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System Integration for Access: Using Policy and Technology to Advance the Public Good of Accessible Transportation

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  • Transport Canada

Abstract and Figures

The nature of accessibility in transportation is changing. With new and enhanced approaches to mobility becoming commonplace along with the growing needs for accessibility that come with an aging population, accessible transportation is of ever growing importance. The principal site for accessibility barriers occur today around the barriers that arise at transportation nodes, making effective system integration of paramount importance.To be sure, improved system integration will continue to require sustained infrastructure investments, but digital technologies and the digital revolution writ-large provide new opportunities for addressing barriers and improving access. Digitally empowered personal navigation tools, augmented reality technologies and the proliferation of big data all present novel options for actors seeking to improve the accessibility of transportation. With that being said, some of the most radical improvements to the accessibility of Canada’s transportation system will occur as the result of successfully embracing more incremental technologies through enhanced governance, such as rapid and reliable information-sharing between transportation service providers. This report finds that there are a range of digital solutions which can be put to use to improve system integration and the effectiveness of the transportation system in Canada overall.
Content may be subject to copyright.
System Integration for Access: Using
Policy and Technology to Advance the
Public Good of Accessible
Transportation
Mark Robbins
May 28th, 2019
i
Table of Contents
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Page!
!
Executive!Summary!........................................................................................................................1!
Introduction!.....................................................................................................................................2!
Definitions!.........................................................................................................................................3!
Literature!Review!...........................................................................................................................4!
A!NEW!VISION!FOR!ACCESSIBLE!TRANSPORTATION!.............................................................................................................!4!
URBAN!AND!RURAL!DIVIDES!........................................................................................................................................................!6!
FARE!INTEGRATION!........................................................................................................................................................................!7!
Analysis!...........................................................................................................................................!10!
TECHNOLOGY!AND!ACCESS!........................................................................................................................................................!10!
DATA!OPENNESS!FOR!SYSTE M!INTEGR ATION!......................................................................................................................!11!
ACCESS!IN!RURAL!AND!REMOTE!AREAS.................................................................................................................................!14!
RADICAL!INNOVATIONS!FOR!ACCESS!AND!INTEGRATION!..................................................................................................!15!
Challenges!......................................................................................................................................!19!
THE!CANADIAN!LANDSCAPE!.....................................................................................................................................................!20!
Recommendations!.......................................................................................................................!23!
RECOMMENDATION!#1:!“NUDGING!FOR!ACCESS!..............................................................................................................!23!
RECOMMENDATION!#2:!DATA!LEADERSHIP!FOR!ACCESSIBLE!TRANSPORTATION....................................................!25!
RECOMMENDATION!#3:!CITIZEN-CENTR IC!ACCESSIBILITY!.............................................................................................!27!
Bibliography!..................................................................................................................................!29!
!
!
1
Executive Summary
The nature of accessibility in transportation is changing. With new and enhanced approaches to
mobility becoming commonplace along with the growing needs for accessibility that come with
an aging population, accessible transportation is of ever growing importance. The principal site
for accessibility barriers occur today around the barriers that arise at transportation nodes,
making effective system integration of paramount importance. Many of the leading practices for
system integration occur in jurisdictions that offer conditions that may not be replicable in
Canada, such as high population density unitary city-states.
While at a basic level these political conditions do not exist in Canada, many of the broader
features of the Canadian socio-economic landscape are sufficiently particular as to merit a
dedicated analysis. For example, the promotion of system integration for access across
Canada’s vast rural and remote hinterland certainly will not be successfully accomplished
through the wholesale adoption of practices from, say, Hong Kong. Research on the promotion
of accessibility through enhance system integration in rural and remote areas was found to be
sparse in spite of the rising accessibility challenges in these parts of the country.
To be sure, improved system integration will continue to require sustained infrastructure
investments, but digital technologies and the digital revolution writ-large provide new
opportunities for addressing barriers and improving access. Digitally empowered personal
navigation tools, augmented reality technologies and the proliferation of big data all present novel
options for actors seeking to improve the accessibility of transportation. With that being said,
some of the most radical improvements to the accessibility of Canada’s transportation system
will occur as the result of successfully embracing more incremental technologies through
enhanced governance, such as rapid and reliable information-sharing between transportation
service providers.
This report finds that there are a range of digital solutions which can be put to use to improve
system integration and the effectiveness of the transportation system in Canada overall. Some
of these solutions are already being undertaken in a piecemeal fashion by actors across the
public and private sectors. Where this is the case, government has the opportunity for soft
intervention and agenda-setting in order to promote the objectives of accessible in transportation.
This can include the promotion of better data standards, open data related to accessible
transportation (while respecting privacy) and promoting the inclusion of an accessibility lens
during the design and conceptualization process.
There also exist more ambitious and comprehensive options for change, although these options
come with trade-offs and challenges of implementation. This may include eventually pursuing a
citizen-centric model of accessible transportation either led by, or in partnership with, the federal
government. In this case, the federal government would assume the role of convener and data-
steward for existing accessible transportation options. This would ensure that an abudence of
reliable data would guide decision-making related to accessible transportation across
jurisdictions, and that the accessibility of the Canadian transportation system as a whole would
be advanced. In all cases, more research is necessary on the examples used in other
jurisdictions, as well as in to the possible implications of embracing new digital technologies for
the promotion of access.
2
Introduction
The World Health Organization estimates that over a billion people in the world live with some
form of disability.
1
Disability has the potential to severally limit people’s ability to travel, and in
turn can have a severe impact on their ability to participate in their community. As the global
population continues to age, ensuring that transportation networks are accessible and adhere to
the principals of universal design is of paramount importance to maintaining a high quality of life
and humane system of transportation. Accessible transportation is a key component to many
important parts of our lives and helps to ensure citizens’ access to many resources that are key
to livelihood such as healthcare, recreation, education and employment.
While an aging population and increased global interconnectedness makes the imperative for
accessibility stronger than ever, there remain many barriers for travellers. These barriers to
mobility increasingly cluster around the changes that occur between various modes of
transportation, making the successful integration of transportation systems into one another
increasingly important. While there are challenges in moving toward the provision of meaningful
accessible transportation, the steady advancement in technology offers the potential for new
solutions.
User interfaces and novel digital technologies that
can improve mobility are evolving quickly and, in
many cases, have achieved a wide penetration.
Easily accessible interfaces for ride sharing, like
Uber, have helped to solve many “last mile” problems
and in turn improve the integration of transportation
systems. GPS navigation technologies have served
to improve the reliability of transportation, and the
increased ability to effectively leverage multiple
modes of transportation during travel. While these
developments have led to net improvements in
access, the future course of their development also
presents a risk that some will be left behind.
There are no assurances that the natural and
uninterrupted development of shared mobility
technologies will serve the public interest if left unimpeded. Persons with disabilities are a
population at greater risk and many of their specific accessibility needs may lack sufficient market
size for private industry to proactively address them. Furthermore, with mobility limitations
increasingly being associated with age, and new technologies for improving system integration
being associated with dense urban areas, there is a clear risk of severe mobility gaps emerging
in Canada’s rapidly aging rural and remote communities.
Recent history with companies like Uber seems to suggest that in a policy vacuum and in the
absence of clear action from government, these kinds of emerging technologies will continue to
progress in such a way that even actively challenge governments’ regulatory and oversight
capacity. This is to suggest that public agencies must act proactively to ensure that these
developments continue to support the state’s policy objectives, particularly for at risk
1
World Health Organization, World Report on Disability, 2011.
There are no assurances that
the natural and uninterrupted
development of shared
mobility technologies will
serve the public interest if left
unimpeded. Persons with
disabilities are a population at
greater risk and many of their
specific accessibility needs
may lack sufficient market
size for private industry to
proactively address them.
3
communities, such as persons with disabilities. This research seeks to contribute to the
discussion of this subject and concludes by offering tangible recommendations for future action.
