SOL18: Report on TX SILC Transportation Works Summit to ETHNN Transportation Cmte, Part 1 by JD Meyer

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.

Tyler, TX Transit’s Two Bus Hubs: Why It Works in a Rectangular City/Introduction to Riding the Bus

The Tyler Transit changed to a two bus hub structure a few years ago for its five lines; four meet downtown (210 E. Oakwood ST) at the central offices/train museum, and three meet at the Bergfeld Shopping Center (9th & Roseland). Tyler, TX is a rectangular city with most of its territory considered to be South Tyler. These are the five Tyler bus lines: Red (north-south), Blue (west), Green (east), Yellow (southwest-southeast), and Purple (north-south with east jog to Hospital District, aka. Midtown). https://www.cityoftyler.org/Departments/TylerTransit/MapandSchedules.aspx

The four bus lines at downtown are Red, Blue, Green, and Purple. Purple doesn’t go further north than downtown–unlike the other three. Thus, only three of the five bus lines run in small North Tyler: Red, Blue, and Green. The Red Line goes to the northern edge of the city. The three bus lines at Bergfeld Shopping Center–six to 13 minutes south of the Transit Depot–are Red, Yellow, and Purple. The Yellow Line doesn’t go further north than the Bergfeld Shopping Center. The Blue (west) and Green (east) Lines don’t meet at that southern hub. The Yellow Southwest goes to FRESH, an upscale branch of Brookshire’s Grocery Store. The Yellow Line Southeast goes to University of Texas at Tyler. The Green Line unites all three colleges: Texas College (north), Tyler Junior College (east-central), and UT-Tyler (southeast).

The Red and Purple Lines usually run parallel to each other on Broadway–Tyler’s major street: a north-south street that runs its entire length. The Red Line’s southernmost point is the Carmike Shopping Center, while the Purple Line’s southernmost point is the new Cumberland Shopping Center in far south Tyler at the intersection of South Broadway and Loop 49. The Purple Line is the newest transit line in Tyler. It includes a twist to the east down E. Houston Street to S. Beckham–where the two hospitals are located–followed by a turn on E. 5th back towards the center of the city.

To conclude, the bus hub transit structure of Tyler, Texas makes sense because it’s a rectangular city with most of its land in the south. A circular city would benefit from one big hub in the center. I was motivated to write this article as a response to a friend’s nostalgia for the one bus hub era. Plus, you got to do something for the National Day on Writing, especially if you taught English!

Frequent Tyler, TX Bus Rider Survey: Answers for a Northside Resident—

Crescent DR & N. Confederate AV.

1. Which bus lines are closest to you?

2. Where are they?

3. Where are the “least distant” bus stops of different lines?

4. Is Bergfeld Shopping Center the closest Yellow Line stop for you?

5. Is the Downtown Transit Depot the closest place for you to access ….
A. Blue North
B. Green North
C. Purple South

6. Where are your favorite bus stops used by three lines, aside from the two hubs.

7. Where would you like to see a bike rack?
1. Two Green South, Blue North, Red South.

2. One Green South is at MLK and Englewood, near the grounds of the now-gone Emmett J. Scott HS. The other Green South is at the Labor Ready on West Gentry . Blue North is at the BBQ place on the NE corner of W. Gentry and Glenwood. Red South is at Palace and Nutbush near an elementary school.

3. Red, Green, & Blue are the only bus lines in North Tyler.

4. The Bergfeld Shopping Center is the closest Yellow Line stop.

5. The Downtown Transit Depot is the closest place to access Purple South.

6. I don’t know of any bus stops serviced by more than one line in North Tyler, let alone three.

7. Downtown at Oakwood AV, W. Gentry & Palace area near Neighborhood Services and D&N, a leading store-restaurant-gas station, & Bergfeld Shopping Center (the 2nd hub).

Frequent Tyler, TX Bus Rider Survey, by Joffre (“JD”) Meyer (Midtown Resident)

Resident of Midtown (Hospital District) near Stanley’s Bar-B-Q

1. Which bus lines are closest to you?

2. Where are they?

3. Where are the “least distant” bus stops of different lines?

4. Is Bergfeld Shopping Center the closest Yellow Line stop for you?

5. Is the Downtown Transit Depot the closest place for you to access ….
A. Blue North
B. Green North
C. Purple South

6. Where are your favorite bus stops used by three lines, aside from the two hubs.

7. Where would you like to see a bike rack?

JD’s Answers

1. Purple North, Purple South, Green North.

2. The closest Purple North stop  is on East Houston at Donnybrook, while the closest Purple South stop  is at Austin State Bank near the SW corner of S. Beckham and E. Houston–across from Trinity Mother Frances. The nearest Green North bus stops are on S. Beckham at Trinity Mother Frances, directly across from Austin State Bank and on S. Beckham just south of E. Front. That Green North bus stop at the SE corner of Beckham & E. Front is less surrounded by traffic than the earlier stop by  TMF.

3. The closest Blue SW southbound stop is next to the new parking garage on S. Broadway between E. Front and Elm. The nearest Green South bus stop for me is on Fleishel & E. Houston, just past “Heartbreak Hill.” The closest Red North bus stop is at S. Broadway–just north of E. Houston. The closest Yellow stop is at its northernmost point in Bergfeld Shopping Center. The closest Red South bus stop is at the SW corner of S. Broadway & E. Front in front of the Catholic cathedral.

4. Yes, the Bergfeld Center hub is the closest Yellow Line stop for me.

5. A. No, the closest Blue North stop for me is across from the new parking garage between Front and Erwin next to the furniture store with all the bean bags, near the abandoned skyscraper.
B. No, I live very close to Green North bus stops because it serves the East side of Tyler, and I live in Midtown (East). C. No, I live in Midtown (The Hospital District), so three Purple line stops are very close to me.

6. Blue SW Northbound, Purple North, and Red North have a stop on N. Broadway across from the new Fair Parking Garage by the old furniture store with all the beanbags.

7. Both hubs, Downtown by the train museum and the Bergfeld Shopping Center, should have bike racks. I’d like to see a bike rack next to D&N in North Tyler on Bow ST near Neighborhood Services and a Green South stop at W. Gentry and Palace. Finally, I’d like to see a bike rack at the Downtown Square.