Earlier today Capital Metro staff joined members of ADAPT in unveiling two newly adopted bus stops outside of the ADAPT offices, located at East 2nd and Chalmers.
ADAPT members kicked off the ribbon cutting ceremony by picking up litter in the area along Route 320. Members then officially adopted their stops with a ceremonial ribbon tearing.
At the ceremony ADAPT Community Advocate and H.A.N.D. Board Member Nancy Crowther said, “We are excited to be representing the community because it’s very important to us, with accessible transportation. We also care about our community, that’s why we’re cleaning it up at our bus stop.”
Today, City Council approved an amendment to the existing interlocal agreement between the two entities that extends the partnership for the next five years.
Pending budget availability each year, Capital Metro will reimburse the City up to $10 million over the next five years to help upgrade Capital Metro bus stops to meet the highest standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Public Works will manage the individual projects, which will be timed to coincide with other sidewalk or street work already planned whenever possible.
“This collaboration is a great example of local tax dollars being spent wisely, with huge benefits for the community,” said City Councilman and Capital Metro Chairman Mike Martinez. “Incorporating bus stop improvements into already planned city projects just makes sense. It reduces staff time and paperwork, ultimately saving both the city and Capital Metro, time and money, while improving the walkability and accessibility of the city.”
Although all of our bus stops met the requirements of the ADA at the time they were constructed, we wanted to improve accessibility and meet the newest standards. Capital Metro launched a program in 2008 to upgrade stops with concrete landing pads, curb cuts, and in some cases, sidewalks. In 2008, two-thirds of bus stops needed some level of accessibility improvement. Today, about a third of the bus stops still need upgrades and will be addressed over the next five years.
“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.
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.
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.
Greetings everyone. My name is Jody Tucker, and I am the new Webmaster/User Experience Designer for Capital Metro. My job here is to rebuild the aging and overtaxed Capital Metro website. But Erica has asked me to offer up a blog post on an interesting side event that some of us are participating in.
This Saturday (Oct. 16) a team of volunteer Capital Metro employees will participate in the Austin AIR Rally. AIR is an acronym for Accessibility Internet Rally. It is sponsored and hosted by the good people over at Knowbility. Basically, it is a web design competition focused on web accessibility for people with disabilities. Each team of web designers and developers pairs with a local non-profit organization to build them a brand new, fully accessible site.
Our team – Team Raging Bus – will be designing and building a site for Accessible Housing Austin. They’re an organization that buys, builds, and modifies accessible housing for people with disabilities. It’s small, but growing and has a great local impact. You can actually see the accessible houses you donate toward. I really like this organization, and they really need a good web presence.
The competition is stiff. We are competing against multiple teams that have been competing for many years. Some of the teams have more members than I can shake a stick at with some top rate web design and accessibility talent. We’ll be the noobs with a four-man team running around like interns at the NYSE pit.
But you know what? None of that matters in the long run. Oh yeah, we might go in on Saturday and get waffle-stomped (to be honest, I’m kinda expecting it). But the lessons learned from this will be applied to the top-to-bottom overhaul of Capmetro.org over the next few months. Our current site accessibility isn’t all that hot, and part of competing as a team is free training. Training! For free! Plus, we’ll be volunteering our spare time to do something helpful for a local charity. If I’m lucky, I might scoop up a few people for our accessibility testing group. So even if we bomb out at the competition, we win.
So wish us luck. I’ll have Erica post our site and the results next week.