Definitions
The United Nations’ Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) defines disability
as the “…interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental
barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.
2
“Mobility” is a commonly used term in this space, signifying the ability of transportation users to
freely move from place to place. Language pertaining to improvement of mobility is common and
mobility is an often-sought-after objective. With that being said, some (increasingly) make the
case for instead adopting the term and concept of “accessibility” which is much broader in scope.
The concept of “accessibility” is subject to multiple definitions, perhaps the most useful of which
for the purposes of this work is people’s ability to reach goods, services and activities.
3
“Accessibility” offers a more comprehensive vision than “mobility,” extending its scope to include
door-to-door transportation, network conditions such as traffic which effect travel, and cost
structures which have the potential to limit the mobility of persons with disabilities.
“Multimodal transportation” is in large part a logical extension of the concept of “accessibility”
and advances a vision of transportation that includes consideration of the fact that door-to-door
travel generally requires multiple modes (rail, public bus, private car, walking etc.). Some
alternative, but closely related language, includes the term “intermodalism”
4
although
“multimodal” or “multimodalism” remain the more commonly used vocabulary. A multimodal
perspective on transportation focuses on the barriers that exist to those seeking to change
between transportation modes.
A closely related term to “multimodal transportation” is “system integration”, or sometimes
“transportation system integration.” The term “system integration” brings the implication that the
barriers to changing between transportation modes would be steadily minimized. Keeping in
mind the broader definition of “accessibility,” which includes any barriers to door-to-door
transportation, a system integration approach to transportation includes considerations beyond
physical infrastructure, including cost, wait time, and walk-time.
5
2
United Nations, 2006.
3
Litman, 2018a.
4
Margarita and Duran Bernal, 2016.
5
Tasic et al., 2016.
4
Literature Review
There are clear and intuitive connections between the concepts of system integration, multi-
modal transportation, and the objective of promoting accessibility. The literature points to a
strong imperative to address the needs of at risk populations, including the economically
disadvantaged and persons with disabilities (who often are also economically vulnerable).
6
By
way of process, the literature clearly identifies universal design goes hand-in-hand with effective
system integration. Furthermore, since poor connectivity between transportation nodes will
greatly reduce the overall effectiveness of the entire transportation network, not just for persons
with disabilities but for those facing all manner of mobility limitation, including even simply those
with luggage or small children. In other words, multimodal transportation and system integration
should be viewed as being complementary objectives to the wider promotion of access and a
rights-based approach to disability more generally.
A New Vision for Accessible Transportation
Much of the recent literature on accessible transportation proposes adopting a paradigm shift on
matters of accessibility. This new perspective would incorporate a wider view of what constitutes
“access,” “disability” and “transportation needs.” Most specifically, this emerging paradigm
advocates a transition away from “mobility” as a core goal, towards objectives more closely
aligned with the concept of “access.” Adopting the concept of “access” increases the scope of
potentially relevant action to include the reduction of all barriers to fully door-to-door
transportation. In turn, employing the concept of “access” ensures there would likewise be a
multiplicity of sites where policy interventions can take place to improve the accessibility of
transportation.
Accessibility-based planning expands the range of solutions that can be
applied to solving transport problems, for example, by providing better user
information, improving connections among modes, increasing the convenience
and comfort of resource-efficient modes, and increasing land use accessibility.
7
New and emerging visions for accessible transportation include previously unconsidered barriers
to access such as affordability, integrated fare structures across multiple service providers, and
considerations of wait time and service reliability. As each of these barriers can ultimately
culminate in the inability to effectively use a transportation system, these non-traditional barriers
to access are taken more closely into consideration in the emerging paradigm on accessible
transportation. Improvements in this area will include enhancements to physical infrastructure
that minimize physical barriers to switching modes, as well as for improvements to policy,
process and technology which govern the transportation system more broadly. In the broadest
sense, multimodal systems are designed with the intention of improving fairness, efficiency and
accessibility.
6
This work was made possible in large part with the help of Matt Hutchinson, an intern at the Institute on
Governance, who conducted an extremely thorough and thoughtful review of the literature in support of
this project.
7
Litman, 2018a. 52
5
Figure 1: Fully Integrated Transportation Node in Singapore.
Source: Singapore Ministry of Transport
Singapore is often cited as an early leader in multimodal transportation
This literature has also identified the importance of expanding transportation options to the areas
in which mobility services have rarely been offered in the past, noting that this expansion is key
to improving the overall accessibility of the transportation system.
8
Indeed, in this new vision for
accessible transportation, "It will not be enough to simply pursue integration as new links are
added to networks; governments must relentlessly target integration on new and existing
transport infrastructure.”
9
Fortunately, the digital revolution comes with the potential for
leveraging transportation resources in new and better ways, which is of key importance to
expanding access. The sharing economy is increasingly practicable as a result of digital
technologies, not the least of which being ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, to improve
efficiency and utilization rates. This allows travellers to tap in to new, and previously un(der) used
sources of transportation capacity. Some have even suggested that service integration in this
manner could be taken as far as to the point of integrating medical shuttle services into the public
transportation network.
10
8
Ruscher, S. et al., 2018.
9
Integrating Australia's Transport Systems: A Strategy for Efficient Transport Future, 2010. 8.
10
Ruscher, S. et al., 2018.
6
As the vision for what constitutes accessible transportation is enlarged, so too do visions of the
potential benefits of accessible transportation expand. Much of the literature, for instance,
suggests that the successful inclusion of disability considerations in transportation systems
results in knock-on benefits that manifest outside of the transportation system. These
improvements can be expected to come with benefits for travellers themselves, but also for the
wider efficiency of the transportation system, including cost efficiency and enhances social
outcomes. This means that a more accessible transportation system can (and arguably should)
be viewed as a mechanism for delivering on a wide variety of positive social changes.
11
An
interviewee in one comparative study explained the emerging paradigm as an outlook where
“universal design equals universal benefits.”
12
In addition to promoting wider access, more
intelligent integration of transportation systems and promotion of multi-modality can be used as
an effective tool to help reduce congestion, air pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Urban and Rural Divides
Much of the existing literature focuses heavily on system integration in urban areas, particularly
those with high population density. This is in large part since urban areas have sufficient size to
merit large investments in public transportation infrastructure, and by this virtue have significant
transportation infrastructure requiring governance and systematic integration with one another.
Urbanism and related disciplines, such as urban planning and land use planning, have thus been
some of the first to give serious consideration to multi-modal transportation and its integration. It
is also worth noting that conventional approaches to both urban planning and mobility tend to
overlook these kinds of considerations, which is part of the reason to explain the newfound
emphasis on multi-modality and system integration.
Some works suggest that the emerging literature
and growing demand for system integration and
multi-modal transportation is a direct consequence
of rising urbanization throughout the world. In
particular the emergence of megacities has been
suggested as an important cause as conurbations
have disparate transportation infrastructure that
needs policy-action to be brought into a coherent
whole. Indeed, the most prominent case studies of
system integration feature megacity jurisdictions like
Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York, with
other case studies including conurbated cities like Toronto, Madrid, Brisbane and Sao Paulo.
Much of the thinking in this area has similarly been about how to improve the effectiveness of
public transportation infrastructure specifically with the goal of reducing car usage and
congestion in these large urban centres.
As a consequence of this intellectual heritage, much of the existing literature focuses on
questions related to urbanism such as the impact of multi-modality on the urban landscape. The
literature similarly focuses on questions of urban design, such as how to integrate transportation
infrastructure with the fabric of urban communities. As a result, the literature heavily emphasizes
short-distance travel with less attention on the multimodal integration as it pertains to medium
11
Improving Pathways to Transit for Persons with Disabilities, 2016.
12
Improving Pathways to Transit for Persons with Disabilities, 2016. 92.
Rural and remote communities
are some of those most likely to
suffer from a lack of diversity in
transportation options, low
modal choice, high
transportation costs and a near
absence of reliable connectivity
to major transportation nodes
such as international airports.
