An Ann Arbor-based tech company is partnering with the Lansing area public transit authority to increase mobility options for the region’s blind, visually impaired, and wheelchair-bound residents.
Capital Area Transportation Authority has signed a contract with LookingBus, the company behind a mobile app that improves transit options for riders with disabilities by connecting them directly with the bus operators.
The contract is the result of a $465,000 Michigan Mobility Challenge grant awarded to CATA by the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“Our technology is helping people with disabilities. We make the buses smart and we make the bus stops smart,” says Yariv Glazer, chief technology officer at LookingBus.
“The app lets the bus operator know that there is a rider with special needs at the next stop. The responsibility shifts from the rider to the driver.”
Riders tell the app their destination and then LookingBus tells the rider which route to take, which bus stop to go to, and how many more stops until their next destination.
Once the rider arrives to the bus stop, an alert is sent to the bus operator, letting them know that a rider that is either blind, visually impaired, or wheelchair bound will be waiting at that particular spot. Bus operators are trained to help such riders board the bus.
Though LookingBus works with metro Detroit’s Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), Lansing and CATA represent the first Michigan city to pick up the technology from the Ann Arbor-based company.
Most of LookingBus’s partners are located in the south and the reason for this, says Glazer, is because of the winter weather. But LookingBus is looking forward to a big northern city picking up their services and working to address any ensuing challenges, come what may.
Glazer calls it prime time.
“We’re very, very happy that Michigan is starting to pick us up,” he says. “It’s about time Michigan starts to lead the charge in mobility once again.”
LookingBus is scheduled to roll out on CATA busses in spring 2019.