The National Academies

Transit IDEA J-04/IDEA 87 [Completed (IDEA)]

Development of pathNav: A Pedestrian Navigation Tool that Utilizes Smart Data for Improved Accessibility and Walkability

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Staff Responsibility: Velvet Basemera-Fitzpatrick
Research Agency: Pathway Accessibility Solutions, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Eric Sinagra
Effective Date: 1/28/2018
Completion Date: 11/8/2019
Fiscal Year: 2017

The 3.6 million wheelchair users in the U.S. and 70 million around the world face significant challenges to participate fully in their communities due to inaccessible sidewalks, and people with visual impairments limit their travel to familiar places. Further, one in three older adults fall each year, the majority of which occur outdoors, costing $34 million in direct medical costs. The condition of sidewalks and pathways affect all pedestrians, but people with disabilities, older adults, and injured veterans are especially affected by them. Cities and municipalities struggle to prioritize improvements because sidewalk data generally does not exist and can be difficult to collect. Thus, accessible and walkable routes can be difficult to find.

The goal of this project was to develop pathNav, a pedestrian navigation web app that utilizes a connected network of sidewalk and pathway data. As part of the project, we implemented our published route accessibility index (RAI) that considers the quality of the pathway as determined by data collected through our pathMet device and/or reported through our free pathVu Navigation mobile app. A web interface was built allowing pedestrians to search for the most accessible routes to their destination based on their custom profile. Features of the web app include: Map View, User Accounts, Step-by-Step Directions, Preview Mode, Comfortability and Alert Settings, Preset Profiles, Crowdsourced Reports, Recent Paths, and Favorites. The prototype web app can be found at https://pathvudata.com/pathvu/navigation/index10.php.

Following the development of pathNav, a survey of twenty participants was conducted to understand usability and areas for improvement. Suggestions generally involved improved mapping, design, and accessibility features. Although all of the benefits of pathNav were not be fully measured as part of this project, five possible payoffs of the system include: 1) Increase safety and reduce trip and fall injuries 2) Reduce social isolation of people with disabilities and older adults 3) Increase public transit ridership 4) Reduce trip/fall personal injury cases of pedestrians 5) Become commercially viable.

pathVu has begun implementing pathNav in Pittsburgh as the first metropolitan area with pedestrian navigation. We have started with the two major business districts in the city, Downtown and Oakland. Moving forward, we will continue to implement in other densely populated neighborhoods. After the successful completion of a pilot in Pittsburgh, pathVu plans to launch pathNav in one or two additional cities, and then nationally from there.

If you are interested in how pathVu can help your city prioritize improvements or how pathNav can be implemented in your neighborhood, visit our website at www.pathVu.com or email us at

The final report is available.

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