7
and long-distance modes of travel. When medium and long-distance modes of travel are
considered, it is often in connection to high density forms of travel which require a certain scale,
such as high-density rail or air travel, and how to integrate these modes into the public
transportation system of their host municipality. Successful integration, even in best practices, is
often limited to the downtown core.
13
There is a comparative lack of attention in the literature to the accessible transportation that is
relevant to rural and remote communities. This is a major shortcoming. Rural and remote
communities are some of those most likely to suffer from a lack of diversity in transportation
options, low modal choice, high transportation costs and a near absence of reliable connectivity
to major transportation nodes such as international airports. This makes the barriers to
intermodal transportation especially high in rural remote communities. With fewer transportation
options and less available transportation infrastructure, rural and remote communities may
actually be some of those which stand most to benefit from effective system integration. Although
many of the tools currently driving better system integration are designed with cities in mind, rural
and remote communities may well need system integration tools even more to improve
accessibility than dense urban areas.
Fare Integration
The literature suggests that successful and seamless fare integration is key for effective multi-
modal transportation and system integration. This includes most obviously the reliable
interoperability of transportation payment mechanisms. Less obviously, but no less important, is
ensuring that there is a sensible and just integration of the fare structures themselves so that
they do not inadvertently penalize the user for crossing modes. The status quo often sees fares
which cross modes to be additive, rather than permitting transfers or rate reductions that would
be reflective of using several modes for a shared purpose.
The effect of a non-integrated fare structure is that for many of those using a multi-modal
transportation route, the pricing structure becomes punitive and a major disincentive to the use
of multiple systems. This in turn creates system disintegration, and therefore reduces the
accessibility of the transportation system writ-large. This has an outsized effect on persons with
disabilities, who tend to be more price sensitive than typical users and may well lack the ability
to substitute certain segments of their journey for active alternatives. The issue of fare integration
as a barrier is especially pronounced when transportation routes cross jurisdictional boundaries,
such as between municipalities or across provincial borders.
13
Tasic et al., 2016.
The effect of a non-integrated fare structure is that for many
of those using a multi-modal transportation route, the
pricing structure becomes punitive and a major disincentive
to the use of multiple systems.
8
Best practices in system integration address this question by ensuring that the monetary cost to
the user of changing modes is eliminated, or at least made to be very marginal.
14
The Oyster
Card system used in London is often identified as a leading practice in this regard. The system
automatically caps the highest possible fare that one can accumulate in a day to an amount
equivalent with the price of a day pass, and the pass is usable on all modes of public
transportation. Prices are also adjusted by distance travelled and by time, offering a discount for
non-peak travel. The Octopus Card used in Hong Kong is quite similar, but as of 2018, is also
being piloted for interoperability in paying for taxi fares.
15
In other jurisdictions, transit from the
airport to downtown transportation nodes is also considered an issue of fare integration, with a
free transfer to the transit system for those who have flown.
Figure 2: Hong Kong’s Octopus Pass is Integrated with Taxis
Source: Octopus
Successful fare integration poses numerous challenges for service providers and government
entities alike. Most immediately this includes the technical challenges that come with operating
one seamless portal for many different transportation services. There are also governance
challenges at the back end of these portals as different service providers negotiate complex
revenue-sharing arrangements that are necessary pre-requisites to fare integration. With system
integration offering passengers a greater number of transportation options and prospective
routes, revenue-sharing arrangements between various service providers will be tested and
strained by a multiplicity of unexpected uses and trade-offs. This is especially germane to
transportation networks that exceed the boundaries of a municipality and seek to integrate
regional, national or even international modes of travel, since these offerings have very distinct
cost-structures and trade-offs.
16
14
Integrating Australia's Transport Systems: A Strategy for Efficient Transport Future, 2010.
15
Tsang, March 5th 2018.
16
This issue is explored in detail with regards to system integration in the European Union in Kessler,
2014. Full citation available in the bibliography.
9
The ability to bridge partnerships between private entities and the public sector was found in the
literature to be an important part of successful initiatives for improving accessibility.
17
Likewise,
integrating public and private systems where possible, provides the opportunity for decision-
makers to use system integration in a way that maximizes access. Since the barriers to
accessibility are different depending on the mobility needs of each individual, having a multiplicity
of transportation options which can be used in various combinations is a good approach to
developing a well-integrated system. For users, a simple interface that can be used to optimize
on the basis of accessibility needs whether that be the minimalization of fares, active
transportation, physical barriers or time spent in transit. At the back end, there are a range of
techniques used to facilitate service integration including thoughtful MOUs, funding
arrangements, or even at its most basic, better coordination through data-sharing.
17
Improving Pathways to Transit for Persons with Disabilities, 2016.
10
Analysis
There are clearly a wide range of benefits for better system integration, as well as a multiplicity
of improvements which can be undertaken to promote universal access to transportation. With
an ongoing paradigm shift changing the emphasis on “mobility” to an emphasis on “access,”
wider and more proactive action will be necessary to bring the transportation system to
adequacy. Going forward, many of the enhancements to access will centre on improving multi-
modality and effectively integrating transportation modes with one another. In some cases, the
most effective solution will be to add physical improvements to the built environment. In other
cases, the planning of future infrastructure will more closely take in to account the accessibility
imperative and will be designed so as to contribute to overall system integration most effectively.
Technology and Access
The biggest opportunity areas today that can support the integration of transportation systems
are in many cases likely to be those related to technological improvements and software rather
than changes in hard physical assets.
18
New technology-based solutions emerge which can help
to address accessibility gaps and improve system integration overall. At the most basic level,
GPS-based digital navigational tools can improve connectivity, reduce uncertainty about travel
times, and help decision-makers to ensure that future improvements to the built environment
maximize improvements in access. Many of these tools are currently in use, although not always
in a systematic way or in a manner that successfully integrates both transportation systems and
the digital systems which support them. Improving the effectiveness of these tools will continue
to be a priority.
With continuous increases in the prevalence of personal portable devices like smart-phones, the
potential for using technology to improve system integration and accessibility is significant. For
one, ubiquitous smart devices allow for travelers to have information that is personalized to each
individual’s planned travel. It also comes with the potential for travellers to access information in
real-time and to receive the kinds of live updates which the literature suggests are key to
successful system integration and universal access. Likewise, if addressed effectively, these
developments have the potential to permit wide interoperability with existing systems.
Furthermore, the increasing ubiquity of smart-phones has the potential to offer a variety of
technological solutions to accessibility barriers that may have been viewed as intractable only a
few short years ago.
One of the major barriers to unlocking these prospective benefits is low, or at least uneven,
technological literacy among the elderly and persons with disabilities since even though
technological literacy continues to rise, there will likely continue to be a learning gap nonetheless.
This comes with a very real risk that those with the greatest potential to benefit from digital
technologies, also have some of the greatest risk of being excluded from their benefits due to
knowledge gaps. This fact is especially important when considering that the disability community
is increasingly susceptible to lower levels of technological literacy due to an aging population
and the close relationship between age and disability. This makes ease-of-use a key feature for
any technology-based solutions seeking to address multimodality and promote greater
accessibility in transportation systems. Given that disability manifests in many forms, weaving
18
Meeting the Needs of Older and Disabled Travelers, 2017.
11
accessibility criteria and considerations into technology-based solutions will be key for achieving
effective outcomes.
Data Openness for System Integration
The evolution of technology brings new prospects for improving access and system integration,
which in many cases can be unlocked by mandating better governance of existing digital
resources. For one, new technologies and norms about data openness make it possible for real-
time data on service and arrival times to be put to use, which in turn encourages the use of the
transportation system.
19
Waze for example, helps passengers to plan their travel, as well as to
themselves contribute useful data to operators, by, for instance, flagging barriers and
transportation network errors with their smartphones. In this way, the wisdom of the crowd can
be used alongside the passive generation of user information to promote the effectiveness of an
integrated system.
