Research Archive

Research Overview

Improving paratransit and other human service transportation (HST) operations using ITS technologies can improve service and expanded travel opportunities for Americans with mobility challenges. Through the Mobility Services for All Americans (MSAA) initiative the U.S. DOT fosters partnerships among paratransit service providers, local governments and other public, private, and non-profit organizations to share data and better manage resources to improve mobility options for all. Additionally, the MSAA research environment is providing an opportunity to test out new and creative ways to align and share assets across organizations and break down institutional barriers through coordinated planning and deployment.

The Transportation Coordination Problem

According to the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, specialized transportation services for seniors, persons with disabilities, and the economically disadvantaged are provided through more than 80 federal programs. Locally, this often results in fragmented, hard to use services. Often, services are restricted by geographic barriers, trip purposes and a variety of eligibility restrictions. The result is, customers have to contact multiple case workers for multiple types of trips, which must be booked far in advance. Scheduled trip times can be inconvenient, with long pick-up windows and circuitous routes. All of these inefficiencies create real costs, in both dollars and quality of life for people.

The ITS Opportunity

The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program is bringing together transportation and health and human services researchers to solve these mobility problems.

The U.S. DOT ITS Joint Program Office launched the MSAA initiative to provide a coordinated effort and apply technological solutions to mobility barriers. Researchers are working to provide effective and efficient MSAA coordination by integrating ITS technologies into a physical or virtual Travel Management Coordination Center (TMCC) that networks all parties and uses proven ITS technologies with a demonstrated significant return on investment. To learn more about possible applications of ITS and TMCC technology click here. To access TMCC examples and developer resources click here.

One Call Chart

Source: U.S. DOT - MSAA Integrated Vision

Research Approach

Embracing the notions of institutional coordination and cooperation alongside technology integration, initial phases of MSAA adopted a five-phased approach with two embedded go/no-go decision points to advance the quality and efficiency of human service transportation (HST) delivery. These five phases were:

  • Phase 1: Coalition building
  • Phase 2: Foundational research
  • Phase 3: Planning and design of ITS-enhanced HST
  • Phase 4: Deployment and evaluation of ITS-enhanced HST models
  • Phase 5: Documentation and outreach

For additional details on the initial phased research approach click here

MSAA Development and Design Projects

In 2005, 8 regions were selected for the first phase of MSAA—System Development and Design:

  • Aiken, South Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Camden County, New Jersey
  • Fitchburg, Massachusetts
  • Kent, Ohio
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Paducah, Kentucky

In 2009, 3 of the Phase One communities (Aiken, SC, Camden, NJ, and Paducah, KY) were awarded additional funding for a second phase -- Model Deployment, Evaluation, and Technology Transfer. These projects were finalized in 2011.

For additional details of the Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects click here.

MSAA Deployment Planning Projects

In 2015, the MSAA Initiative funded additional deployment planning projects to further improve HST coordination and delivery. The purpose of this deployment planning effort is to replicate and advance the success of TMCC phased-implementation by providing “seed” funding to leverage other federal, state and local resources to build up coordinated community transportation services.

Three regions were chosen for the deployment planning projects, including:

  • VIA Mobility Services, Denver, CO
  • United Cerebral Palsy San Louis Obispo/ Ride-on Transportation, San Louis Obispo, CA
  • Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta, GA
  • Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, Madison, WI

These projects kicked off in late 2015 and are expected to be completed in late 2016 or early 2017. Research findings for these projects will be shared as they become available. For more details on these projects click here.

MSAA Moving Forward

The MSAA program has a vision for a phased approach for research, planning and deployment of increasingly sophisticated mobility services. These services can be better understood through the following story boards developed to show the progression of services into the future. Follow each link to access the story boards.

User-centric transportation systems of the future depend on greater data-sharing, system interoperability, institutional coordination, and technology integration to deliver optimized transportation operations and traveler experiences. Accomplishing this requires innovative research and management tools. MSAA is an important evolutionary component of U.S. DOTs research initiatives and the ITS Strategic Plan.

MSAA’s focus on enhanced coordination supports the realization of USDOT’s strategic focus on developing Mobility on Demand (MOD). For more information on the overarching MOD program click here.

Research Findings and Important Results

MSAA Phase 1

The original MSAA Initiative developed eight innovative approaches to coordinating and delivering human services transportation. In developing TMCC concepts of operations and system designs, the sites varied in their visions. Expectations for the envisioned systems included: improved customer service, expanded service, more service providers, enhanced service delivery, and unified billing. For more details on the results of the development and design projects click here.

Photo of transit van

HST service provider Aiken, SC (Source: Mobility Services for All Americans Initiative: Systems Impact Evaluation – Final Report, Aiken, SC, November 2013)

MSAA Phase 2

The 3 model deployment sites in Phase 2 (Aiken, SC, Camden, NJ, and Paducah, KY) were evaluated based on efficiency, cost, coordination and customer satisfaction. Some of the research findings from this model deployment include increased number of rides provided, reduced operating costs, improved coordination, and customers satisfied with the system performance. For more details on the results of the deployment planning projects click here.

MSAA Background – For additional background information on the MSAA program click here


  • Mobility Services for All Americans Fact Sheet [PDF]
  • Fact Sheet #1 MSAA: What is it?  How is it done?  How does it help?  (Coming Soon)
  • Fact Sheet #2 Tackling the Technology (Coming Soon)
  • Fact Sheet #3 MSAA: Getting Started, Getting Help (Coming Soon)
  • MSAA Deployer Presentation #1 MSAA: Technology Transforming Human Services Transportation (Coming Soon)
  • MSAA Deployer Presentation #2 MSAA: Planning to Overcome Challenges (Coming Soon)
  • MSAA Deployer Presentation #3MSAA: Lessons Learned from MSAA/TMCC Type Projects  (Coming Soon)
  • MSAA Planning and Development Case Study and Analysis (Coming Soon)
  • MSAA National Planning and Development Webinar (Coming Soon)
  • Presentations
  • Publications


Research Contact

Rik Opstelten
Mobility Innovation Program Analyst
Federal Transit Administration

Robert Sheehan, P.E.
Program Manager, Multimodal ITS Research and Deployment
ITS Joint Program Office
(202) 366-6817