Capital Metro is partnering with the City of Austin to improve up to 400 bus stops and adjacent sidewalks for better accessibility to passengers with disabilities.
These improvements, including connector sidewalks, wider concrete platforms and curb ramps, will help Capital Metro remain compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The city will manage the construction through its neighborhood connectivity division of the Public Works Department, said John Hodges, interim director of engineering and construction.
"The weak link in that chain is how do you get to those bus stops," he said "Technically, most of that access to the bus stops is out of our jurisdiction."
By partnering with the city, Hodges said the plan will address those issues because the city will put in segments of sidewalk and curb ramps that connect to bus stops.
For Capital Metro passengers in wheelchairs, these changes are a step in the right direction, said David Wittie, an organizer with disability rights group ADAPT of Texas. But Wittie and others with disabilities said they have other concerns with Capital Metro.
"Access to bus stops will not help them if they cannot afford to buy a bus pass or if they can't afford to use the bus pass properly," Wittie said. "People with disabilities will continue to pay, if they can, because they almost have no other choice."
On Jan. 16, Capital Metro began charging seniors and passengers with disabilities a reduced fare. Previously, those riders could use the service for free.
Melanie Boyte, who uses a wheelchair, said she is more than happy to start paying for rides but that the new fare boxes do not work properly and are too high for her to reach.
"This is not working for us, even the most highest-functioning disable people are having trouble with the fare boxes," she said.
She supports improvements to the bus stops but said Capital Metro needs to resolve other issues, including miscommunication between bus drivers about fare cards.
"We're willing to pay for equal rights and equal fairness," she said.
Hodges said the total cost for the bus stop improvements will be at least $1.8 million for the bus stop improvements. The city will fund the sidewalk portion. Hodges said the city anticipates completing the work by February 2012.
The board of directors approved the interlocal agreement with the city at its Jan. 26 meeting, and the City Council is scheduled to vote on it in early February.