The wisdom of the crowd can in turn be leveraged to provide more and better information to
travellers and will lend to improved decision-making about travel and reduce the risk of
inadvertently encountering barriers to access. Better information leads to better access since
barriers can be identified, avoided and mitigated. Perceived changes in accessibility are found
to likely to effect travel behaviour in meaningful ways, and so better information about accessible
services can be expected to have an important effect.
20
Furthermore, what gets measured gets
managed and so the ability to log and catalogue
barriers to access increases the likelihood that
these barriers will ultimately be addressed by
decision-makers.
Unfortunately, governments often prove to be
one of the biggest obstacles to unlocking the
wider benefits of the data revolution. While the current technological paradigm is based on data
openness and the free flow of information, governments are well recognized for adhering to a
nearly opposite philosophy centred on data protection and mutually-exclusive data ownership.
Not only does this limit the ability to leverage user groups and co-creative processes, but it limits
the ability of emerging digital systems for the promotion of access to effectively integrate with
existing government operations. As such, current government data management practices
present a stark restriction on the ability to organically improve the accessibility of the
transportation system, although it should also be recognized that this might change as a result
of recent announcements in support of developing a national data strategy.
New norms around data and data openness will prove to be pivotal for this new accessibility
paradigm and its relationship with technology. With exponential increases in the amount of data
being produced, collected and processed by mobile devices and smart infrastructure, more
information is made available to transportation users and policy decision-makers alike. This will
allow for improved choices about future transportation investments and across the literature it is
clear that major benefits occur when transit agencies take the time to explore, validate and
19
Tasic et al., 2016.
20
Sze and Christensen, 2017.
Unfortunately, governments often
prove to be one of the biggest
obstacles to unlocking the wider
benefits of the data revolution.
12
implement new technologies into their thinking and processes.
21
Continuous evaluation of both
transportation infrastructure and the needs of persons with disabilities is key to success
22
and
the current technological environment lends better to continuous improvement than was possible
in the past.
In many cases, digital innovations for access and the transportation system are undertaken by
civil society and users themselves. In this sense, embracing this strategy requires very little
action from transportation providers except a continued commitment to data openness and
careful attention to data standards in the information that is being released into public circulation.
In Ottawa for example, the municipal government opted to make its transportation data as open
and widely compatible as possible, including live information from the GPS locators on all of the
buses operated by its transportation authority, OC-Transpo. Civil society organizations then used
this information to feed into purpose-built smart phone applications which display routes and
adjust arrival times according to real-time information from OC-Transpo.
23
This has served to
greatly improve the accessibility of the transportation system with very little cost to the municipal
government.
As the volume of data collection and production continues to increase rapidly alongside the
increasing pervasiveness of smart devices, the opportunities to leverage this data in order to
improve accessibility will only continue to increase. With gentle nudges towards data
standardization, openness and better governance, transportation service providers and
passengers alike can help to attune the infrastructure of the transportation system closely to their
needs, and in an accessible manner. Some have suggested that the logical conclusion of this
will eventually be a system that is so well integrated as to effectively be at the point of being
service “on-demand,” and that this level of service should be the ultimate goal.
24
This type of on-demand digitally-integrated system has clear advantages for persons with
disabilities who, if system integration is designed with their information needs in mind about the
accessibility of various transportation services, will be provided the ability to closely match their
transportation needs with existing infrastructure. Service providers can likewise do the same.
Consider, for instance, that passengers could attune their navigation settings to their mobility
needs and therefore be offered routes matching their exact accessibility needs and with
information that is generated in real-time. From a technical standpoint, this level of accessibility
is well within reach; from a governance standpoint however there remains much to be done.
Latent Transportation and Ridesharing
Strategic foresight is a key starting-point and pre-requisite in multi-modal systems.
25
Demand
forecasting is required in multi-modal transportation projects and integration of systems since
projected user demand will in large part guide the supply of service offerings. Yet, transportation
data is subject to systemic flaws and bias in many areas, and therefore generally exists in various
states of incompletion. Much of the currently available transportation data has discounted or
underrepresented the externalities associated with it,
21
Improving Pathways to Transit for Persons with Disabilities, 2016.
22
Improving Pathways to Transit for Persons with Disabilities, 2016.
23
Burgess, January 16th 2018.
24
Ruscher, S. et al., 2018.
25
Litman, 2017.
13
[…]counts people who currently use a mode, such as current walking, cycling and
public transit users. However, often reflects a self-fulfilling prophesy: underinvestment
in these modes makes them difficult to use. A broader perspective also considers latent
demand, external impacts, and strategic community objectives.
26
To highlight a tangible example, effective system integration comes with the benefit of the system
incurring lower chauffeuring costs as more people become passengers rather than drivers. Yet
the burden of having to drive oneself is external to traditional measurement mechanisms since
its cost tends to be non-monetized. Chauffeuring costs are nonetheless very well-recognized by
observers in terms of lost productivity and opportunity cost. This and other measurement biases
will need to be countered by a combination of intelligent foresight, better data, and the thoughtful
use of emerging smart technologies, such as smart phones and smart city infrastructure. It can
be expected that with better insights a different picture will begin to emerge that more accurately
reflects the transportation system and the opportunity costs associated with foregone system
integration.
Over time, this will better capture latent demand for transportation services as the demand for
transportation services that do not yet exist becomes available through a combination of smart
infrastructure, crowd sourcing and data science. This is often recognized as a natural and
emerging consequence of the current trajectory of technological development. Less recognized
but no less important is the capacity to measure and capture the latent supply of transportation
capacity that emerges from the rise of the sharing economy. At the most basic level, a fully
integrated system should seek to integrate public transportation with ride hailing programs like
Uber and Lyft. Shared mobility services, such as these serve to improve the performance of
transportation systems as they find and serve latent demand by unlocking a latent supply of
transportation services.
Although ridesharing is a rapidly growing mode of transportation, much transportation planning
remains quite basic in how it considers the impact of shared mobility on existing transportation
systems and policy.
27
There is very little consideration for a seemingly obvious consequence of
ride sharing programs, namely the provision of latent supply as new entrants to the transportation
system begin to provide services. Ridesharing systems are often treated as external to regular
transportation planning and thus they are not always given intelligent consideration in system
integration strategies.
28
In spite of some cautious adoption in places like Hong Kong, there has
been little done to fully integrate taxis and ride-shares with the transportation system, much less
so under an integrated fare structure. And yet, one recent study suggests that ride hailing and a
combination of ride hailing and transit, represent 22% of all trips taken in the United States,
compared to 24% of all trips that are taken by transit-alone.
29
This under-studied dynamic of how disintermediated transportation services interact with transit
will prove key to ensuring the continuing accessibility of the transportation system. Indeed, with
little intentional governance of the intersection between these two systems, a risk emerges that
the transportation needs of persons with disabilities will not be proactively addressed. While
26
Litman, 2017. 7
27
McCoy, et al., 2018.
28
Jayawardana, April 4th 2018.
29
Clewlow and Mishra, 2017.
14
transit services offer accessible adjunct service with adjusted fares to promote fairness across
the system, emerging ridesharing service providers do not replicate this incentive structure.
Services like uberWAV offer an accessible alternative to standard Uber services, but as a ride
sharing platform not a service delivery mechanism operating in the public interest, it does not
have the same duty to ensure that accessible services are available. As ridesharing services
become increasingly ubiquitous and integrated with the existing transportation system (whether
formally or otherwise), this is a key site to expect to find new and emerging barriers to access
going forward.
Access in Rural and Remote Areas
Rural and remote areas are generally
excluded from efforts to promote
system integration as these efforts
have instead tended to focus on urban
and suburban areas. Yet rural and
remote areas also tend to have some
of the highest barriers to meaningfully
accessible transportation services due
to a combination of low transportation
offerings, comparatively poor
economies of scale for transportation
service providers and proportionately larger senior populations. In addition to these systemic
barriers that impact the accessibility of transportation options in rural and remote communities,
car dependence combined with a greying rural population will continue to increase demand for
accessible transportation options. In turn, demand for better system integration in rural and
remote communities will continue to increase over time as the population continues to age, as
population (in many cases) declines, and as the relative gap in technological infrastructure with
cities continues to widen.
