Sorry for neglecting you guys again. Orientation and Mobility this past week was fun, and kind of scary. As you can tell from the title of this post, I “graduated” to SEPTA Rail travel.

10_SEPTA reg rail car_SeptaThis was my first EVER trip on a train or to a train station… EVER! Far be it from the little things that amuse folks like me that have never traveled before. I’d happily make a trip to just go sit on a blog friends couch to simply say I made the trip! – I’m a little crazy I know.

The trip started like all others I have been on for the past few weeks. Catch the SEPTA 93 bus here in town and ride it all the way to Noristown Transpertation Center (NTC). But Elaine was not meeting me at the bus this time; it was up to me to navigate across the NTC (not really a short walk and across traffic) to meet her at the SEPTA Train platform at NTC, to catch the 11:17AM R6 train to Market Street Station; one of the first main stops along the line.

Meeting Elaine at the station platform, she was happy and I was relieved to have arrived in one peace. She told me when the train was coming, and where I was to ask to get off. She gave me my SEPTA Training Pass (cool pass that allows O&M students like me to ride for free with an instructor). She told me to mind my first step up because this platform was not level with the train, and it’s kind of a big one. And like bus rides to let the conductor know to please announce my stop and to make sure this was actually the R6 train!

With a loud squeal and a hiss, the train pulls in. A rush of people flood to get on. Up the steps and make a right I went. The interior was very nice, with plush seats and well lit, a row of three seats on one side and two on the other. I went about half way down and plopped in. Elaine snuck off further away, but still in the same car to observe.

With a toot-toot and a hum, the train was off with in a minute. The conductor made his way down collecting tickets. I showed him my pass with little fuss (some times drivers fuss!) and ask him to announce Market Street Station… no problem sir.

The train ride was about 40-minutes to Market Street Station and I sat back to enjoy the view. The most notable landmark this line went past was Temple University; I could look out and see the football field as we passed. COOL!

We arrived at Market Street Station, and the conductor announced the stop, by then the train was full of people and students, and a flood of people and me, made the mass exit to the platform. I stepped off to the side and waited for Elaine so we could continue the lesson in and around the station.

To be continued…

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Wow, sorry… I know it has been some time since I updated my blog about my Orientation and Mobility training. Maybe some of you thought I quit or, perhaps got run over by the bus, no I’m still here. In fact I’ve been very busy with O&M over the past few weeks.

SEPTAI’ve successfully used our local SEPTA to travel with Elaine and just recently by my self (to meet Elaine) to the Norristown Transportation Center (NTC), the main hub for SEPTA and other connecting buses and trains in our area.

I’ve also rode SEPTA more recently to visit one of my favorite places the Apple Store at King of Prussia Mall. This trip involves one transfer, and takes about one hour and twenty minutes by bus. Let this be said bus travel is not fast. To drive to King of Prussia Mall from my house would take a normal person about 45-minutes.

Reading and understanding bus schedules has been a bit of a challenge for me, not for the fact I don’t know how… but simply because I am a literal person. Bus routes don’t provide intermediate times only times for main stops. Since I am in-between, I find waiting nerve-wracking. If I know something is to be here at X time, it had better be here! – I hate that! 9:30 means 9:30, not 9:45…

Most people wonder how a blind person rides a bus, or knows what bus they are getting on. The simple answer is, we ask. Since I can’t always read the bus sign we always ask the driver “are you going to…” it’s always important to ask where your going, because though a bus may be heading the same direction, it may not be the bus you want.

SEPTA also provides a visually impaired riders kit, or “flag” as some would call it. It’s a little set of cards, and a holder with numbers and letters (large) and also marked in braille. You insert the cards into the holder to indicate your desired bus or train. You hold this at the bus stop to “flag” the driver, they are trained to look for this, and assist you.

Most newer city buses and trains also automatically announce the bus number and destination the bus or train is going to as you get on. “Welcome to SEPTA Route 93, service to Norristown”. – kind of cool eh?

In all my experience in riding local SEPTA has not been a bad one. The drivers seem nice, but are not overly friendly… just the ‘it’s a job’… kind of deal. But they take your questions well and make sure you get a seat. As a disabled person, I always get the seat right behind the driver or across from them.

The characters you meet on the bus are a whole different story. Any thing from your local businessman to your local bum, grandma and grandpa, to mom and dad, and let us not forget the ladies of ill-repute… we got’em all… But I’ll save that for another story.

Did I mention R93 is the bus that passes threw Norristown State Corrections? Do I have your attention?

Needless to say I’m still uncomfortable riding, and transferring. Norristown Transportation Center is big, and it would be easy to get on the wrong bus. But thankfully I can read the bus-stall signs when I’m right on top of them.

Not a comfortable traveler yet… but moving along well…

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I really did want to come up with a wittier name for this post, but it is what it is… And today’s lesson was all about intersections controlled with stoplights.

We where at the same area we use last time, and made our way to the intersection I had stopped at before. Elain explained to me that there are two different types of stoplights. One is called a Variable Timed, and the other Fixed Time. You can guess by their names, it’s really simple.

Traffic LightA variable timed intersection is controlled by a stoplight with an embedded pressure plate or wiring that a car rolls over to control the amount of time the light will stay green on the next cycle. – You can usually see the wires or plate in the roadway. A fixed time intersection has a set interval of red to green cycles that will not change… Simple.

Did you know most traffic lights and cross walk lights timing are based on the fact humans walk about 5-feet-per-second? The wider the street, technically the longer the light will stay green, or walk light will stay on. Did you know that on a variable timed intersection, most lights will add about 3-seconds to the light cycle for each car in the line, most times with a maximum up to three cars deep? (That’s about 9 or 10-seconds.)

Man, it turns out mobility instructors really know their stuff!

So any way… We approached and surveyed the intersection. We determined it was a variable timed intersection; the main street cycle was about 30-seconds, and the side street was about 15-seconds. We noted stoplight pedestrian buttons and we talked about there use. Remember to use them when cars are rolling, so they interrupt the cycle; but remember, some may not work, (in our case one was broken).

The button facing into you is used to control that light crossing the street that you are facing, the button should never be behind you, if so, it’s likely not for that street.

We hit the button, lined up, and waited for the light to change. Here it comes, lights green, check left, center, right, all clear, and go! Always noting the danger point and crossing traffic, many intersections, it’s the middle of the cross walk where you could have cars turn in front of you, particularly if a stopped car is to your left.

Not bad, we made it… and now… we do it again! We continued this way making circles around the intersection when it was the proper time to cross; it must have looked funny, because we looped the intersection clockwise about a half-dozen times.

We talked about the dangerous turn-on-red that so many drivers like to do, even though some (a lot) like to ignore the no-turn-on-red signs. She reminded me that pedestrians still have the right-of-way at crossings, and if a car is at a stop, it’s unlikely they will turn on you. – But I still take little comfort in that. This is part of the huge anxiety of street crossings that gets to me. But the only way to get over this fear is to do more street crossings.

So drivers, please put down your cell phone, stop putting on your makeup, don’t pass stopped cars and pay more attention at intersections. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at cross walks, and persons with a white cane or service dog have even more! If you’d just pay attention, the road would be much safer for all of us!

If you blow your horn at me, and flip me the finger… I’m likely to cane your car, you ungrateful 4-wheeled little bastard. – Road rage, blind man style! – I didn’t say that, I deny everything! I didn’t see your car, I swear!

Next week Elaine says we’re going to play in more traffic, and a little busier intersection. Oh the joy! In all I’d have to say I’m still a 3 out of 5 for busy intersections. But a strong 4 out of 5 for lesser intersections.

Lets see what next week brings!

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