Promises from StarMetro mean nothing. StarMetro will lie to its customers.
-----Original Message----- From: Chip and Allie Orange <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx> To: tabi <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> Sent: Mon, Apr 14, 2014 8:28 pmSubject: [tabi] Re: FW: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners
Robert, As long as they do both, it doesn’t matter if they put this up on Bing as well as Google Transit. The world is using Google Transit, so Bing is essentially offering free computer consulting to try and get people to use their planner. It does make it easier to get them up and going first, and he’s made a commitment for Google. I do disagree with Brian when he says “The issue here is not the trip planning, but improper communication.“ You wouldn’t have had to deal with communication issues if trip planning had been available (and kept up to date). I think it’s much easier to have a person responsible for updating the trip planning database, than trying to train all the people who are at the call center about every temporary change, as the facts of your case seem to support. Ideally, they’ll improve both. It’s a shame that they didn’t even have their trip planner evaluated for accessibility; it’s the law, but it seems we have to remind every single web site owner, case by case, about it.
The upshot though is that we’ve got definite promises to fix things, and definite time lines to have them done within; you accomplished quite a lot, with your one misadventure.
ChipFrom: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Easy Talk
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 7:57 PM To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxxSubject: [tabi] Re: FW: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners
That's grate, I never heard of bing maps and I'll bet they aren't accessible. The hell with making something accessible just so it is easy for Star Metro.
Now you know why I wrote to the city Commissioners. Pissed. Robert Robert ----- Original Message ----- From: Chip and Allie Orange To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 6:13 PMSubject: [tabi] FW: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners
From: Waterman, Brian [mailto:Brian.Waterman@xxxxxxxxxx] Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 9:25 PM To: Chip and Allie OrangeSubject: Re: [tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners
I forgot to add, our trip planner should be up on Bing Maps by the end of the month. They were much easier to work with and debugged our GTFS feed for us.
Sent from my iPadOn Apr 13, 2014, at 9:04 PM, "Waterman, Brian" <Brian.Waterman@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Chip,I am also upset this happened to Robert yesterday. I have already forwarded the details of his trip to Ivan Maldonado and Operations to address this. There was a detour in effect for this route. We did provide notices at every affected bus stop, located temporary stops, and provided information to the call center on the change. Apparently, this information did was not conveyed to Robert. We will fix this and not let it happen again. The issue here is not the trip planning, but improper communication. Again, we will address this.
As for Google Transit, you are right this is a long promised but not delivered product. We do have trip planner on our website and it runs a Google Maps in the background. It has the same functionality as GoogleTransit where you can type in your address, your destination, and time you want to arrive. It does provide you a trip itinerary. If there is any problem with the trip planner, we are able to quickly diagnose and fix the problem. Our trip planner is tied directly to our Trapeze Scheduling System. Whenever our scheduling system is update with new routes and time points, the trip planner is updated automatically. We also have the real time bus location on our website. Currently, this is still in a testing stage since is it is only viewable on the desktop and there are issues with some of the buses not broadcasting 100% of the time, but it is there. We should be rolling out some mobile apps this summer.
Whereas with GoogleTransit, we have to export the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), run it through the debugger, fix any errors, and then send it to Google. Once they approve it, its then added to their system. Once it is approved, we have to set up a website/portal that we download the GTFS feed to on a regular basis. Google then grabs the feed to keep their system updated. If an error is detected, we would have to re-export the GTFS data, debug, and resend it. The GoogleTransit is only as accurate as the last feed.
One of the benefits of GoogleTransit is they standardized transit file specifications. This means the GTFS we export is able to be used on numerous other programs and can lead to customization/local apps by local entrepreneurs. For this reason, it is on my to do list to make this happen and provide the data for download on our website. This includes the real-time feed as well so anyone can create a local transit app. I will make this commitment to you: I will send the GTFS feed to GoogleTransit by mid-June if not sooner. I am asking for 2 months because I am not quite up to full staff and Charles is taking a much needed vacation in May.
I am also aware the .pdfs of the routes on the website are not read easily by our customers. We are quickly working to resolve this issue and should have it corrected by the end of the month. We also placed an order to Target copy for print ride guides for the Plaza. They should be delivered next week. We are also finalizing the turn-by-turns to have braille ride guides sent to the printer next week.
I hope this update answers many of your questions. Please continue to talk to me about your concerns. Recently, I had a chance to speak to transit managers from Texas on improving access for the visually impaired. I learned a lot from them and want to incorporate some of their ideas. Grant funding does exist for projects that improve access for the visually impaired.