These dynamics become especially important because as they are occurring concurrently with
the trend for the existing modes of transportation servicing rural areas, like coach buses, to
reduce their offerings. Most notably, in 2018 Greyhound Canada announced that it would be
ending all of its service offerings in the Prairie provinces.
30
Although a dramatic development,
this is very much a linear continuation of the long-term trend for transportation service reductions
in rural and remote areas. Absent heavy-handed government interventions, for which there may
well be no political appetite, the accessibility of transportation options in rural and remote
communities can be expected to continue its long-term decline, if not in real terms, then surely
in relative terms. And yet, analysis indicates that "…during the next two decades, rural
multimodal travel demands will increase several fold (and)…new planning and funding practices
will be needed to meet these needs."
31
It is clear that Canada is presently on course for
developing a major accessibility gap in these areas.
Addressing the challenges of rural and remote communities will require a long-term strategy that
goes far beyond the scope of this work, although there may however be some potential to
30
Moore, July 9th 2018.
31
Litman, 2018b.
Demand for better system integration in
rural and remote communities will
continue to increase over time as the
population continues to age, as
population (in many cases) declines, and
as the relative gap in technological
infrastructure with cities continues to
widen.
15
improve the integration of transportation systems and the accessibility of transportation offerings
in a way which makes a positive contribution to their circumstances. By employing new
technologies which use the sharing economy to unlock subsumed or latent transportation supply,
some rapid progress can be made to increase access and accessibility alike. Ride-sharing
platforms, for all their controversies and limitations, do just this by removing many of the logistical
barriers to both consuming and supplying private vehicle transportation, something which is
especially relevant to rural communities that are underserviced by existing transportation supply
arrangements.
It requires little stretch of the imagination to see how combining this latent transportation capacity
with close consideration for existing rural transportation options could help to greatly improve
access to integrated and inclusive transportation services in rural and remote communities.
Indeed, the demand for accessible transportation is already plentiful and increasing rapidly; the
supply gap is mostly a problem of being unable to align existing demand with the scale
requirements employed by traditional transportation service providers. Rich data sets and efforts
at promoting better integration of modes can help to solve this over time. However, the degree
to which these technologies are being explored as a prospective solution to rural transportation
barriers is, as best as we can tell, quite marginal.
Radical Innovations for Access and Integration
The first technological solutions that come to mind for using system integration to improve access
are often navigation applications, perhaps epitomized by systems like GoogleMaps.
GoogleMaps and competing navigation products use GPS to provide street by street navigation
instructions for all modes of transportation, including public, private and active modes. These
systems update in real-time in many cases (though not for most public transportation) and are
designed to provide aggregate data insights that can be used to inform both personal travel and
transportation infrastructure planning. Some of this information can be especially useful for
persons with disabilities. For instance, these systems can note high changes in elevation and
alternative routes which may well prove more accessible than the most direct route. While these
navigation services offer a marked improvement in access for many, they are designed with the
widest possible audience in mind and thus have little embedded or purpose-built considerations
for the needs of persons with disabilities.
Blindsquare represents an interesting best practice as it renders its GPS-based navigation in an
auditory format that is easily accessible to persons with visual disabilities. Yet, rapidly
technological progress makes a variety of new options available that go above and beyond
typical navigation software. One of the most promising new technologies in this area is
Augmented Reality or AR, which uses computer vision to “map” existing space in near-real time.
AR is guided by the principal of adding a virtual “layer” to existing physical space which can be
the basis for further interaction from the user. Researchers at the California Institute of
Technology (CalTech) have been experimenting with the use of AR as a substitute for traditional
wayfinding. In this case, AR uses “computer vision” to convert information about the built
environment into a format that is understandable by a computer, which can then be converted
again into any format that is understandable to a human.
32
32
Liu, Stiles and Meister, 2018.
16
Figure 3: Augmented Reality May Soon Offer Novel Technological Solutions
Source: Caltech Youtube Channel
AR is currently being tested for a wide range of object recognition purposes, where it has the
ability to dramatically enhance the capacities of persons with disabilities to interact with their
surroundings, including the transportation network. In one example recently piloted with the
support of American Airlines, passengers would receive access to an AR layer with information
specific to their flight. This would give them real-time and automatically updated guidance
through the airport to the boarding gate. The application of these technologies to purposes
designed specifically with persons with disabilities in mind, or to have these capabilities
integrated with any manner of transportation infrastructure, would seem to be a logical next-step.
Nor do these types of features need to be exclusively visual; they may be auditory or even tactile
so long as this is designed for from the outset, highlighting the importance of early-stage policy
leadership.
Figure 4: Smartphone-Based Augmented Reality for Navigating Transportation Terminals
Source: GrooveJones Youtube
17
In Britain, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has broken new ground in its
research about how to integrate multi-modal transportation systems by using new technologies
such as “…augmented reality, electronic recognition and artificial vision. They see these as
forming part of a 'blended technological' solution, whereby technologies serve to complement
techniques already being used, such as the long white cane and the guide dog"
33
While the
hardware for these systems remains pricey and inaccessible to many, the costs are rapidly
decreasing and the software which allows these technologies to integrate into existing built
environments is becoming more prevalent. It requires little stretch of the imagination to see how
these tools could be integrated with existing technologies for promoting multi-modality in such a
way to dramatically improve accessibility in travel.
The increasing ubiquity of the Internet of Things (IoT) presents another new and exciting
technological pathway to improved system integration. With increasing internet connectivity and
the decreasing cost of electronics, an exponentially increasing number of objects will be
connected and internet compatible. This dramatic increase in connectivity offers a number of
novel pathways to improve system integration and embed meaningful accessibility in these new
systems. For instance, increased IoT penetration offers smart devices much more precise
geolocation, making it possible to foresee navigation applications that are accurate within several
centimetres rather than several meters. This level of precision has the potential to enable and
embolden a range of accessibility features, such as door-to-door guided navigation, into wider
efforts at system integration. These new technologies can help to solve many “first mile/last mile
issues” (i.e., lack of convenient transportation options either to or from an individual’s place of
work and/or home to a major transport hub, such as an airport), so long as accessibility
considerations are taken proactively and in early stages of technological development.
Figure 5: Smart Cities are Changing the Face of Accessible Transportation
Source: Cisco Systems, Securing the Internet of Things: A Proposed Framework
33
Meeting the Needs of Older and Disabled Travelers, 2017. 12.
18
There is a close connection between the capabilities of IoT and “Smart Cities.” The concept of
“Smart cities” envisions the increasing pervasiveness of technology embedded into everyday
objects as eventually arriving at a point where nearly all objects have a digital presence and are
networked with one another. These technologies (among others) offer the opportunity to address
mobility barriers and improve progress towards universal accessibility.
34
The IoT allows for
higher degrees of optimization and coordination between all variety of services than currently
possible with current systems. This has the potential to lead to very high levels of system
integration and interoperability of transportation infrastructure. It is already the case that "Tailored
accessibility-related information and communication apps for wheelchair users and people with
otherwise reduced mobility draw on digital maps and crowd-sourced data, often provided in real
time."
35
The current trajectory of technological development will only continue to support this and
related accessibility applications.
Understandably, smart cities will also continue to allow for better research capacity and
transportation planning by providing options for mapping traffic and volumes. In many cases,
there is also the potential to divide this information by subgroups, showing how people of different
abilities navigate the built environment. This information can then be combed and optimized,
feeding in to future decisions about investments in transportation and accessibility infrastructure
in a way that maximizes their positive impact. Combined with artificial intelligence, smart cities
have the potential to consider all the information in the entire transportation system
simultaneously and produce the optimal routing for everyone’s unique needs while adjusting
automatically for accidents, weather conditions and the like. Yet without forethought for persons
with disabilities, there is a very real risk of incorporating ableist bias into these systems. Inversely,
a thoughtful and inclusive approach has the potential to be revolutionary for accessibility for
persons with disabilities.
