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Accelerate ride-sharing services for people with disabilities in Pittsburgh

Expanding transportation options for people with disabilities.

Photo of Heather Tomko
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Written by

For commutes in Pittsburgh to be seamless, welcoming, and intuitive, we must ensure that residents and visitors to the city with disabilities have access to multiple forms of transportation, just as those without disabilities do. Our idea brings accessible ride-sharing to Pittsburgh through strategic partnerships, and by establishing a community of practice, accelerating a market for this much-needed service. This will allow those with disabilities utilize flexible, on-demand transportation services regardless of physical or intellectual impairment. The demand is there, yet it does not exist – our solution changes that.

To implement our solution in Pittsburgh, we have partnered with Mobility 4 All (M4A), a technology platform focused on addressing the unique needs of riders with disabilities. M4A is a start-up mobility management company based in Minnesota, whose mission is to provide high quality, safe and cost effective transportation for people with disabilities. The platform acknowledges the role that caregivers play in the lives of those with disabilities, and understands how riders with disabilities differ from traditional riders. It provides the ability for caregivers to schedule rides for people with disabilities, and to load payment for rides onto the app.

Achieva is another partner and ally for our solution to be successfully implemented. As a local nonprofit organization that provides services through the entire life-span of people with disabilities, they’re very interested in improving transportation needs for the clients that they serve. In this respect, they will serve as a testing partner, though we also plan to provide our service to riders with disabilities outside their population.

Our team serves as the intermediaries and platform builders, bringing together these key partners to successfully pilot our solution in Pittsburgh. We are poised to build the infrastructure necessary to implement our solution here. We will be responsible for hiring drivers, and training them to understand the needs of riders with disabilities. The drivers will be trained not only to assist riders inside the vehicle, but also to provide any other assistance needed – for example, getting out of their house, or into their destination. We will implement the pilot, capturing data and user feedback, allowing us to iterate and expand based on information that we collect. We will build a community of drivers, riders, and advocates of people with disabilities in Pittsburgh who can champion our solution and help it grow to meet its fullest potential.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Our solution will be used by people with disabilities living in the Pittsburgh area looking for more forms of transportation to get them to school, work, appointments, and just around in their day-to-day lives. We would give them flexibility and ease not provided by public transportation and paratransit, the two most common options available for people who do not own their own wheelchair accessible vehicle. As mentioned above, our solution may also be used by caregivers of people with disabilities, to assist with ride scheduling, tracking, payments, and ride experience feedback.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Heather, a CMU grad, is a passionate disability advocate who uses a wheelchair. Todd is an inclusive innovation advocate with a decade of experience in startups. We see ourselves as intermediaries, bringing together stakeholders like: Mobility 4 All: technology brokerage platform that matches riders who need door thru door service with fully vetted and trained drivers. Achieva: has an interested pool of riders, and are experts at dealing with many levels of government.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $75,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

While M4A’s technology platform has been piloted successfully in Minneapolis, it has not yet been tested in Pittsburgh. We would use the funding to work with M4A to hire and train drivers, cover other operating costs including insurance, and to promote and publicize our new service. By partnering with Achieva, we have access to an interested pool of riders, and potentially drivers, as well. All rides are paid for with “MO points” that are purchased ahead of time. These provide the funds that will take our idea beyond a pilot. We’d also plan to achieve approval to use state funding to pay for our service as a replacement or supplement for paratransit, if that is the riders preference.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success of our pilot would be measured in terms of number of rides provided, number of rides requested, and time between request and ride fulfillment. We can then use these measures to appropriately scale number of drivers hired and vehicles sourced for future expansion efforts. Of course, we cannot truly measure success without measuring riders’ satisfaction. A Net Promoter score from the rider and/or their caregiver would provide real-time riders’ satisfaction and experience rating.

55 comments

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Comment
Photo of Johanna Miralles
Team

Once the ride-sharing aspect of this app is developed, I feel like this app (or a connected service) could potentially be expanded to help improve the lives of people with disabilities in other ways by connecting them with people who want to help them live fuller lives. In particular, I'm imagining a way that volunteers might connect with people in need. For example, I might be a person who could use help blowdrying my hair once a week. Perhaps there is a Pittsburgher looking for a way to give back. I could post my need and be connected with the volunteer. There are, of course, certain risks to take into account with a program like that, but allowing access for volunteers on an institutional basis (through synagogues, churches, boy/girl scout groups, schools, corporations, etc.) could help to alleviate some potential concerns. Just thought this might be an interesting "Phase 2" or "Phase 3" of the ride-sharing aspect of your app!

