I was one of 30 people chosen statewide as a Consumer Advocate in Transportation (CAT) for the Texas State Independent Living Council’s (TX SILC),”Transportation Works: Identifying and Removing Barriers Through Innovation” conference in Austin from February 28th through March 2nd. Four of us from Tyler attended: two Cigna Health Spring employees, the city’s taxi cab director, and myself. I took a Greyhound Bus from Tyler to Austin that made a detour in Dallas, so that was a relevant adventure in itself.
One of the Cigna representatives, Kandee Franklin, nominated me for the event. I taught for 20 years before getting on disability for asthma & COPD. Then I started volunteering for the East Texas Human Needs Network (ETHNN), especially the Transportation Committee. We have five bus lines in Tyler, and I’ve organized three or four bus trips with lunch. (One was poorly attended…lol). I’ve written several articles about the Tyler Transit on this Word Press site–including why the two bus hub structure works in a rectangular city, a good introduction to local bus riding. I’ve also written about Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome, dealing with a severe COPD exacerbation at home, and low saturated fat and sodium foods at Family Dollar. Thus, I’m still a researcher and now an event planner.
The conference began with several speakers from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Then there were speakers from various City of Austin organizations. Austin is well-known for its rapid recent growth, as well as its very progressive image. We heard from local Centers for Independent Living. Tyler has the East Texas Center for Independent Living (ETCIL), but there were no speakers from our local organization. I’m one of their clients; they helped me transition to an efficiency subsidized by the Tyler Neighborhood Services back in 2012. Cab companies, parking violations, share a ride, Uber, and Lyft were discussed. I met Brian White, the Director of TX SILC.
My favorite speech topics usually reflected my renewed goal of sidewalk repair and bike rack installation. Thus, “Accessible Transportation Collaboration and Developing Non-traditional Partnerships” program were among my favorites. I met Brian East, the Senior Attorney for Disability Rights Texas, before he gave his talk, “The ADA and Transportation Advocacy.” He thinks that I may have good chance of getting my street’s sidewalks repaired since it’s the east-west street that runs to the northern boundary of the Hospital District! Our newest bus line (Purple) runs down East Houston Street too.
I asked some questions during the conference and wrote 20 pages of notes. When I asked how to increase bus rider volume, the answer included “to make the bus trip not just possible but desirable.” Later I asked our city taxi cab manager, Jamal Moharer, to discuss their natural gas powered cars and other vehicles using it in Smith County.
I attended a Pulmonary and Cardiac Education (PACE) luncheon on Friday, March 3rd at Trinity Mother Francis hospital in Tyler. The organization used to be called The Better Breathers. We heard a lecture from a local doctor and got information on Advanced Planning. It turns out that our moderator nurse once tripped over a sidewalk block and broke her hand, tore her clothes, and spilled a drink on herself!
To summarize, I had a great time at the Transportation conference and met a lot of people. We stayed at the beautiful Midtown Holiday Inn in Downtown Austin. The meals were outstanding. Next year’s conference will be in Waco. When I got home, I found the most relevant page about sidewalk repair at the TX SILC website and emailed it to a bunch of people.