I am a current PhD student in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. I work on technology to support public transit use, particularly for people with visual impairments.
Over the past year, transit riders have submitted information for over 1000 unique bus stops in the Seattle area, and the numbers are still climbing. But as with any contribution-based project where the information collected is subject to change over time, maintaining a stable level of contributions is crucial toward long-term adoption and success. That’s why my research team at the University of Washington has been focused on learning what motivates people to contribute, and adding in features that support these values and motives. For example, an initial study discovered that sense of community was important to many contributors, and therefore are working on a feature that allows contributors to respond to direct requests for information from other community members.
If you’d like to give your own input on what might matter to you when contributing information, or suggest potential new features for StopInfo, we have created a form for feedback here.It takes about 20 minutes to complete, and also includes a chance to win a $50 gift card of your choice. Feel free to pass it on to other transit riders (near or far) as well!
We’ve appreciated all of the help that Seattle Transit Blog readers have offered us in the past, and want to ensure that this project remains a community-driven effort. As we’ve started to see recently, speaking out in support of better information tools can benefit developers, transit agencies, and Seattle-area riders alike.
Earlier this year, my research team at the University of Washington launched StopInfo, a prototype system linked from the OneBusAway iOS application that provides detailed information about bus stops, primarily to help visually-impaired riders to locate them. This information comes from a combination of King County Metro’s internal information about bus stops and information entered directly from transit riders using the OneBusAway application, typically while waiting at the stop. At the outset of the project, we hoped that this community-entered information would supplement and verify what Metro had already provided us, so that we could include additional types of information such as how well-lit a stop is at night and the bus sign’s position relative to the curb, while making sure information is kept accurate and up-to-date.
Since initially launching StopInfo in late February, we have collected over 1,300 submissions for 845 unique stops in King County. We have also studied the use of the system with six visually-impaired transit riders over a five week period, and found that StopInfo is generally helpful for blind and low vision riders and can promote more spontaneous travel as well as trips to less familiar places. Additionally, all six of our participants said that they wanted to keep using the system even after the study ended. Full details on this study can be found in this paper, which will be published and presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing annual conference in October.
We are now in the midst of evaluating the system more fully, and are considering the underlying values associated with the use of the system for a full range of stakeholder groups, including transit officials at King County Metro, visually impaired transit riders, bus drivers, and transit riders who might potentially contribute information. So if you are a Metro driver, a person who is blind or low vision, or are interested in potentially contributing information or have contributed information before, please contact us at email@example.com if you would be willing to answer a few questions for our study. If you are a OneBusAway user interested in contributing, you can also take a quick online survey, which offers a chance at winning a $50 Amazon gift card in a drawing.
Image: (left) Where to access StopInfo within the OneBusAway iOS Application. (right) StopInfo’s information screen.