Ensuring wheelchair users’ rideshare access

A Civic Bridge case study from the Spring 2021 cohort.

City Partner: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Pro Bono Partner: ZS Associates

The back and forth between public and private sectors is the source of many challenges, but also many solutions! One such challenge came when the "TNC Access for All Act" was enacted in September 2018, requiring Transportation Network Companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft, to let customers state whether they required wheelchair accessible transportation on their ride-share applications. Local governments and the State of California needed to ensure that TNCs accomplished this tracking and reporting. It was simple on paper, but harder in practice. The solution? San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) collaborated with ZS Associates on a Civic Bridge project to consolidate the ride share data in a Tableau-based dashboard, streamlining the compliance process and making it easier for SFMTA to monitor ridership trends and performance.

The TNCs provided their raw ride share data for all counties across the state of California, in a variety of formats, detailing the number of customers who requested Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) and the number of customers actually served with WAVs. While reviewing the WAV data, SFMTA, one of the departments responsible for reviewing San Francisco’s TNC data, saw an opportunity to engineer a solution that would be useful throughout the Bay Area — and potentially the whole state!

The challenge

The TNC Access Act required TNCs to give residents the option to select a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAVs) and report how many of these rides they were able to fulfill. Additionally, TNCs would pay a fee per trip to a general access fund ensuring ready WAVs; this fee would be refunded based on WAV rides provided.

TNCs provided the data, and the task of ensuring compliance was left to California’s state and local governments. SFMTA, finding the data was big and unwieldy, needed a better way to analyze data trends over time and across TNC companies while addressing comments from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Filtering through such large amounts of data was getting in the way of this work, so SFMTA needed a system to transform the data into manageable formats.

The process

SFMTA needed to monitor if TNC companies were providing WAV services and how many customers were actually served via WAVs. But in its current state, there was too much data in too many formats. SFMTA needed an internal dashboard to enable responsible City departments and offices to easily monitor WAV access.

Through the Civic Bridge program,  SFMTA and ZS Associates partnered to streamline the raw TNC data to monitor WAV access and develop a dashboard available to advocacy groups and interested residents. The team approached the work in the following four project phases.

Discover Phase | Understand and validate the problem

  • The volunteer consultants from ZS Associates reviewed the TNC data and the legislative background to build a Tableau-supported dashboard that would capture the necessary metrics.
  • During development, SFMTA and ZS Associates recognized there was an opportunity to expand the scope to include data from other California counties in the dashboard

Define Phase | Analyze and synthesize findings 

  • ZS Associates honed in on what SFMTA and other departments needed for monitoring WAV access - who said they wanted:
    • the capability to quickly see trending data and evaluate TNC performance
    • an interface to easily manipulate the data and gain deeper insights
    • greater transparency by making WAV data readily available and easier to understand 

Design Phase | Develop concepts and prototypes to address the pain points

  • ZS Associates and SFMTA held workshops to map out the project’s timeline and evaluate concepts for the future dashboard
  • During the design process, SFMTA shared the ongoing project with CPUC, and they realized the dashboard could be used as a prototype or solution statewide.

Deliver Phase | Finalize the prototype and strategy recommendations

  • ZS Associates delivered two dashboards:
    • One internal to be managed by SFMTA and used by other City departments to track and analyze WAV rides with TNC data
    • One external holding similar data for interested members of the public to analyze and support their own endeavors and advocacy
  • A Data Transformation Guide for using and maintaining the dashboard was also developed to ensure SFMTA could manage the Tableau dashboard

Prepare to Launch | Socializing the deliverable and getting buy-in

  • ZS Associates and SFMTA presented their work to other stakeholder City departments
  • The Civic Bridge partners shared their findings and lessons learned with CPUC, who were already working on their own solution but were not as far along as SFMTA

SFMTA were pleased with a dashboard that brought together the disparate datasets from each company.  The dashboard lets users analyze specific counties, view visual data, and immediately recognize the impact of key events like COVID-19 on ridership. More time could now be spent evaluating the data rather than processing it into comprehensible or useful formats.

The impact

SFMTA and other City agencies such as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and the Mayor's Office on Disability (MOD) can monitor WAV ridership through a single, regularly updated source. Now, thousands of WAV rides can be seen instantly without having to sort and consolidate a myriad of worksheets from dozens of data reports provided by TNCs.

The Civic Bridge work led to sustainable data monitoring and analysis through dashboard automation and an effective hand off from ZS Associates to SFMTA. Moreover, the project provides a great blueprint for other jurisdictions, including CPUC at the state level, as they work to monitor WAV rides and ensure the effectiveness of the “TNC Access for All Act”.

Last updated May 19, 2022