CALACT was awarded the first phase of a $5.3 million grant by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) through the ITS4US program to fund the development of open data and open source technologies. The program will enable access to online transit trip planning for disadvantaged riders in California, Oregon, and Washington, such as riders with disabilities, rural and demand-responsive riders, and riders of eligibility-restricted services.

Along with partners from Washington State DOT, Oregon DOT, Caltrans, UC PATH, MobilityData, Google, Trillium, and a coalition of other government, non-profit, and for-profit institutions, the CALACT project will foster the development of tools focused on increasing access to trip planning.

Since the development of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and Google Transit trip planner over a decade ago, online and mobile trip planning tools for transit have proliferated. More than half of the fixed-route transit agencies in the U.S. publish GTFS, which is used by the USDOT, many state DOTs, academic researchers, regional planners, and hundreds of consumer applications. Thousands of transit systems publish GTFS data globally. However, there are limitations: trip planners based on GTFS only represent fixed-route transit, don’t provide information about the accessibility of transit services, and aren’t fully available to users with disabilities.

The CALACT project convenes a series of technical and community partners to finalize proposed data specifications and develop tools that will allow small, demand-responsive agencies to publish their transit services in mobile applications, and allow any eligible member of the public to book a trip in real-time. Through the investment in standards for describing the accessible pathways leading to bus stops, and enhancements in the way Text-to Speech information is encoded in GTFS, the CALACT project will help riders that are excluded from existing technologies use applications to assist in trip planning.

“This project is an opportunity to refocus the technology investments our industry is making on tools that help all riders, not just able-bodied urban residents who understand how to access apps and other tools,” said Jacklyn Montgomery, executive director of CALACT. “We are excited to bring together such a diverse group of partners and convene discussions with riders and agencies to make sure the investments we make will be accessible to all.”

“This grant is crucial to expanding the quality of and access to online and mobile trip planning, booking, and payments to some of the most transit-dependent users,” said David S. Kim, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency. “By supporting new data standards and software that support real-time booking for paratransit and other flexible services, more riders will have access to transit service at their fingertips. I look forward to continue collaborating with CALACT to make demand-driven transit services more flexible, responsive, and accessible.”

The CALACT project, “Plan, book, and pay for demand-responsive transit agencies in CA, OR, and WA”, will kick off in 2021 and will continue through 2025. Information requests can be sent to its4us@calact.org.