[tabi] Fw: public transportation letter to city commissioners

  • From: "Easy Talk" <Easytalk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:29:56 -0400

----- 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 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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