Improving Access to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Mobility Impaired Riders by Using Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)
By Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) /RideKC, Oct 5, 2022
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) is a bi-state (Missouri and Kansas) regional transit authority created in 1965. KCATA is responsible for public transportation in the Kansas City urbanized area with a seven-county jurisdiction – Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte in Missouri, and Johnson, Leavenworth, and Wyandotte in Kansas. KCATA is responsible for providing fixed-route bus, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), flex-route, microtransit, on-demand paratransit and complementary paratransit public transportation in the region.
A recurring challenge with KCATA’s Prospect MAX BRT line is consistently achieving and maintaining Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant gaps between the station platform and both doors of the bus. Gaps that exceed three inches are not ADA-compliant and can be hazardous and lead to passenger accidents. See an image of a 4-inch gap between a door and the platform below. If the gap is too small, platforms can be damaged and are costly for transportation agencies to repair. Despite rigorous training on level boarding for each BRT operator, KCATA has experienced significant damage to 50% of its level boarding platforms within the first four months of Prospect MAX route revenue service. Repairs are expensive because most of the level boarding platforms use a snow and ice-melting system. In addition, the maintenance department reports that BRT buses have required over $11,000 in repairs from mid-December 2019 to March 30, 2020.
To tackle these issues, KCATA is piloting an innovative, cost-effective precision-docking technology called Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) to ensure a better onboarding and offboarding experience for all passengers – especially for passengers with disabilities and mobility impairments. By incorporating ADAS, bus drivers can rely on sensors to provide precision guidance to docking at BRT stations without adding costly drive-by-wire or mechanical retrofits.
Through this pilot, KCATA will equip three 40 feet buses with ADAS technology, train the trainers and bus operators, and collect performance data during revenue service hours. This pilot is supported in part by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) grant ($600,000) and KCATA ($150,000). This pilot is in partnership with Robotic Research, who is developing the ADAS technology, Compass Transportation and Technology who is leading the development of the business case and commercialization potential, Jerome M. Lutin, who will facilitate AIM Incubator operations, and Robocist, who will lead the product performance evaluation.
Currently, KCATA is in the testing phase of this project and has shipped three of its buses to Robotic Research’s facility in Maryland so that engineers have complete access to the buses and can retrofit them with the ADAS technology. Robotic Research’s engineers have developed the prototype of sensors and hardware that is being installed on the buses. The image above shows one of KCATA’s BRT buses at Robotic Research, where a temporary platform was constructed for the development and initial testing of the ADAS. KCATA is also working with the engineers to locate a Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS receiver at KCATA for testing the ADAS at a centimeter level of accuracy and overall assessment of the precision docking technology’s performance.
Lesson Learned: Developing Contracts with the Project Team Takes Time
The primary mission of KCATA is to operate a safe service for customers in real-time and to provide a good service every day. The whole project team is committed to this goal and is engaged in exploring concepts, taking measured risks to bring innovation to fruition, and working together to overcome the challenges of bringing new technology to the industry.
One of the challenges and lessons learned from this project is to budget for more time and resources for contract negotiation. Developing a sound contract is challenging, but a contract for designing and building new technology from initial concepts involves many unknowns and requires flexibility. For KCATA and their project partners, the initial contract execution took about 12 months, with another 3-4 month delay working through logistics and documentation.
To preempt delays associated with contracting, it is beneficial for agencies to clarify which supporting documents are required to finalize the contract from the beginning and to be prepared for special documentation and protocol for FTA-funded projects. Though agreement on some contractual issues needed more time than anticipated, KCATA and its project partners successfully established contracts.
FTA’s Strategic Transit Automation Research Plan 1.0 (STAR) emphasizes research development and demonstration to bring the safety and efficiency benefits of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to the bus transit industry. This pilot project is an opportunity to share ADAS performance data and KCATA’s experience installing, incorporating, training operators, and maintaining ADAS with the transportation industry.
KCATA’s next steps for this pilot project are to:
- Install precision docking sensors and data loggers on three ADAS buses and on three buses to act as control vehicles for comparison.
- Install Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS receiver at KCATA.
- Collect and analyze data from control buses.
- Develop and test display devices for operators to use when docking at level boarding platforms – the Human Machine Interface (HMI).
- Develop procedures for collecting driver and bus data from the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) – Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system.
- Train the trainer and bus operators.
- Schedule operators.
- Test during non-revenue services.
- Test during revenue services.
KCATA looks forward to deploying the ADAS system with its three buses in 2023, and will share their experience through press releases, and through the Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC)’s Mobility Innovation Collaborative and Mobility Learning Center.
Questions for this project can be directed to Shofi Ull Azum, Operational Innovations and Performance Manager at [email protected].