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

  • From: "Chip and Allie Orange" <acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:41:59 -0400

No, I could not change the date; and my street ends with the type of street
being "circle", but their street address program didn't recognize that, and
kept asking me if I meant other streets with similar names, which was very
frustrating (just to find that info on the page and figure out that's why I
wasn't returned any results was difficult).
Yes, I agree they should have done more than put up notices at a few stops.
What if you were someone who gets dropped off at the stop (like we were
doing).  What would you do once you got there and found a notice saying the
bus doesn't come here anymore?  
Yes, absolutely, it should have been on their main page at least.
I hope they'll add a mailing list, not a text messaging service, as desktops
can get email, but not text messages, and phones can get either.
From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
Of Easy Talk
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2014 8:19 PM
To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [tabi] Re: Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners
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 <mailto:acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx>  
To: 'Waterman, Brian' <mailto:Brian.Waterman@xxxxxxxxxx>  
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 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. 


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 <mailto:Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>  
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 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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