Enlist Users of A Variety of Socio-Demographic Characteristics to Perform Beta Testing of Trip Planning Apps to Ensure Intuitive Usability.

Expert Interviews Highlight Lessons Learned on Procurement and Implementation of the Trip Planning Website to Aid Transit Travelers in Vermont.

Date Posted

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration: Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) OpenTripPlanner, Evaluation Report

Summary Information

The OpenTripPlanner (OTP), developed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), serving the Vermont area, provides the public with a mobile application to facilitate transit trip planning. The VTrans OTP project, part of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox program, developed a new trip planner called Go! Vermont which was launched in February 2018. The program aimed to provide an alternative to other trip planners by including flexible transit options such as route deviation and dial-a-ride. 

This study documented the results of an independent evaluation of the Go! Vermont app that examined eight hypotheses using four different approaches: 

  1. comparing the trip itineraries of Google Maps and the OTP using simulated origin and destination (OD) data
  2. analyzing web traffic data to determine the attractiveness of the Go! Vermont website to trip makers
  3. conducting user surveys
  4. holding expert (stakeholder/project partner) interviews to uncover any lessons learned. 

Data collected from 2018 and 2019 were utilized for evaluation.

  • Perform beta testing to ensure intuitive usability and easy accessibility of the trip planning website by all users with a variety of socio-demographic characteristics. The study revealed that using the trip planner was sometimes more challenging than just having access to a smartphone or the Internet. Even those with access often found the planner non-intuitive without user training, especially in its early stages.
  • Seek transparency regarding project partners amongst grantees. This study found that smaller project partners appreciated the FTA's flexibility in naming partners before submitting a MOD Sandbox application. They emphasized the importance of a strong relationship with grantees, given the project's potential uncertainties and the significant time and effort commitment if approved.
  • Invest sufficient funding in data management. This is a necessary step considering how expensive it could get when it comes to handling large quantities of public agency data. 
  • Offer additional key pieces of information to improve user experience on the trip planning website. The study highlighted that the trip planner does not indicate drive times when public transport is not available, an addition likely to enhance user experience. Experts also suggested allowing users to select multiple trip attributes, such as both arrival and departure times, for further improvement.
  • Incorporate integrated trip planning. The study showed that public transit agencies' tech use is often inefficient, leading to fragmented trip planning that discourages multimodal trips. Thus, it's crucial for agencies like FTA to lead in integrated trip planning.
  • Have workable contractual language in place to protect intellectual property. Standardized contract terms are crucial to define software and code ownership in initiatives like the MOD Sandbox Demonstration. Experts suggest a uniform approach for open-source software contracts, instead of assuming proprietary ownership. Milestone-based contracts can also lessen technical staff involvement in invoicing.

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration: Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) OpenTripPlanner, Evaluation Report

Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox Demonstration: Vermont Agency of Transportation
(VTrans) OpenTripPlanner, Evaluation Report
Source Publication Date
Martin, Elliot; Aqshems Nichols; Adam Cohen; Susan Shaheen; and Les Brown
Prepared by University of California, Berkeley and ICF for USDOT FTA

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