GeoEngineers Hosts ADA Innovation Hack-a-Thon

More than 40 university students came together at a “hack-a-thon” event last week to brainstorm technical solutions to some of the challenges disabled users face riding public transit in Pierce County, Washington. The technical proposals emerging from the collaborative development event, or hack-a-thon, will serve as a starting point for Pierce Transit as they seek to improve the transit experience of their disabled customers.

GeoEngineers, Pierce Transit, University of Washington Tacoma (UWT), and the City of Tacoma jointly organized the event. Students from the UWT Institute of Technology developed their ideas as teams and coordinated with industry professionals from software companies like Esri and Socrata along the way. UWT provided space for the event in the campus student center, and Pierce Transit and the city covered all the costs.

“I see this as a great public/private partnership, and a way to give students a chance to help solve real-world problems in collaboration with professionals in the industry,” said GeoEngineers’ Software Development Manager Blair Deaver.

“When a disabled customer doesn’t have access to an ADA-compliant bus stop, Pierce Transit sends a special shuttle to pick them up,” Layne said. “Their goal is to improve service to these customers by improving ADA access throughout their network.”GeoEngineers Associate Environmental Scientist Layne Alfonso began talking to Pierce Transit more than a year ago about their desire to improve ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access across their network.

At the end of the two-day event, four student teams presented a range of solutions, including a mobile app to identify ADA-accessible routes, a map showing sidewalk conditions, and a crowdsourced application to track ADA obstacles throughout the transit network. Pierce Transit plans to continue to experiment with these potential technology solutions as they work to make transit easier for disabled customers.

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