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February 6, 2017
A new online route-finding map developed by the University of Washington helps Seattle pedestrians avoid hills, construction and accessibility barriers, the university said in a press release.
AccessMap at http://accessmap.io was spearheaded by the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology at the UW's Department of Computer Science & Engineering.
It allows someone to type in a starting and ending destination in Seattle and receive automated route suggestions. Users can customize their preferences to avoid hills of a certain grade or navigate around construction sites that can close sidewalks for entire blocks, the UW said in a press release.
For example, the pedestrian directions on Google Maps from University Street Station on Second Avenue to Seattle City Hall on Fifth Avenue route people up Seneca Street, whose steep 10 percent grade is problematic for disabled or injured people. By contrast, AccessMap sends people two blocks north to Pike Street, which has a less than 2 percent grade.
UW said transportation routing services primarily designed for people in cars don't give pedestrians, parents pushing strollers or people in wheelchairs much information about accessible routes. That could mean having to use sidewalks without sloped “curb cutes” or climb too-steep hills.
It said AccessMap is useful for people with disabilities, but also would be helpful to others, including delivery drivers pushing hand trucks and travelers hauling luggage to a light rail stop.
The UW said the research team of student engineers and computer scientists, through its OpenSidewalks project, is also creating standards and toolkits that will eventually let users in Seattle and other communities crowdsource and map detailed, real-world conditions on pedestrian pathways and intersections. That would include sidewalk widths, problematic surface conditions and ramps.
The team is also creating new pedestrian standards for OpenStreetMap, a crowdsourced global mapping effort that relies on volunteers to create detailed, up-to-date maps of street conditions. It is working on editing tools that will allow people anywhere to enter detailed information about sidewalks, paved trails and other pedestrian paths.
It has identified 10 urban areas with promising expansion potential: New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Philadelphia and Atlanta.