Austinite and Capital Metro rider Anna Meisel has expanded her transportation options over the past few months thanks to Capital Metro’s free mobility training program.
Every Thursday, Anna meets with Transportation Travel Trainer Vivian Picow for one-on-one training that has helped Anna become a confident bus rider to get to several places she enjoys for errands and entertainment.
Anna had been exclusively riding MetroAccess, and while she likes the convenience of getting picked up from home, she wanted to have the flexibility of coming and going whenever she wanted instead of being tied to a schedule. She says, “When you have a bus come directly to your door, of course it’s convenient, but you have to schedule it and everything. I want to be more spontaneous.”
After a few months of training, Anna has mastered the bus to get to the Arbor Cinema, the grocery store and post office, Harry Ransom Center, Blanton Museum of Art, and the dentist. When I met up with her and Vivian at North Lamar Transit Center, Anna whizzed onboard the bus and “parallel parked” her wheelchair without a second thought; but, it didn’t start out that easy.
The first couple of trainings occurred at Anna’s house along bus route #240. Vivian arranged for a bus to come to Anna’s home to allow her to practice boarding the wheelchair ramp and maneuvering her wheelchair so the bus operator could secure it.
Part of Vivian’s job is developing routes and strategies to overcome or minimize individuals’ barriers to riding. Anna’s bus route to the Arbor Cinema includes a transfer at Pavilion Park & Ride (even though there’s a more direct route) because the longer route doesn’t require her to cross Jollyville where she can’t access the signal button. Vivian also noticed that a couple of the bus stops near the cinema did not have a concrete bus pad that extended from the sidewalk to the curb. Vivian called Travis in our bus stop improvement program and explained the situation. He was able to move these two stops up in the priority queue for getting accessibility upgrades, and since that time they have been improved. If you ride routes 3, 383, 392, 982 or 983 near Arbor Cinema, boarding the bus just got easier thanks to Anna, Vivian and our bus stop improvement gang.
Did I mention that this travel training is free to seniors and persons with disabilities? The program is providing people the flexibility to travel freely and spontaneously, and it benefits Capital Metro, too. Aside from the obvious (we’re a transit authority: more people riding is a good thing), it also provides some relief to the MetroAccess program, which is spread very thin right now. As Vivian said, “As more people move to Austin, we have to make sure the service (MetroAccess) is available to everyone.” If we help someone who wants to learn to ride the bus to the grocery store, for example, instead of taking MetroAccess for that one trip, then we have more bandwidth to provide someone else a MetroAccess trip.
Vivian is a certified orientation and mobility specialist and as such, is highly skilled at helping seniors and those with disabilities feel confident using Capital Metro. In addition to one-on-one training, Vivian can train groups and also make presentations to organizations. Contact the program by email or call (512) 369-6083. (Did I mention it was free?)