develop and implement plans, policies and projects that incorporate emerging mobility solutions, creating more efficient and beneficial built environments and transportation systems.
Rachel Zack, innovative mobility lead with WSP USA, helps clients consider the impact of new and emerging technologies, identify grant opportunities for on-demand and shared-use mobility, develop policy criteria, and establish partnerships with private mobility providers to achieve transportation goals.
[Editor’s Note: To learn more about how WSP supports the planning, deployment and maintenance of intelligent transportation systems and connected and automated vehicle projects across the U.S., visit www.advancingtransport.com. ]
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