Brian From: Chip and Allie Orange [acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx] Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 8:15 PM To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Cc: Waterman, BrianSubject: RE: [tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners Robert, I’m sorry this happened to you guys; it seems like you try to do everything by following all the right procedures, and still, this happens … I just want to point out to you and Brian Waterman that I have repeatedly urged StarMetro to put their route data on Google Transit, This is the absolutely industry accepted way for planning routes on public transit. If StarMetro had done this, the route planning information would have been easily accessible, and you would have been told exactly when and where to catch the bus you needed for your route. You would not have had to try and rely on people who either aren’t able to do their jobs, or perhaps, this isn’t their job (I don’t know), but missing a bus because of being uncertain where and when to catch it shouldn’t happen. If a route changes, StarMetro could and should easily update this info on Google Transit, and it would be made available to you instantly. StarMetro completely deserves to be blasted for what you guys went through; and I cannot understand why Brian Waterman keeps telling me that “soon …” the data will be on Google Transit, and it never has. Brian, I’m sorry but I am now at a point where I feel I can’t bring my problems and requests to you any longer, like Robert, I’m going to begin to take them to the city commission. Chip Orange From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Easy Talk
Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 1:30 PM To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx Subject: [tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners ----- Original Message ----- From: Easy Talk To: commissioners@xxxxxxxxxx Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 1:28 PM Subject: public transportationDear City Commissioners,First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns. I am a visually impaired citizen and tax payer of Tallahassee. I have been a long-time advocate for the visually impaired and have appeared before the city commission in the past.I am writing today in hopes of bringing to your attention the injustice of the current status of public transportation in Tallahassee pertaining to both the StarMetro bus system and Dial-A-Ride (DAR). Currently, there is no dependable public transportation for disabled and non disabled citizens of our community.As you are aware, decentralization of the bus system has been in effect for about two years now. Instead of getting better, it continues to go downhill and the level of service is decreasing.I would like to relate my experience this past Saturday, April 12, when I decided to use the bus to take a trip to Tomato Land on Thomasville road. I live at 2201 Limerick Drive. My wife called StarMetro to determine what time we could catch the Dogwood (D) route on Market Street which would be a straight shot to our destination, 3.1 miles away. We were told the bus should arrive about 9:25 AM. We left our home at 8:45 and arrived at the bus stop at 9:12. The aforementioned bus stop is on the northeast corner of Market Street and McClay Blvd. About 9:27 a bus came down McClay and made a right onto Market, leaving us standing on the opposite corner of Market Street, right at the bus sign marked Route D. My wife again called StarMetro and talked to the dispatcher who was very nice and patient. After about 10 minutes on the phone, with him not being able to make heads or tails of the schedule and figure out where we were, we thanked him and ended the call.We next decided to walk to the bus shelter on Village Square, near Fresh Market. After waiting for about 10 minutes, around 10:10 my wife was watching for the bus using the camera on her cell phone and saw the bus turn off Thomasville road onto Village Square. As we waited for the bus to come to the shelter, we were quite dismayed, along with two other people waiting for the bus to see it take a left turn at the Financial Center, just east of the bus shelter. The two other people started yelling at the bus driver and the lady got on her phone to StarMetro. Fortunately, the other people were able to get the drivers attention and he made a loop and came back to the shelter and picked us up. If the other two people had not been there, most likely, my wife and I would have missed that bus too. When I got on the bus, I ask the driver why he didn’t stop at the shelter. He said they didn’t stop there anymore because of construction, it was too bumpy. My little 3 mile trip took me 3 hours to complete. I challenge all of you to take a few trips on the bus and then maybe you will do something to correct the poor quality of service you expect the citizens of Tallahassee to accept. Would you accept this level of service from the Police or Fire departments? This morning, I spent about an hour on the StarMetro website and didn’t find anything that would alert me to a change in the D Route due to construction. In fact, the web site is pretty useless, seeming to focus more on social networking, such as FaceBook, Utube and Twitter. You might want to take the time to read some of the comments posted there, I didn’t see a single comment that praised StarMetro except how StarMetro bragged that they provide 4.5 million trips a year and travel over 7 thousand miles a day. When you take that into consideration based on the current budget, it shows just how important the city thinks public transportation is to its taxpayers. It is apparent that the web site has about as much priority as the bus system its self. Since the route changes, the site hasn’t been updated and has information that has expired, for example, the Veterans Take Down was a week ago. There are no current print Ride Guides and the time table appears sideways on your computer screen. Once, while riding with a sighted driver friend, we stopped at the down town terminal to get a print copy of the