MBTA T sign

MBTA to test beacons to improve bus stop info for blind riders

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will test technology to make it easier for visually impaired riders to locate bus stops.

The authority will install Bluetooth beacons on bus stop signs. The beacons will communicate with a smart phone application to tell users how close they are to the bus stop.

Existing GPS-based products like Google Maps are typically accurate within 20-30 feet. “The problem we’re trying to solve is heartbreaking,” said chief technology officer David Block-Schachter. “Someone could end up waiting 20 feet away, and if they’re waiting 20 feet away, that bus probably doesn’t stop for them.”

The MBTA will test the technology on two routes that travel near the Perkins School for the Blind.  Perkins worked with software developer Raizlabs to develop the app, which is called BlindWays.  Until now the app relied on crowdsourced information from sighted volunteers to provide detailed information about bus stops.

If the pilot program is successful, the MBTA will roll out the technology across its bus network.  Link to full story in The Boston Globe.

Photo credit: Susan Mara Bregman

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