Travel Assistance Device (TAD)

For individuals with intellectual disabilities, it is especially daunting to plan and execute a trip via public transportation without any personal assistance, especially on their first few trips.  Transit agencies are also frequently overwhelmed with the cost of providing paratransit (i.e., door-to-door) service (~$22 per trip) when a rider cannot use regular fixed-route transit services (~$2.75 per trip).  Paratransit can also be limiting to riders, since advance registration of 24 hours is often required to book trips and there are often  large waiting times.  Therefore, it is in the interest of both the transit rider and the transit agency to support technologies that can aid individuals to travel independently using fixed-route public transportation.

The Travel Assistance Device (TAD) is a mobile application for global positioning system (GPS)-enabled cell phones that helps new transit riders navigate the public transportation system. TAD prompts the rider in real-time with a recorded audio message (e.g., “Get Ready” and “Pull the Cord Now!”), visual images, and vibration alerts when the rider should pull the stop request cord to exit the bus. Personalized trips are planned for each traveler using the TAD web page.  Automated alarms can be triggered and the travel trainer and/or parent/guardian remotely alerted in case a rider wanders off their pre-determined path. Traditional phone communication is possible between the rider and the trainer allowing them to guide the rider to the correct location if they are lost.

Portions of the technology supporting TAD are protected under U.S. Patent # 8,138,907 – “Travel Assistant Device”, U.S. Patent # 8,169,342 – Method of Providing a Destination Alert to a Transit System Rider, and U.S. Patent # 8,036,679 – Optimizing performance of location-aware applications using state machines.

A Brief History of TAD:

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) (Tampa Bay area, Florida) first assisted USF in successfully testing the TAD prototype in 2008, developed under a research project funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR).

Another research project, funded by the Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) program of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in 2009, demonstrated that additional features, such as displaying estimated arrival time in the cell phone application while the user is waiting for the bus to arrive, could be added to the TAD system through integration with a transit agency’s Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system (also tested in Tampa, FL).  The basic features of TAD that instruct the user when to exit the bus, however, do not require AVL, only a GPS-enabled cell phone.

In 2010, USF completed a follow-up project funded by FDOT and NCTR which successfully tested deployments of TAD in Miami-Dade, Broward, Sarasota, and Pinellas counties in Florida.  USF developed a software tool to import each agency’s General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data in order to automatically add and update transit data for each public transportation system, a critical feature for TAD deployments to many different cities.  Using off-the-shelf GPS-enabled phones with the TAD mobile application, each participating agency was able to successfully receive the prompts to exit the bus at the expected locations.

The USF Florida Mental Health Institute recently performed the first research study which examined the actual impact of TAD on the bus riding behavior of individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Professor Ray Miltenberger encouraged Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Master’s student Arica Bolechala to take on this study as her thesis research project.  Bolechala’s thesis demonstrated that when the participants used TAD, they were always successful in exiting the bus at the correct location. When the participants did not use TAD, the individuals were not able to exit the bus at the correct bus stop.  Bolechala’s work was presented at the 2011 TRB Conference in January in Washington, D.C. and the 2011 Applied Behavior Analysis International 37th Annual Conference in Denver, CO in May 2011.

USF is still actively involved in efforts surrounding TAD and is currently planning the next set of TAD research projects.  Please contact us if you have research ideas for TAD or wish to collaborate with our research team.

USF is also seeking partners to commercialize the TAD technology.  Please contact us if you are interested.

Benefits of TAD:

Potential benefits of TAD include:

  • increased transit ridership
  • decreased costs to the transit agency by shifting some riders from paratransit to fixed route transit
  • increased independence and improved quality of life for transit riders
  • increased productivity of transit agencies’ travel trainers whose sole job is to provide one-on-one instruction for new riders or existing paratransit riders on how to use fixed-route transit.

