I attended the 2nd annual Transportation Works Summit in Waco, TX “Collaboration & Connectivity” on Thursday, January 25 through Friday, January 26th in Waco. Last year’s conference was in Austin, and the theme was “Identifying & Removing Barriers through Innovation.” Major topics included city transit, paratransit, Uber and Lyft, violation of parking for the handicapped, and sidewalk concerns. If there was less dependence on cars, there would be increased efficiency and safety because there would be fewer cars on the road.
The first speakers were from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Their topic was “Emerging Issues & Advances in Accessible Transportation.” Low-vision people can be helped through Smart Cane Assistive Navigation (SCAN). Pathway Solutions for wheelchairs examines sidewalk conditions and curb cuts. Carnegie Mellon developed smart phones with traffic signals.
Houston METRO has 12 routes with 2400 stops and aspires to have 9600 stops. Plus, they’re being funded by Google! Houston also has a paratransit feeder service pilot program. It serves an area within a ¾ mile area around fixed routes, as well as beyond the required area. Capital Metro of Austin’s grant application, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP IDEA), integrates transit and pedestrian planning. The technology is Open Source, so anyone can use it. San Antonio has a bunch of bond initiatives, including sidewalks.
The speaker hoped that someday sidewalks would be viewed as important as roads. Later we heard from Brian East, that sidewalks built after 1-27-92 must have curb ramps. Brian East works for Disability Rights Texas.
As for other states, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has a paratransit agreement with Uber and Lyft. Washington Metro Area has an on-demand paratransit that’s partly subsidized and allows service animals. Some places are experimenting with autonomous vehicles; that means they can drive themselves without a driver. Texas A&M has low-speed autonomous vehicles that are golf cart look-alikes for its giant campus. Automated Vehicle proving grounds are in seven Texas cities: Arlington, Austin, Bryan-College Station, Corpus Christi, Huston, and San Antonio.
Wheelchair passengers riding planes is a concern as a staggering 98% of them don’t travel by plane. However, more children would survive a plane wreck than a car wreck. Qstraint is the leader of wheelchair tie down services, and it’s passed a 20G crash test—doubled in eight years! Wheelchair test criteria examines if the rider would be thrown out of a plane, fall over on its side, be ripped away from the floor, and if the straps were adequate. Partnerships have developed between airlines, plane manufacturers, wheelchair manufacturers, and universities. Recall that Collaboration & Connectivity was the theme of the 2018 transportation summit.
At the Lunch Panel, we found out that Texas is a leader in accessible buildings. There have been efforts to move into rural areas with Uber and Lyft because the drivers would have their own vehicles. Public transport is stronger when cities are bigger. It’s expensive for transit to run paratransit.
Upon hearing that paratransit can be hampered by a lack of funds, when I returned to Tyler, I proposed that we look for the for-profit businesses that would have a vested interest in paratransit and get a tax deduction for donations! “Eds and Meds” place like East Texas Medical Center (ETMC) and UT Health-NE are the most obvious. But how about banks? Tyler has a bunch, and it could be really good public relations. Then a lawyer friend suggested looking for businesses that have a large percentage of employees using Tyler Transit as possible donors.