34
Perez-delHoyo et al., 2016.
35
Meeting the Needs of Older and Disabled Travelers, 2017. 12.
19
Challenges
Many of today’s challenges to effective multi-modal transportation and system integration are
the same that have affected the transportation system since the early pushes for multimodal
transportation. This includes challenges of schedule coordination between routes, ensuring
seamless fare integration while avoiding additive fees, and preventing infrastructure design
issues that make for long distances to be walked between services (in many cases with little to
no wayfinding in between). Some of these issues are a matter of improving future infrastructure
planning and making appropriate investments for accessibility from the outset of transportation
projects. However, the most persistent issues are matters of governance and inter-jurisdictional
coordination rather than technical issues, making them inherently solvable, although difficult.
From a high level,
The reason [why public transport integration issues are difficult to resolve] is
invariably related to the way public transport is organized, and how the
institutions and the people that work for them relate to one another. In an ideal
world, all public transport, irrespective of mode would be planned, implemented
and managed under the aegis of a single authority with a mandate covering an
entire metropolitan area.
36
Continuous improvements in data will certainly continue to help to inform better investments in
transportation infrastructure going forward but the fact remains that a country’s overarching
governance structure is a major determinate of its success at system integration. This is a large
part of the reason why city-states have been so effective with integrating multi-modal
transportation networks; there is only one group of decision-makers and only one level of
government involved in the decision. The Canadian case is likely the furthest opposite extreme
as the country operates a highly decentralized federal system of government and one that places
a strong emphasis on the principal of subsidiarity.
Aside from the underlying institutional
and machinery of government issues
that lie at the heart of system
integration processes, the integration
of modes tends to be resolved on a
case-by-case basis. Although there
are principals of good governance
which can be employed in all
circumstances,
37
general principals
cannot be advocated too literally as
they are no match for the particulars
of a given situation. Some of these systemic issues of governance at the heart of system
integration may also well be outside of the mandate of the transportation portfolio as they relate
to jurisdictional issues that are the purview of other orders of government.
36
Zimmerman and Fang, 2015. 7
37
Graham, Amos and Plumptre, 2003.
Although active modes of transportation
have many clear advantages, they are
principally the purview of the able-bodied
and thus some tenets of multi-modal
transportation could well reduce access for
persons with disabilities if employed
incautiously as a design principal.
20
In Ontario for instance, systemic jurisdictional issues spilling-over into the transportation sector
were too significant to be addressed through incremental policy change alone. Instead, these
jurisdictional coordination issues were ultimately addressed in a much more heavy-handed way
by creating of an entirely new Crown entity through legislation that would be given a distinct
mandate to integrate transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Region (GTHA).
38
This
type of drastic action may continue to be the most reliable way to overcoming jurisdictional and
governance issues in some cases, grand policy changes should not be discounted as an option.
The philosophy behind multimodal transportation also has some inherent bias towards active
modes of transportation such as bicycling and walking, and relying disproportionately on active
transportation as a way of resolving “last mile” issues. This is generally viewed as having a
positive knock-on effect for the promotion of public health and for resolving integration issues
with light-touch policy. Yet this emphasis on active transportation also presents a risk of
marginalizing persons with disabilities, many of whom may only have limited mobility.
Although active modes of transportation have many clear advantages, they are principally the
purview of the able-bodied and thus some tenets of multi-modal transportation could well reduce
access for persons with disabilities if employed incautiously as a design principal. While
multimodal transportation often comes with connotations of walkability and improving urbanism
to promote active transportation, if active mediums of transportation are indispensable to the
integration of the system then this would be to the exclusion of many persons with disabilities.
The Canadian Landscape
Canada has a transportation system and governance landscape which is very different from
many of the leading practices identified in the literature. In most cases, these variations have
little to do with any policy choices that have been undertaken by government and should be more
aptly described as being a function of Canada’s institutional and socio-economic heritage, which
is very different from those of early leaders in system integration. While Hong Kong for instance
often emerges as a noteworthy case study of system integration, as does Singapore, both are
jurisdictions with unified central governments, high population density, and no rural hinterland.
Reading from these sorts of best practices too literally therefore would pose serious challenges
for a country like Canada which has multiple layers of government that are not necessarily
integrated with one another, large areas outside of major population centres, and relatively low
population density by international standards, even in its urban centres. Likewise, urban form
itself has a strong effect on what is possible in transportation planning and system integration,
with cities of high population density (like London or Hong Kong) found to generally have much
better levels of accessibility than cities with relatively low urban density like Ottawa or Calgary.
Lower density cities tend to be the typical urban form of North America, with large suburban
areas outside of the downtown core making public transportation more difficult.
38
This of course is referring to the 2006 creation of Metrolinx.
21
To that end, one recent study found that large Canadian cities in fact tend to have much lower
population densities than even other North American cities.
39
Another major obstacle is the
dramatic shift in density that occurs between cities and nearby suburban communities. This
abrupt shift in density often produces stark transit gaps where barriers to accessibility are most
likely to be manifest. Furthermore, Canada continues to have many small cities and towns far
from the main (urban) transportation network, and with accessibility being a principal for all- not
just urban dwellers- Canada faces more challenges than most in integrating its national
transportation system.
Rural and remote communities in Canada face a serious risk of declining relative accessibility.
Both in the wider literature and in the Canadian context specifically, rural and remote
communities tend to be excluded from conversations about access, particularly when that access
is enabled by public transportation infrastructure or new digital technologies with integrative
functions. This issue generated a great deal of public attention with the 2018 closure of
Greyhound routes in the three Prairie provinces, effectively leaving them without reliable intercity
bus transportation. However, this major shift has yet to catalyse in a significant policy change,
and the transportation accessibility of rural communities has every reason to continue its decline.
The unique characteristics of the Canadian North also present special challenges to system
integration which make for low transportation accessibility, and that will ultimately require careful
attention through policy, although to date, little research has been conducted on this subject
specifically.
40
Internationally recognized best practices in system integration often point to an integrated
structure of government as having been key to successful system integration. In these cases, a
single entity can make decisions regarding transportation infrastructure and integration and
ensure that they are rolled-out harmoniously across the entire transportation system. This
approach is far from being realized across Canada and is unlikely to ever be realized due to a
very different political landscape and culture. With that said, there are some isolated cases where
these best practices have been implemented in certain parts of the country alone.
The GTHA
41
is sometimes cited as a success story in this vein for Metrolinx (2006), the regional
transportation provider, and the Presto pass (2008). These successes stem from having linked
and integrated the transportation systems multiple municipal governments and Metrolinx. Presto
in particular allows users to pay for transportation services across 15 municipalities with a single
card through a system which is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
(AODA) and was also vetted for accessibility by the federal government prior to its roll-out. The
Presto Card system follows the inspiration from London’s Oyster Card and Hong Kong’s Octopus
Card, both of which perform similar integrative functions. Presto does however have some
challenges of imperfect fare integration and does not have any integrative functionality with taxis
or rideshares. Nor does Presto appear to be pursuing these functions, as of the time of writing
in 2019.
39
Filipowicz, 2018.
40
Draft Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy, 2017.
41
It should be noted that some elements of these successes, most notably the Presto Card, also include
municipalities outside of the GTHA, such as the city of Ottawa.
22
Transportation in the GTHA also
suffers from multiple systemic
governance challenges due to the
structuring of the region’s political
system. Although initiatives like
Presto have resolved some of the
transportation shortcomings
arising from the multiple layers of
intersecting government
transportation services and
elected bodies, deeper efforts at system integration are likely to depend on more substantial
changes to the region’s overarching governance structures. Existing plans for transportation in
the region, namely those related to “The Big Move” multi-year regional transportation plan, are
also in flux with as changes in the provincial government raise doubt about the future trajectory
of services. As such, it remains an open question the degree to which “The Big Move” and its
integrative elements will continue to hold such an outsized emphasis on transportation policy in
the GTHA.
