It’s a daily routine for many transit riders in the Seattle area: Pull out your smartphone, check the OneBusAway app, then decide whether you need to sprint to the bus stop or can afford that last sip of coffee. The application, developed at the University of Washington, uses real-time data to track when your bus is actually going to arrive.
But for many blind and low-vision riders, knowing when the bus will arrive isn’t always enough. Crucial information like where the stop is in relation to the intersection and whether there is a shelter or bench sometimes can make the difference between an independent commute and a frustrating experience.
UW computer scientists have created a program called StopInfo that integrates with OneBusAway and provides specific information on location, safety features and stop closures for each bus stop in King County. In particular, it seeks to collect and share information that blind people have identified as important when they ride the bus. It relies on bus riders using the OneBusAway application to update and provide information about each stop.
“We’re interested in having OneBusAway be as useful for as many people as possible. In this case, we are looking at how we make it more user-friendly for blind and low-vision riders,” said Alan Borning, a UW professor of computer science and engineering who was involved in creating the original OneBusAway app.
A team of UW graduate students and researchers, in collaboration with King County Metro, launched StopInfo last spring and has completed an initial study looking at its effectiveness for blind and low-vision users.
StopInfo shows details about a bus stop in the OneBusAway app. Credit: University of Washington