Many have endorsed the TAD project during its lifetime.  In 2009, TAD was recommended by the Florida Governor’s Commission on Disabilities as a ““proposed implementation strategy to eliminate barriers to pedestrians with disabilities and make bus travel accessible for people with disabilities to facilitate access to mass transportation services.”  TAD is also recognized as “State-of-the-Art” for human assistance in the USDOT-RITA Volpe Center’s upcoming report on “Traveler Information Systems and Wayfinding Technologies in Transit Systems,” and was presented as a “cutting edge” transit wayfinding technology in the Easter Seals Project ACTION “Research Today to Increase Accessibility Tomorrow: The Cutting Edge of Wayfinding Technology” webinar in April 2011.

While riders with intellectual disabilities are the initial target market for this application, TAD could be used by any traveler.  Navigating the transit system can also be a major obstacle for attracting new riders, especially for special needs populations and tourists.  Approximately half of the general population surveyed can not successfully plan an entire trip on the fixed-route transit system using printed information materials.

Additional Web Resources for TAD:

Research Project Final Reports:

USF Patents on TAD and Underlying Technologies:

TAD Journal/Conference Papers and Presentations:

  • Bolechala, Miltenberger, Barbeau, and Gordon.  Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Travel Assistance Device on the Bus Riding Behavior of Individuals with Disabilities, 37th Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Annual Convention, Denver, CO, May 27-31, 2011.  Paper #11396.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Nevine Georggi, Philip Winters.  “Research Today to Increase Accessibility Tomorrow: The Cutting Edge of Wayfinding Technology”, Easter Seals Project ACTION Webinar. April 13th, 2011.
  • Sean J. Barbeau.  Panel Member, “Building a Global Community of Practice Around Accessible Transportation:  How to Create a Foundation for Evidence-based Practice (P11-1093),” Accessible Public Transportation Research Workshop, Transportation and Mobility (ABE60) Committee, National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting.  Washington, D.C., January 23th, 2011.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Nevine L. Georggi, Philip L. Winters, Marcy E. Gordon.  “From Idealism to Realism: Lessons Learned from Development of Standards-Based Software for Advanced Public Transportation Systems,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting,   January 24, 2011. Paper #11-2254, Poster.
  • Arica J. Bolechala, Raymond G. Miltenberger, Sean J. Barbeau, Marcy E. Gordon.  “Evaluating Effectiveness of Travel Assistance Device on Bus Riding Behavior of Individuals with Disabilities,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting,  January 24, 2011.  Paper #11-1418, Presentation.
  • Nevine L. Georggi, Sean J. Barbeau, Marcy E. Gordon, Philip L. Winters.  “Evaluating the Deployment of a Mobile Navigation Device at Four Transit Agencies in Florida,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 90th Annual Meeting, January 24, 2011.  Paper #11-2213, Poster.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Nevine L. Georggi, Philip L. Winters.  “Global Positioning System Integrated with Personalized Real-Time Transit Information from Automatic Vehicle Location,” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Transit 2010 Vol 1, No. 2143, pp. 168-176, October 2010.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Miguel A. Labrador, Nevine L. Georggi, Philip L. Winters, Rafael A. Perez.  “The Travel Assistance Device:  Utilizing GPS-enabled Mobile Phones to Aid Transit Riders with Special Needs,” Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Intelligent Transportation Systems, 2010, Vol. 4, Iss. 1, pp. 12–23. doi: 10.1049/iet-its.2009.0028. © The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2010.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Nevine L. Georggi, Philip L. Winters.  “Integration of GPS-Enabled Mobile Phones and AVL: Personalized Real-Time Transit Navigation Information on Your Phone,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 89th Annual Meeting, Paper # 10-2571.  Washington, D.C., January 12th, 2010.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Mark Sheppard.  “Cell Phones and GIS: Lessons Learned from Developing Transit Navigation Software,” 2009 GIS in Transit Conference, St. Petersburg, Fl.  November 17th, 2009.  http://www.transitgis.org/download/conference/2009-presentations/SBarbeau%20MSheppard.pdf
