Check out the MetroAccess Eligibility & Mobility Training Center this week

We’ve been re-configuring the offices behind the Transit Store downtown into a great training facility in conjunction with a planned new eligibility process for MetroAccess. The new process will kick in on Nov. 17, and TODAY you can come learn more about it and tour the new  MetroAccess Eligibility & Mobility Training Center at an open house, from 3-6 p.m. A second open house takes place this Thursday, Nov. 10, same time and place.

As the new four-step eligibility process will include a functional assessment for some customers, a significant portion of the new training center has been transformed to simulate various environmental conditions that would be faced by an individual trying to use Capital Metro. You may have heard about the indoor training bus, for example, but there is also a simulated bus stop.

In addition to their use determining a person’s eligibility for MetroAccess, the new tools provide us a terrific opportunity to train groups of people how to ride Capital Metro, from planning a trip, finding the bus stop, and boarding the bus and paying the fare.

We hope to see you at one of the events this week. Here’s a video overview regarding the new eligibility process for MetroAccess:

MetroAccess: Change is good

“You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow.” 

That famous (but unattributed) quote is what I thought of when our MetroAccess staff gave a progress report to our operations and planning committee this month.

We have been systematically reinventing the service over the past two years, and the progress report showed dramatic improvements in terms of cost savings, consistency and quality of service. The biggest indicator is the improvement in our customer service metrics, which have been mostly exemplary for the past few months.

There’s one major change on the horizon, a new eligibility process, which will be implemented in November of this year. Here’s a video preview of that change:

I’ll go through all the changes and the compelling results in a moment, but first, a quick refresher on the service itself. MetroAccess is an on-demand, shared-ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities who are unable to ride the fixed-route bus system. In the industry it’s called “paratransit” because it is a parallel service to the bus system.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires paratransit within ¾ of a mile of regular local bus routes. It’s also important to note that the existence of a disability does not qualify someone for this service. It’s how a disability affects your ability to use the fixed route bus system that determines eligibility.

Here’s a look at the changes and progress: Continue reading “MetroAccess: Change is good”

MetroAccess happenings

In September, the Capital Metro board approved several policy changes to the MetroAccess paratransit program that provides transportation to those who cannot use fixed-route transit due to their disabilities.

The policies will be phased in over time. The first policy to change will be the open return policy. Beginning Dec. 1, customers who need an open return for a medical appointment, jury duty, or out of town travel must provide an estimated return pick up time. Learn more.

Because we have made policy changes, Capital Metro is also undergoing a process to update our formal Americans with Disabilities Act Plan with the Federal Transit Administration, which outlines how we will provide paratransit service for our community and allows the FTA to ensure Capital Metro’s compliance with the ADA law. The actual draft plan is not quite ready for publication on the web yet, but to get a high-level overview of what is being proposed, view this presentation.

Capital Metro invites MetroAccess riders and the community to learn more about the ADA Plan changes at two public meetings. The community also has an opportunity to comment on the proposed ADA Plan amendments at a public hearing before the Capital Metro board.

Public Meetings

ACC South Austin Campus, 1820 W Stassney Lane
Monday, Nov. 29, 6-7:30 p.m.
Served by routes: 3, 311

Goodwill Community Center, 1015 Norwood Park Boulevard
Monday, Nov. 29, 6-7:30 p.m.
Served by route: 323

Public Hearing

Capital Metro, 2910 E 5th St
Wednesday, Dec. 8, Noon-1 p.m.
Capital Metro Headquarters, 2910 E. 5th Street
Served by routes: 17, 300

If you can’t attend a meeting, you are always welcome to submit input via email at feedback@capmetro.org or call the GO Line, 512.474.1200.

Silver is Good

For those of you who don’t recall, several weeks ago a few of us here at Capital Metro formed Team Raging Bus to participate in the Knowbility AIR Austin competition. This is a web design and development competition that focuses on building accessible websites for non-profit organizations. It was a fun side project and we learned a lot.

So have you ever gone to an award ceremony dinner where you were certain that you had no chance of winning? You think to yourself “I’m just going to go, have a nice dinner, make some contacts, collect a few business cards, and applaud the winners.” Then suddenly… Surprise! Now you have to make a speech.

Team Raging Bus won second place in our category for our Accessible Housing Austin site. First in our category went to the Texas Inmate Family Association site. First place in the Formula One category (which includes video, flash, and all those other rich media goodies) went to a beautiful site for the Austin Day Lily Society.

Plus, in a moment of wild coincidence, I got to meet Martin Kareithi. He was providing assistive technology testing for one of the other teams. As it just so turns out, Martin starts his new job Monday here at Capital Metro. He’ll be our Accessible Transportation Specialist, and I can foresee pestering him a lot to test our web stuff with his screen readers and braille devices.

So I can already hear all the web curmudgeons chiming in. “Who cares? What does all this have to do with anything?” Well, I’ll tell you.

At some point next year, you will see a new capmetro.org. The skills that we acquired to succeed in this competition are the same skills that we will be applying to rebuilding our site. So we’re making it our goal to build a site that is just as helpful and useful for our disabled users as it is to everyone else without sacrificing any of the aesthetic or functional benefits. In that effort, we’re going for the gold.