Photo of Al Condeluci
Team

This Ride-sharing idea is long overdue for folks with disabilities. Although we have a good 24-hour demand service in the Pittsburgh area, the critical element of spontaneity is not available. If folks experiencing disabilities need a ride inside the 24 hour limit of para transit, they are stuck. What RideMo offers is a chance for folks with disabilities to participate the same way everyone else does. Bravo on this idea. Al Condeluci

Photo of Lesley Broff
Team

I did a focus group with 8 participants of varying needs at CLASS day program. The overall concensus was that people need more options especially if ACCESS is their only mode of transportation. Also people had concerns that ACCESS often doesn't prioritize people's doctor's appointment times to get them there on time which makes them unable to see their doctors. People also found that ACCESS doesn't wait long enough or let people know they are at their houses, and the 5 minute wait time makes them miss their rides. One other thing most people said was it is hard to get through to ACCESS and get the time you need for a pickup. This makes people either miss going places or having to go really early and wait around or get picked up late and be waiting alone. Everyone I spoke to agreed this was a great idea and would be nice to have more options like able bodied individuals have.

Photo of Susan Scharf
Team

As a parent of an adult with autism and DD a transportation program would be welcome and long over due . We use public transportation and our personal vehicles but neither are always available to get my son where he needs or wants to go. I am excited about the possibility of a solution to this HUGE problem for the special needs community!!

Photo of Todd Smith
Team

Thank you Susan Scharf  for taking our survey. Feel free to pass it along to more community members.

Photo of Chaz Kellem
Team

The community simply needs more options and support. Independence is often focused around access to REAL transportation that provides the consumer with options. Being able to determine when and how are critical elements to the success of this region.

Photo of Todd Smith
Team

Coming from you Chaz Kellem  means a lot. We designed a survey to help us better understand our potential user, just takes a couple minutes. We appreciate you filling it out and sharing with members of the disability community. https://goo.gl/forms/PdxpQ3t3nCMzHolc2

Photo of Susan Lautenbacher
Team

Heather, As someone with epilepsy I am afraid to use ride share programs at this time. I am afraid their lack of training and knowledge would endanger my health and welfare if I should have a seizure while riding with them. Your proposal would be an excellent solution for all of us dealing with all different types of disabilities. Susan Lautenbacher, Ph.D.

Photo of Lynn Cass
Team

I find this both very exciting and extremely necessary. I am the parent of a young man living with autism. We are new to the para transit system as he is a recent graduate. I have found the services to be at times unreliable, unsafe, and poorly managed. I would be very interested in sharing our brief experiences and assisting your goals .

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Hi Lynn Cass - that would be great! You can send me a message here.

Photo of Todd Smith
Team

Thank you LYNN for the support and sharing your family story. We designed a survey to help us a better understand our potential user, just takes a couple minutes. We appreciate you filling it out! https://goo.gl/forms/PdxpQ3t3nCMzHolc2

Photo of Alisa Marie
Team

I am a wheelchair user and I find this project absolutely invaluable. I support this idea 10000%.

Photo of Todd Smith
Team

Thank you Alisa for sharing your support! We designed a survey to help us a better understand our potential user, just takes a couple minutes. We appreciate you filling it out! https://goo.gl/forms/PdxpQ3t3nCMzHolc2

Photo of Carol Tabas
Team

Why wouldn't this be successful? Non disabled riders need it. Of course we need it! I am the parent of a young man who uses a wheelchair. Often when he goes out with a caregiver it would be so easy to call a ride and get dropped off door to door! It makes getting out in the community so much easier. No looking for handicapped spots that aren't there! No car payments! No repairs! No insurance payments! WIN, WIN!

Photo of Todd Smith
Team

Thank you Carol, for the support and sharing your family story. We designed a survey to help us a better understand our potential user, just takes a couple minutes. We appreciate you filling it out! https://goo.gl/forms/PdxpQ3t3nCMzHolc2

Photo of Diana Avart
Team

Thanks to all for the comments supporting this proposal! I encourage you to add comments with your experiences related to this topic in the Pittsburgh area to help the team further develop the idea during the Refine phase.

Heather Tomko and Todd Smith , don't forget to continue to share your Semi-Finalist submission using the Share buttons found at the end of the post as you make updates during the Refine phase! This will help to encourage the community to continue to vote and engage with your submission.

- Diana, Facilitator

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

For me I've struggled to walk since about 6-8 years old. My parents didn't truly help in my health. So now when I go outside to walk in recent days. I have to take a walker to add balalance to my agility. An waterproof clothes are often improperly sized and made unless you have a lot of money to buy the real waterproof gear. Since it takes any of us between 5-15 minutes, to get outside of our house to get to a motor vehicle and to then have it get its doors opened and get our stuff in and ourselves. By that time some days the rain has soaked my clothes, and the seat that I got into did not dry them nor was it waterproof. Can we use our Collective knowledge to make seats and a unit that you would be able to stay dry in, when you had to go out in the rain to get groceries rather than always having to order them or ask someone else to get them for you due to disabilities and handicaps?

