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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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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.

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Photo of Johanna Miralles
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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!

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