[tabi] Re: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners

  • From: "Easy Talk" <Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:18:40 -0400

Chip, were you able to change the date?  I couldn't.  I have a feeling you are 
correct about the results being returned in a map form.  That is the only way 
Sila has been able to get any route information.

Also posting route changes at a bus stop is the absolute worst way to get out 
information, that will just piss people off when they get there.  Apparently 
the staff/dispatchers didn't get the word either since the person Sila talked 
to at no time mentioned a word about a change.  Changes due to construction 
should be posted on the actual Star Metro web site that way we don't have to 
guess if we should look on Face Book, Utube, twitter Linkton and all the other 
social confusion.  Perhaps Star Metro could create a texting service that 
people can sign up for to receive messages of importance like news sites and 
schools use.

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Chip and Allie Orange 
  To: 'Waterman, Brian' 
  Cc: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 6:12 PM
  Subject: [tabi] Re: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners

  Thank you Brian for that great response, and quite timely I have to say.


  I am forwarding a copy of this to the TABI list so that everyone will be able 
to share in it.


  I appreciate the info you furnished about your current trip planner, but I 
just spent a long time trying to use it and I found it to be almost completely 
inaccessible.  I was never able to get a route planned; or if I did, it only 
came through as a map I couldn't see.  This is why I am asking for Google 
Transit, both because it's known to be accessible as it is, and they provide an 
API for other programmers to take their data and present it in a more usable 
format.  I have had this complaint about the trip planner not being accessible 
from several other blind computer users, and I believe this has been a known 
problem for quite a while.


  So, two months is great, and I'll be glad when we can access the routes (even 
without real-time bus location).  Google also provides to us directions as to 
how to get from our house or location, to the bus stop, and from the stop at 
the other end right to the door;  this is as useful to us as the route 
information itself.


  Thanks for taking that on (and everything else you mentioned).


  I'd like to suggest that StarMetro create an announcement mailing list.  If 
you could send out a notice to the list every time an issue arose, or a route 
required a detour for a while, etc., we could disseminate this info to lists 
such as TABI, and other groups with their own lists, to help riders become 
quickly aware of changing conditions.  For our group at least, this would be 
much more helpful than posted notices at the stops.


  Thanks for the help,





  From: Waterman, Brian [mailto:Brian.Waterman@xxxxxxxxxx] 
  Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 9:05 PM
  To: Chip and Allie Orange
  Subject: RE: [tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners




  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 


  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. 




  From: Chip and Allie Orange [acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx]
  Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2014 8:15 PM
  To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  Cc: Waterman, Brian
  Subject: RE: [tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners



  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 transportation


  Dear 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 

  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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