Highway photo by Truman Adrian Lobato de Fario

How OpenAPI Benefits Paratransit



Between our team of developers and transit wonks, the UniteGPS team understands how OpenAPI benefits paratransit on Town Transit! We are an innovative bunch around here dedicated to scaling our solutions with the latest technology. Novel API programs are no exception! Meaning Application Programming Interface, this is an easily integrated feature that enables two applications to directly communicate with one another.

This may sound simple enough but the extent in which APIs capture multiple streams of data and display them in a customizable format has become an integral part of software development. Knowing its value, what you’re about to read is how APIs could yield massive results for our paratransit solutions and end users, especially in terms of ride sharing. 

First, let’s extrapolate more on what APIs are.

What does an API do?

What exactly does an API entail? Well, an API uses Machine Learning Artificial Intelligence and permits two applications to communicate simultaneously.

Picture this: a chat interface to order a pizza or even a Voice Bot for customer service inquiries. Here, the API functions as the messenger between user and provider, delivering your message to get a prompt response. 

Some of the most prominent API usages include weather forecast snippets on search engines, PayPal integration on digital stores, Twitter Bots, and even travel bookings using third-party APIs to find real-time rates. Anything sharing data through a chat interface or a network accessing multiple databases will also likely require some sort of API.

With that said, OpenAI API has recently invited prospective users to test out the API waters in their respective industries. Some of these participants include Middlebury Institute, University of Washington, and Allen Institute for AI. Everything from content generation and translations to semantic search are included within this API integration.

What is semantic search?

By semantic search, we mean search inquiries based on meaning and intent rather than lexical, which relates to search queries seeking direct word matches. In other words, semantic searches are a more advanced form of API use because it enables the machinery to identify user intent. In the process, this improves accuracy with relevant search engine results.

Generally arranged in a Q+A format drafted on Excel sheets for both lexical and semantic searches, users must program text prompts (questions) into the API to receive a “text completion” (answer). Obviously with varying degrees of sophistication, this is achieved by the API “matching” the pattern (the way you phrased the questions) to its inventory of potential answers.

Machine learning capabilities can then interpret these prompts, and depending on the intricacy of the request, can provide rapid results. For paratransit efforts, this could mean a van or fleet vehicle showing up ahead of schedule or dispatches sending out notifications of neighborhood carpools to the local YMCA or public library.

How OpenAPI benefits paratransit

Let’s relay this API business more to paratransit. Think of patransit as a deviated service running parallel or somewhat separately to a transit authority’s main fleet of buses. Perhaps you have seen smaller buses or vans driving through town, maybe picking-up folks at retirement homes. Passengers often use wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc., to board these vehicles. Generally they’re smaller and have more gizmos, like ramps. This is paratransit in action.

Although UniteGPS doesn’t currently employ an Open API, we’re looking into this development to improve operational costs for customers. Truth be told, paratransit services are actually a huge expenditure with riders paying about US$75 per trip. If used correctly, this sort of “text-in, text-out” API interface would allow dispatch offices to adjust rides in accordance to demand and importance.

Picture this

Imagine Jane Smith requested a van pick-up for 9:30 am to the grocery store. Lo and behold, her neighbor Peter Dunn also ordered a ride to the same grocery store, but at 10 am. If passengers were to split ride costs, the dispatch office could implement an API to communicate with them via chat. After some potential deliberation, the dispatch can determine a convenient time for both passengers to go shopping together.

Not only would this save them both money but also encourage transit agencies to use resources more efficiently. 

However, let’s say that Jane Erwin had a doctor’s appointment at 10 am. This type of trip would obviously warrant an immediate one-person pick-up and drop-off since it’s a pre-scheduled arrangement. Meaning, there’s less flexibility. More so, a person’s health always takes top priority.

When this upgrade will come we’re not sure, but one thing is for certain: paratransit is a civil right. Oh, and machine learning is the future.

History

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandated authorities to provide paratransit service to passengers unable to use fixed routes. While eligibility varies, essentially those with limited mobility and major health issues can benefit from our paratransit services. By comparison, this would be just like using an Uber or other ride-hailing app through a mobile device. 

Our paratransit feature can also stand alone as its own separate app outside of Town Transit. This same interface is where passengers have billing support, whether to upload account money or pay for individual rides.

With all of these conveniences, it’s easy to see how OpenAPI benefits paratransit so much!

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