Photo of Diana Avart
Team

Rob, thanks so much for contributing your personal experience. That is definitely something to think about in a city where we get a lot of rain and snow!

- Diana, Facilitator

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

I hope I can add my knowledge and experience and skills to the progress and complete finalization of this proposal. As living life with disabilities can be very difficult on one's mental happiness.and I want to help change that so that people can have joy again and enjoy life!

Photo of So Ba
Team

Unbelievably relevant and important. As a social worker and mental health therapist, transportation challenges with the existing system keep clients from coming in. The existing system is not adequate. We need improvements to the existing system and good options such as this. Best wishes in your efforts.

Photo of Melissa Allen
Team

Absolutely a needed services across the Pittsburgh region and into the suburbs!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, Melissa Allen - I agree! I live in the suburbs and it definitely makes transportation more difficult for me.

Photo of Babs Carryer
Team

Bravo, Heather and Todd! Go team.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hello Heather, as a fellow handicapped man. My struggle started around 6 years old and has progressively gotten worse. Due to many choices by my family that made things more difficult. I have graphic arts, architecture and wood crafting skills I would like to offer. If you truly want to help let me give a few points of solution from a man that uses 2x the normal amount of energy to try to walk straight.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Hi @DeletedUser - I'd be really interested in hearing your thoughts. Can you send me a message with your ideas?

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/pittsburgh/propose/electric-towing-trucks
https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/pittsburgh/propose/fun-car-fun-buggy
https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/pittsburgh/propose/regular-car-issues-no-more
These are my proposals for Pittsburgh. The main focus I have that I learned about as I am a team player. There is a company that works to engineer designs that help the disabled in Pittsburgh, that I just found out about.
http://www.herl.pitt.edu/
My ideas are centered around personal vehicles that allow us to get places. The design can start as a ride share system. While in DC I saw first hand the neglect for disabled people.
So that is when previous drawings and dreams started. So a person could both enhance their health while getting to work right from there home/apartment. And stay dry and comfortable, in all weather. If you need more specific, just ask.

Sincerely,
Robert P Tweed

Photo of Scott Faris
Team

This is one of those ideas that leaves you thinking, "Why doesn't this already exist for Pittsburgh?" Intuitive and essential.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thank you, Scott Faris !

Photo of Smyth Welton
Team

I believe this idea would be very successful just due to the shear need for it. I have witnessed first hand how unreliable agency care aids can be. Our special needs population have every right to reliable transportation to and from work, stores, events, etc as any ambulatory citizen does.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thank you, Smyth Welton - we think it would do a lot to give people with disabilities more independence and flexibility. It's something I've personally been looking forward to for a while!

Photo of Robert Burack
Team

Such a great concept!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks Robert Burack !

Photo of Dee Jones
Team

YEEESSSSSSSSS!!! much needed service in Pittsburgh & every city!!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

We think so too, Dee Jones !

Photo of kim green-goldsborough
Team

I love The END/BEGINNING! That said it all for me. This idea makes such good sense.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, kim green-goldsborough  - we think so too!

Photo of Karen Ruszala-Suchy
Team

Hi Heather, All this would be totally amazing. I would like to see Uber and Lyft working with all of it also. Great job! You are an inspiraration for those in need.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thank you so much Karen Ruszala-Suchy !

Photo of Annia Maisa
Team

Great idea! Let's make it happen in Pittsburgh.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, Annia Maisa ! We'd love to make it happen.

Photo of Brett Gerson
Team

Amazing initiative, keep up the great work.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, Brett Gerson !

Photo of Sandy Spontak
Team

The need is real!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Agreed, Sandy Spontak !

Photo of Corinne Neff
Team

I would love to see this come to fruition in Pittsburgh and many cities around the country and world!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thank you Corinne Neff - we'd love to as well!

Photo of Michelle Gaudet
Team

Yes yes YES, the time has come!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks Michelle Gaudet - love the enthusiasm!

Photo of Johanna Miralles
Team

Ride-sharing has become such a key part of transportation and has replaced or supplemented taxis and buses for many people. It has become an essential part of our cities' transportation infrastructure. That's why it makes sense to ensure that all people can reasonably access this kind of service! Great idea + certainly the wave of the future.

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, Johanna Miralles ! You understand the need perfectly - glad to have your support!

Photo of R. Yvonne Campos
Team

Absolutely an idea whose time has come!!!!!!!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks, R. Yvonne Campos - we agree!

Photo of Eric Miazga
Team

Today on October 12th I really could have used this service. Oh yea, I'm Eric!

Photo of Heather Tomko
Team

Thanks for the support, Eric Miazga , and for being such a great inspiration for the video!

Photo of Diana Avart
Team

Hi Heather and Todd,

Great to see two familiar faces from the Pittsburgh working sessions submitting an idea! Please be sure to make any final updates and hit publish by the 4pm deadline on Wednesday.

- Diana, Facilitator