The vast majority of the residents living in Detroit and the surrounding metro area rely on personal vehicles for transportation and those without access to cars struggle to effectively commute. Traffic congestion causes stress and wastes time for many who commute by car. Information about alternative transportation options is scattered, incomplete and difficult to access. We propose a mobile-friendly, web-based application and eventually a mobile app that will allow anyone in Detroit to search for public and alternative transportation quickly and easily. It will include a function to enter any starting and ending location or address within the metro Detroit area and get a set of recommended routes with a list of every transportation option available on the way from point A to point B. To achieve this we will leverage open source technology (opentripplanner.org) and mobility data from existing local sources. By enabling people in Detroit to discover new ways of using alternative transportation options such as public transit, park and ride, and bike-sharing systems, we can improve the health of residents, reduce traffic congestion, and enable better access to transportation information for the car-less population.
Improvements over existing technologies
We investigated current market trends to identify existing technologies that provide similar functionality around alternative transportation. The leading applications in this space are Google Maps and Transit App. CityMapper is another example but it currently lacks support for Detroit. These apps are used throughout the U.S. and the world by millions of people which demonstrates clear demand for this kind of easy-to-use trip planning functionality. However, the existing apps lack support for many travel modes and do not provide key details about local services that are crucial for safe travel within the Detroit context. Below we outline key functionality that existing applications do not currently support in the Detroit context:
Safer bicycle directions: When giving bicycling directions, existing trip planning applications such as Google Maps do not take into account the most up-to-date and complete information about Detroit's bike lane infrastructure. This frequently leads to directions recommendations along roads that are unsafe for cyclists. Our application uses available open data on Detroit's bike lane infrastructure to give directions recommendations that are much safer than those provided by existing applications.
Hyperlocal transit information: Existing applications do not incorporate key information that is crucial for effectively using Detroit's public transit system. For example, they do not provide details on how people can purchase tickets or pay fares and in many cases do not provide any fare information at all. Our directions results can provide accurate fare information as well as all fare options that are available. For example, we can alert users to discounts available for low-income residents and cost-saving options such as the DART card that allows paying a single fare to board both DDOT and SMART buses. Additionally, we can enable users with disabilities to learn how to use services like SMART’s ADA Paratransit Service.
Multimodal optimization: Google Maps does not offer multi-modal directions, which means it only gives directions involving a single mode of transit. The Transit App has some support for multi-modal directions such as recommendations that combine public transit and bicycling in a single journey, but no existing app supports planning "park and ride" journeys (e.g. driving to a SMART park and ride location and then taking a bus afterward). Our initial solution will be able to provide directions recommendations that involve the following multi-modal combinations: (1) "Park and Ride" enabled by SMART's existing Park and Ride infrastructure (2) transit combined with MoGo bike-share (3) and transit combined with a personal bicycle. Unlike the Transit App, multi-modal directions that involve bicycling will account for Detroit's bike lane infrastructure to ensure a safe ride. The software infrastructure we are using (opentripplanner.org) affords enhancing the multi-modal functionality to include additional multi-modal combinations. Some of the possibilities that may be most relevant in Detroit include: (1) rideshare (e.g. Lyft and Uber) combined with transit, (2) local employer-provided shuttles combined with transit, and (3) scooters combined with transit.
Over the past few weeks, we developed and launched a live prototype of the application which enables basic transit trip planning with the option of getting multimodal directions using DDOT combined with a bicycle.
Link to live application: http://openplanit.co
Open source code from http://www.opentripplanner.org.
Open data incorporated so far: