by Clark Rachfal
Imagine traveling to Washington, D.C. for the ACB Leadership Conference without a care in the world. Imagine there is one smartphone application that could help you navigate from the airport, through the entire Metro train and bus network, to the hotel in Old Town Alexandria, and to your affiliate meetings on Capitol Hill. Imagine doing all of this independently and confidently, knowing your precise location within three feet at all times. With recent advancements in smartphone technology and navigation services, this fantasy of all public transportation users everywhere is coming closer to reality.
On May 24, ACB’s executive director, Eric Bridges, took part in an event hosted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to announce a partnership with Waymap for providing indoor and outdoor navigation services throughout the entire WMATA network. Founded by Tom Pey, Waymap is a navigation service that utilizes the hardware and sensors of an individual’s smartphone to provide accurate location and direction of travel information to a user in both indoor and outdoor mapped environments. WMATA is working with Waymap to map the entire D.C. Metro system to include all bus routes and stops, subway train stations and stops, above and below ground, in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia region. At present, Waymap’s technology is available at three train stations in the WMATA system: the Brookland Station in Washington, D.C.; the Silver Spring Station in Maryland; and the Braddock Road Station in Virginia.
In addition to being designed to offer precise indoor and outdoor navigation information, the Waymap service is designed to operate without receiving external signals, such as GPS, cellular, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. Thus, there is no risk to the user of losing a signal and the service not working. Additionally, because Waymap does not share user data, it preserves a user’s privacy and does not share their location data with WMATA or any other third party. Not only does Waymap help users to independently navigate the WMATA system; Waymap empowers users to confidently explore their surroundings like never before.
During the event on May 24, Eric Bridges celebrated WMATA’s initiative and innovation to adopt new technologies and services that will enhance the accessibility and usability of the Metro bus and train system for people who are blind, low vision, and the Metro ridership as a whole. Eric commended our corporate partner Verizon Communications for their partnership and incubation of the Waymap technology through their Forward For Good program; Verizon has offered financial support and technical guidance to help bring the Waymap solution to fruition. And Eric praised Tom Pey and the entire team at Waymap for their collaboration and inclusion of ACB and people who are blind on an ongoing basis to test and provide user feedback on the Waymap service as it is being introduced into the D.C. Metro system.
WMATA and Waymap will continue to introduce accessible navigation technology throughout the rest of 2022 and 2023. During the 2023 D.C. Leadership Conference, we are excited to share more information about the WMATA and Waymap partnership and the progress that has been made to date.