  • Sean J. Barbeau.  “Cell Phones and Transportation: Emerging Applications,” Florida Institute Transportation Engineers Annual Meeting, Tampa, Fl.  November 4-6, 2009.
  • Miguel Labrador, Sean J. Barbeau, Philip Winters, Nevine Georggi, Rafael Perez.  “The Travel Assistant Device: Utilizing GPS-Enabled Mobile Phones to Aid Transit Riders with Special Needs,” Urban Cognitive Accessibility 2009, ONCE Foundation for Cooperation and Social Integration of People with Disabilities, Madrid, Spain.  May 12, 2009.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Mark Sheppard.  “Travel Assistance Device:  Increasing Ridership of Fixed-Route Transit By Utilizing GPS-Enabled Cell Phones,” FPTA/FDOT/CUTR Professional Development Workshop 2009, Tampa, Fl. May 20, 2009.
  • Sean J. Barbeau.  “Travel Assistance Device:  Increasing Ridership of Fixed-Route Transit By Utilizing GPS-Enabled Cell Phones,” American Public Transportation Association Research & Technology Committee Meeting, May 3rd, 2009, Seattle, WA.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Mark Sheppard.  “Travel Assistance Device:  Increasing Ridership of Fixed-Route Transit By Utilizing GPS-Enabled Cell Phones,”American Public Transportation Association Bus & Paratransit Conference 2009, Seattle, WA.  May 5th, 2009.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Miguel A. Labrador, Philip L. Winters, Rafael Perez, Nevine Labib Georggi.  “The Travel Assistant Device: Utilizing GPS-Enabled Mobile Phones to Aid Transit Riders with Special Needs,” 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems, New York, New York, November 16-20, 2008.  Paper # 30429.
  • Sean J. Barbeau and Mark Sheppard. “The Travel Assistance Device: Using GPS-enabled Cell Phones To Aid Transit Riders with Special Needs” at the Eight Annual National Conference for the Association of Travel Instructors (ATI) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  August 15th, 2008.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, Philip L. Winters, Nevine L. Georggi, Miguel Labrador, Rafael Perez, William Kearns, and James Fozard.  “The Travel Assistant Device:  Electronic Mobility and Transportation Guidance Assistance for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities,” Proceedings of University of Rochester & Microsoft Research Workshop on Intelligent Systems for Assisted Cognition, pp. 193-207,  Rochester, New York, October 12-13, 2007.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, James Fozard, William Kearns, “Implications of Rapidly Evolving Gerontechnologies for High Speed Networks,” Proceedings of the Fall 2007 Internet2 Member Meeting, San Diego, California, October 9, 2007.
  • David P. Aguilar, Sean J. Barbeau, Rafael A. Perez, Miguel A. Labrador, Philip L. Winters, “A Comparison of Fix Times and Estimated Accuracies in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for GPS Enabled Mobile Phones”, Proceedings of the 11th World Conference on Transport Research, Berkeley, USA.  June 2007.
  • David P. Aguilar, Sean J. Barbeau, Miguel A. Labrador, Alfredo Perez, Rafael A. Perez, and Philip L. Winters, “Quantifying the Position Accuracy of Real-time Multi-Modal Transportation Behavior Data Collected using GPS-Enabled Mobile Phones”, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1992, pp. 54-60, October 2007.
  • David P. Aguilar, Sean J. Barbeau, Miguel A. Labrador, Alfredo Perez, Rafael A. Perez, and Philip L. Winters, “Quantifying the Position Accuracy of Real-time Multi-Modal Transportation Behavior Data Collected using GPS-Enabled Mobile Phones”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board 86th Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. January, 2007.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, “Using GPS-enabled Mobile Phones and Location-Aware Technology to Meet Transportation Challenges,” Proceedings of the Transpo2006 Intelligent Transportation Systems Conference, November, 2006.
  • Sean J. Barbeau, “Digital Travel Assistant:  A Potential Technology Application to Assist Transit Riders with Special Needs” at the Fifth Annual National Conference for the Association of Travel Instructors (ATI) in Seattle, WA.  August 12th, 2005.
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