Montreal is enthusiastic about improving the integration of its transportation system through
digital technologies, specifically with its Autorité Régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM),
created in 2017 for just this purpose.
42
Montreal has an ambitious vision for the integration of its
transportation system, having engaged the Finnish company Mobility as a Service (MaaS) with
the goal of fully integrating, and ultimately automating, the city’s transportation system. Closely
related to this is the automation of cars and a move away from private vehicle ownership and
towards to a sharing-economy model of automotive transportation.
43
TransLink, the regional
transportation authority in Vancouver, is seeking to develop a platform that would bring together
various transportation functions into a single system. This system would include a wide range of
transportation modes and would be able to accommodate trip planning and ticketing, along with
other functions such as travel rewards.
44
42
Moore, August 16th 2017.
43
Kargas and Hietanen, October 26th 2016.
44
Moore, August 16th 2017.
Although initiatives like Presto have resolved
some of the transportation shortcomings
arising from the multiple layers of intersecting
government transportation services and
elected bodies, deeper efforts at system
integration are likely to depend on more
substantial changes to the region’s
overarching governance structures.
23
Recommendations
This research has pointed to a number of potential areas where improvements can be made to
the accessibility of the transportation system. With the increasing prevalence of emerging
technologies, there is a veritable cornucopia of potential pathways for these technologies to be
put to use in the pursuit of a more accessible transportation system. As new applications continue
to emerge, the potential scope for constructive action will likewise continue to increase. Ongoing
research and careful observation of these technological developments will be a key ingredient
for any strategy to improve the accessibility of the transportation system and for ensuring optimal
system integration.
With this being noted, it will be important for tangible action to be taken in the near term in addition
to continuing to keep a close eye on rapidly unfolding technological potential, such as AR-backed
navigation. This report offers three major recommendations which represent the highest
opportunity areas for government action in the immediate term. Each of these recommendations
can be pursued on its own, or in concert with any combination of the other recommendations.
Recommendation #1: “Nudging” for Access
As with many elements of technological progress backed by big data and the digital revolution,
there is a risk that new systems for integrating transportation networks will be developed
specifically with the median citizen in mind. Anything designed for the “average” will tend to
ignore the unique needs of those with characteristics not aligned with the majority of the
population. The rapid growth and application of new technologies could therefore marginalize
underrepresented groups such as persons with disabilities. That is to say that without close
attention and perhaps some light policy interventions, the next phase of development in digital
technologies risks overlooking the individualized mobility needs of (some) persons with
disabilities. Some commentators have summed up this challenge compellingly, although with
some degree of technical inaccuracy, as algorithmic or AI “bias” which “discriminates” against
those with statistically uncommon traits, such as disability.
It is important to recognize that adopting a disability lens in the digital technologies which support
system integration is unlikely to be the natural or unencumbered development trajectory of these
technologies, which may very well require a policy “nudge” to produce socially optimal outcomes.
With persons with disabilities representing a small share of the total population, and each specific
disability representing a much smaller share still, the natural inclination of technological
development under purely market incentives may well be to bypass these specific needs in
favour of serving the widest possible audience. As the impact of this becomes felt in the
transportation system, it is possible to see technological efforts at system integration
perpetuating ableist and inaccessible design features and unintentionally eroding hard-earned
progress towards universal access.
24
It is possible to remedy this tendency by helping to ensure that a disability lens is applied from
the earliest outset of the relevant technologies’ development. Systems which have been
thoughtfully designed with specific user-needs in mind from the outset have the potential to
greatly improve the accessibility features of a transportation system. In this sense, marginal
policy interventions early-on in the development process can have a significant positive impact
for users writ large. Rather than relying strictly on regulations, which may prove to be too much,
too late, some of the highest opportunity areas for policy intervention could be best addressed
by using the principles of behavioural economics, nudging users and designers to provide
accessible systems of their own volition.
One specific design of promise could be for emerging systems to allow users to navigate their
travel plans on the basis of specific operational features and attributes of the built environment
which can be considered and optimized for during the journey. In a system designed with a
disability lens in mind, users could toggle search criteria to select transportation routes on the
basis of them being cheaper, faster, minimizing active transportation requirements, or adhering
to routes that have been ranked as the most accessible overall. Another promising innovation
would be for these systems to leverage user insights by making their systems interactive, thereby
leveraging the wisdom of crowds allowing users to flag potential barriers or accessible pathways
to one another.
While this work highlights two such potential examples, there are many potential options for
promoting better access that will be created by designers and users themselves. Any policy
interventions in this space would benefit from co-creation so as to incorporate the potential for
innovation from users, service providers and other innovators. There are a number of light-touch
policy instruments which can be put to use in such a fashion. This could include interventions as
simple as awareness campaigns promoting accessibility features and the disability lens among
the community of digital technology developers. Other options in this vein include development
prizes to spur the pursuit of desirable innovations, with initiatives such as the DARPA Challenge,
which awarded prize money for the team which best met its criteria for a self-driving vehicle,
providing a good model to follow. In such cases, a competition would be held and a prize awarded
for the best incorporation of accessible design principles in software development for
transportation systems.
Even more options still in this vein could include the hosting of accessibility design charrettes or
hackathons for those working in the development of digital technologies. In these cases,
participants can be encouraged to troubleshoot a particular problem with an accessibility lens in
mind. This learning opportunity helps to engender among developers a perspective on
accessibility which these individuals are in turn likely to bring to their future work. These types of
initiatives put disability and accessible transportation on the minds of those that are most likely
to be contributing to digital system integration platforms in the future, rather than mandating
standards and seeking to enforce them retroactively. Digital system design with a disability lens
will be especially important for the next logical step in the development of these technologies
which is likely to be the integration of multiple transportation systems at the national or regional
level, rather than simply at the size of a municipality. For long and medium distance
transportation, the ability for users to optimize routes in this fashion may ultimately prove to be
even more essential to access.
25
Software interfaces used to promote system integration must meet high levels of design criteria
in order to be effective, including high levels of usability and user friendliness more generally.
Likewise, people with visual and cognitive impairments may find themselves unable to access
transportation systems utilizing technological interfaces that have not have been designed with
their needs in mind. This makes it important to consider auditory or tactical layers to these
software interfaces, an area which may require government intervention to support the
development of systems that safeguard the public interest. To that end, continuing research is
necessary to ensure that champions within the federal system remain aware and up to date on
the realm of the possible.
Recommendation #2: Data Leadership for Accessible Transportation
Data drives much of the technical capacity for improved system integration. This in turn makes
the intelligent production, sharing and consumption of data crucial for improving both system
integration and for promoting the wider accessibility of transportation systems. While government
is one of the biggest owners of data, government practices for sharing and consuming data
remain rudimentary. Even low-risk government data is often hoarded into departmental silos and
rendered inaccessible to those who might otherwise be able to make use of it in pursuit of a
public mission, including other government departments. This is a systemic issue and one which
has been identified as a priority in ongoing efforts to develop a national data strategy. As the
development of a national data strategy continues to unfold, data owners and producers falling
under the accessible transportation portfolio should work proactively to ensure that the impetus
for promoting system integration and accessible transportation are being championed.
This is an area where proactive action can play a significant role in promoting the accessibility of
transportation networks. Indeed there have been calls for action by government in this space by
experts who suggest that, "An open and interoperable digital system for integration of
technologically ready partners should be fostered by public authorities, while creating incentives
to enable and offer accessible transport services. "[2] To that end, the federal government should
involve itself more actively in data collection and analysis of information that can be put to use in
shared mobility platforms, particularly in the promotion of accessibility. If done effectively, this
would represent an opportunity for government to become a catalyst for wider change by
providing better tools for accessibility considerations to be readily incorporated in downstream
innovations.