Ride Guide. We were told they hadn’t gotten new ones yet and they didn’t know when they would have them.I also noticed on FaceBook that StarMetro was proud to brag that they put Braille signage on each bus stop for their visually impaired patrons. There wasn’t one at the stop at Market Street. So far, I haven’t seen a single one in my travels. I think Braille signage is a wonderful gesture. However, it doesn’t matter what you put on the bus stop pole if I can’t find the sign to start with. I called StarMetro when the Braille Signage was in discussion and expressed to them that tactile markers on the sidewalk should come before Braille signage. So far, that hasn’t happened either. It is very apparent that the City doesn’t understand or have staff that is experienced in the needs of the disabled or ADA requirements. In fact, the City discriminates against disabled people by requiring a valid driver’s license for jobs that don’t require you to drive as part of the job description. An example is a dispatcher for StarMetro. As we traveled to our destination, not once did the bus driver announce a single bus stop. I bring this to your attention because I have personally complained to StarMetro about bus drivers not calling out bus stops. This is a federal requirement, but for some reason StarMetro doesn’t see the need to comply. The only way this will ever happen is to incorporate it into the training of new bus drivers and take appropriate action against drivers who refuse to announce stops. Sometimes a driver will call out a few stops when they notice a blind person got on the bus. However, if they don’t do it regularly, they forget to, even when a blind person is on the bus.On our return trip, the closest stop to the shelter on Village Square was the Financial Center which let us out on the south side of Village Square, heading toward Thomasville road. At that location, there is no sidewalk and the grassy area is a hill. Thus, I was walking with my right leg much higher than my left, leaning toward the street and my guide dog. The dog was very uncomfortable with this situation, and so was I. This is dangerous, as cars on that street travel pretty fast and someone could stumble and fall. My point here is that StarMetro staff don’t consider the situations of individuals riding the bus and the danger they put them into. It is unfortunate that the City and StarMetro has focused totally on college kids (The Rhythm Express) and has little regard for taxpayers who have no choice other than public transportation to meet their vital transportation needs. Just look at the differences in transportation during the week as opposed to the level of service provided on weekends. Most people work during the week and would like to use weekends to shop and conduct business that they can’t do during the week. I can’t even go to a City Commission meeting to express my concerns because I can’t get public transportation home afterward since service stops in my area at 7 PM. To get home, I would have to use a cab to the tune of approximately $20.00. Most disabled people don’t have the highest of incomes. Additionally, there isn’t any public transportation to the airport. Totally ridiculous since this is the capital of Florida.During the planning stage of Decentralization and the public hearings, Mr. Garison touted how the new system would have GPS and WI-FI on the busses so people could find out exactly where and when their bus would arrive. We were also suppose to be able to text a number on our cell phones to get schedule information. None of this has happened after two years. I, along with many others have called to suggest that StarMetro submit their bus information of times and stop locations to Google Transit, a database that is totally accessible to disabled people using either Apple or Android phones, a service used by most cities, to no avail. When I called, I was told the amount of data input was too much work and that Google wouldn’t return their call. If the City of Miami, much larger than Tallahassee can do it, why can’t Tallahassee. The only answer I can come up with is, StarMetro doesn’t care. How are we supposed to use a bus system when we can’t find out accurate information for bus schedules and times?Now, let me move to the Dial-A-Ride issue. Based on the experiences I have listed above, coupled with bad weather, poorly selected and unsafe bus stops and missed bus connections, over 100 disabled users of the bus system have moved over to DAR. Since the City hasn’t increased the DAR budget to provide more vans and drivers to handle the added load, this service has decreased to an unacceptable level, resulting in late pickups and missed medical appointments. Changes in bus routes have caused more people to use DAR on a daily bases to get to work which means one individual now uses Dial A ride for 10 trips each week as opposed to using the bus system. An example of this is the recent change to the Southwood Express. My wife went to the City hearing on this matter and along with others, expressed her concerns to no avail. It is apparent that the City and StarMetro is going to do what they want, regardless of public input. So, what is the point of public input? Is it your intent to make public transportation so bad that no one will use it and It can then be said that no one utilizes the system so we don’t need it? It has come to the point, that if you, the City Commissioners can’t, or aren’t willing to address the public transportation problem as a serious issue, I have no choice other than to forward this letter to the Federal Transit authority and file a formal complaint with that agency. I will also pursue the possibility of filing a civil rights violation complaint with the Department of Justice for disabled citizens of Tallahassee. I am tired of being a prisoner in my home and feeling unsafe while trying to use public transportation in my community. I am tired of not having a level of service to conduct normal daily activities that is equal to what non-disabled citizens are afforded. Robert Miller
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