Transportation access is often cited as a barrier for people with disabilities. While there have been a number of studies that identify obstacles in private and public transportation, more research is needed to understand the severity of these obstacles, how they impact people with different disabilities, and how they affect daily travel in comparison to people without disabilities. In New York City, where a majority of people primarily rely on public transportation, these disparities have been well-documented in news media, but less so in academic research. The age of the public transit system and cost of making accessibility improvements to the subway have been cited as reasons for offering paratransit service as a comparable alternative, but this mode of transportation is far less efficient, plagued with problems, and further highlights the structural inequalities of public transportation for people with disabilities.
Our Mobility is a research project to learn more about transportation disadvantage in New York City: how disability, income, race, gender, and age limit someone’s ability to transport themselves and participate in activities of daily life. Disability as a category for transportation disadvantage has been relatively underexplored in empirical studies. To fill this gap, this project will focus on people whose disabilities make it difficult to use public transportation independently. Two mobile apps, Google Maps Timeline and PACO (Personal Analytics Companion) will be used to record quantitative and qualitative data about daily travel behaviors and experiences for people living in New York City. Detailed reports of personal travel data will be offered as an incentive for participation and are designed to attract people who are interested in self-measurement but may not have the means to measure their own travel behaviors. Providing reports of mobility benefits both individuals and the project because participants may engage in the research more often and provide high-quality data in order to receive accurate reports of their travel experiences. In addition to understanding how disability impacts daily mobility, a second study will be a widely distributed survey in New York State to explore common transportation barriers and assess knowledge and use of; financial support programs, transportation services, travel training programs, available modes of transportation, mobile technology, and navigation apps. A third study—a pilot intervention program developed in collaboration with community stakeholders, and advocates working on transportation accessibility issues, will test the outcome of an informational intervention that will include resources about existing supports and provide basic information about available apps and basic training for using popular mobile navigation software, including Google Maps, to plan accessible trips and find information about service changes or other important information.