Milwaukee County launches pilot program to expand accessibility for MCTS riders

Feb. 5, 2020
The Aira app helps individuals who are blind or low vision navigate the more than 5,000 bus stops in Milwaukee County.

The launch of a pilot program that supports Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) riders who are blind or low vision with increased access to public transportation has been announced by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, MCTS and the Milwaukee County Office for Persons with Disabilities (OPD).

Through Aira, an app available on any iOS or Android smartphone, users can receive free, one-on-one assistance riding the bus and navigating the more than 5,000 bus stops in Milwaukee County.

“In Milwaukee County, we are driving towards equity and meeting the needs of our community, and that means building a transportation system that fully serves every rider,” said Abele. “The launch of the Aira app enables both residents and visitors with visual disabilities to live more freely and safely throughout Milwaukee County.”

The Aira app is an interactive tool that enables riders with visual disabilities to connect with professionals trained to help read signage, identify obstacles, identify bus stops and offer verbal step-by-step travel directions. The app, which is available at no cost to users thanks to this pilot program, uses a device’s camera and GPS signal to offer accurate real-time support and guidance.

“Aira is helping remove longstanding barriers to independence,” said Fran Musci, MCTS director of paratransit. “Riders who’ve tried the app say it’s making it easier for them to ride the bus. This expands their transportation options beyond the door-to-door van and taxi paratransit services.”

MCTS is the third transit agency in the United States, along with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, to take part in an Aira pilot program.

Aira is also available at 45 other locations across Milwaukee County – including Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center, the Milwaukee County Zoo and dozens of Milwaukee County Parks.

“OPD was proud to launch Aira at select Milwaukee County locations in 2019 and we’re even more excited to expand the service in 2020 to include MCTS buses and bus stops,” said Tim Ochnikowski, director of OPD. “Aira helps visitors just as much as it helps residents. Now someone who is blind or low vision can fly into the airport, get on a bus and head out to experience and enjoy all that Milwaukee County has to offer.”

Once installed on an iOS or Android phone, it takes minutes to create an account and get started. When speaking to an Aira agent, users should request the free Milwaukee County Transit System offer.