Data about the accessibility of transportation should be curated in such a way that would make
an eventual release into the public sphere as seamless and as impactful as possible. By ensuring
that this important information is more readily available to stakeholders- in a manner that is of
course in accordance with the highest standards of privacy- government can in turn help to
ensure that considerations of accessibility are well factored in to future decision-making and
platform development, in accordance with Recommendation #1.
Initiatives in this vein will ensure maximum impact and value for money by enabling those who
are seeking to develop system integration platforms to advance the public interest by better
including accessibility considerations. This information can be used to complement integration
with existing transportation options by allowing more intelligent forecasting for transportation
service providers in the short-term, and over the long term, by promoting active integration
between various modes through targeted infrastructure investments. This likewise provides
26
value to decision-makers in other levels of government who will be empowered to better forecast
and plan for accessibility as a result of the actions of the federal government.
This would require taking on a leadership position for data on accessible transportation, likely in
concert with other government departments whose mandate is likely to cover collection and
curation of this kind of data. This action item includes advocating for better information-sharing
among government departments and for ensuring that data sets are integrated with one another.
This could include the development of a cross-departmental working group dedicated to data
relevant to matters of accessibility and the accessibility of the transportation system. Meaningful
data related to marginalised populations including persons with disabilities can be difficult to
collect when operating strictly under the incentives of private industry. This capacity gap in
private industry provides government with a clear opportunity to serve the public interest. A more
active role for government in managing data about accessibility and accessible transportation
will include the collection of data about accessible transportation systems and about user needs
in the context of these systems.
There are some open-ended questions of where to assign this role within the context of a federal
system where multiple layers of government have sometimes overlapping mandates for
transportation services. This report suggests that the initiative lies with the federal government
due to its large technical capacity, multiple ongoing initiatives for improving data and digital
government, and due to the interprovincial nature of much of Canada’s transportation network
which is likely to represent the greatest opportunity area in the future. With that said, better data
about accessible transportation should be actively shared among all levels of government who
could also be invited to participate in a standardized collection process, led by the federal
government. Should a determination ultimately be made that this new role for data governance
of accessible transportation should be the principal responsibility of another level of government,
the federal government could nonetheless take on a leading role by lending capacity and
technical support including to Canadian jurisdictions that may be lacking it.
This scope of action can also include the provision of training and other forms of capacity-building
to other levels of government which may presently lack the necessary technical capacity for
action or ability to promote the necessary integration of information from multiple jurisdictions.
For instance, federal data scientists could be envisioned sharing research, tools, standards and
expertise with small municipalities seeking to improve their own data collection and use. This
could in turn be integrated with data from the federal government and other levels of government
to help provide meaningful insights not just for the federal transportation system at large, but also
for small rural and remote municipalities that are unlikely to have the capacity to do this on their
own. This leverages the scale and capacity of the federal government in a way which improves
the overall accessibility of the transportation network, and can provide support to the jurisdictions
which are most likely to benefit from enhanced accessible system integration in the future.
27
Recommendation #3: Citizen-Centric Accessibility
A clear finding of the research has been that many of the most successful projects for system
integration have occurred in jurisdictions with centralized authority, where a single entity has
been entrusted with a mandate for system integration. This includes the well-known examples of
Hong Kong and Singapore, but even in Canada the example of GTHA could support this insight.
Indeed, system integration in the GTHA was led and supported by Metrolinx, a newly created
public entity with the express mandate of cross-sectioning existing government transportation
arrangements in order to promote the integration of these systems. The leading digital
component of the GTHA system, Presto, is similarly a function of these new arrangements and
is indeed an operating division of Metrolinx. All of these raises questions about the degree to
which system integration for access will be inhibited by existing machinery of government
arrangements.
The present structure of transportation networks in Canada, particularly public transportation
networks, crosses a multiplicity of different governments whose offerings are not integrated with
one another nor with the offerings of the private transportation sector. To get a sense of
proportion for this problem, one need consider not only the lack of integration between the 10
provinces and the federal government, but also between all of the nearly 4,000 municipal
governments that exist in Canada. This integration gap affects different groups
disproportionately. Those in rural and remote areas are particularly vulnerable to the
consequences of poor integration since these areas have more separate governments per
capita. Furthermore, with the service availabilities in these areas being more limited already,
persons with disabilities have higher prospects of being negatively impacted by an integration
gap. For these reasons, route cancellations in these areas will continue to bring an outsized
impact to Canada’s rural and remote communities.
This integration gap can be expected to continue in both size and consequence, likely to the
point of these issues becoming of significant interest in national public policy. One need only
consider the significance of the 2018 Greyhound cancellations and their impact on public
discourse to get a sense for the importance of changes to the transportation system. In this case,
Greyhound’s transportation services were cancelled in three provinces (Manitoba,
Saskatchewan and Alberta) and severely reduced in a another (British Columbia). Soft demand
and an inability to scale service offerings may indeed make these transportation services an
unprofitable venture for private enterprises like Greyhound, but the transportation needs of
citizens in these areas still exists, and may even be growing in relative terms as populations in
these areas are growing and greying. The present trajectory seems to point to worsening
integration and accessibility of transportation at a time when the need for both is steadily
increasing.
All of these operational and technical developments occur against the background of a growing
role for the federal government in issues of accessibility as a result of Bill C-81, the proposed
Accessible Canada Act. Taken as a whole, conditions may well prove sufficiently significant as
to merit measured consideration of a machinery of government change. Of course, the shared
Federal-Provincial (and Municipal) mandate for transportation will make any full appropriation of
system integration into the mandate of one level of government or another constitutionally
impossible. Yet, a machinery of government change could nonetheless be affected to support
citizen-centricity in this sphere, in a manner reminiscent of Service Canada’s mandate for
interfacing interactions between citizens and government entities providing services.
28
It is conceivable for the federal government to operate an entity similarly operating as a citizen-
centric interface, but for the entirety of the transportation system and with the objective of
optimizing system integration and ensuring minimum standards of access nationally. In addition
to effectively promoting system integration, this has the ability to unlock new sources of
transportation capacity by inducing supply and maximizing their usefulness. This will be
especially important in areas that are traditionally underserved by transportation supply, supply
of accessible transportation options, and that tend to lack market incentives for integration,
namely inter-city services in rural and remote areas. A citizen-centric platform with a mandate
for comprehensive integration of transportation offerings has the potential to bring with it
improvements in this area.
For instance, inter-city rideshare services already exist in large measure and are facilitated by
message-boards and online classified advertising, a format which prevents the full potential of
induced supply and also prevents these services from being integrated into other offerings. In
this sense, the latent supply of transportation whose potential for integration with other modes is
rendered impossible while it is relegated into the informal economy. Formalizing this sector, or
rather by providing a platform through which this sector could formalize itself, has the potential
to improve mobility, integration of modes and the availability of service offerings, particularly in
rural and remote areas that are poorly serviced by existing business models. It would also
provide government with another policy lever in accessible transportation in this case to
nominally tinker with incentives and routes in order to promote policy objectives.
Finally, an integrated citizen-centric system would likewise help to collect data on accessibility of
transportation modes including gaps in the availability of accessible transportation service
offerings. This information would be crucial to future policy and investments in transportation
infrastructure, helping to ensure that public funds in support of accessibility are allocated with
the most effective value-proposition. It would likewise provide more policy options to government,
including more informed and targeted efforts at enforcement. If this data is made accessible to
the public in some form it can be used by industry to proactive self-regulate or by civil society to
encourage higher standards and experimentation in delivery.
29
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Carlton, B. (December 11 th, 2018.) "Caltech Scientists Use AR to Help The Blind Navigate." VR Scout. Accessed December 11 th 2018. https://vrscout.com/news/caltech-ar-helps-blindnavigate/
Disruptive Transportation: The Adoption, Utilization, and Impacts of Ride-Hailing in the United States
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