2022 40 Under 40: Martin Kareithi

Aug. 23, 2022
Martin Kareithi, Director - Systemwide Accessibility, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Alma Mater: University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): My favorite stop is the first stop from which I ever took transit - Sunshine Dr. and 49th St southbound. As a person who lost his vision as a young adult, I had to learn how to take transit one step at a time. I have crossed at that cross walk more times than I can count. It is at that stop, adjacent to Sunshine Community Gardens, on the grounds of the Texas School for the Blind that I first learned how to use a white cane to cross the street. At this stop is where I learned how to use transit and the freedom a bus can bring to a blind kid ready to experience the world.

Martin Kareithi serves as CapMetro’s director of systemwide accessibility, but his contributions to the community have spanned more than 12 years with the agency. He has held several positions designed to improve the authority’s operations and make CapMetro’s services truly accessible to the entire community. Working in the accessibility space requires Kareithi to understand many, if not all, the agency’s programs, services, facilities and technologies to assess not only whether CapMetro complies with what is required by law, but to ensure the agency is leading with its values.

It’s not about meeting minimum standards but ensuring a quality customer experience for all riders, especially those with disabilities. In transitioning to leading the systemwide accessibility team, Kareithi’s focus is not just on the accessibility of vehicles but on the complete pedestrian experience. He has been a leader in ensuring accessibility is a core value and is top of mind when building out Project Connect, CapMetro’s long-term transit expansion program, because he understands the architectural decisions will last decades.

Kareithi believes technology can break down barriers for people with disabilities. He played an important part in the rollout of one of the first fully accessible mobile ticketing apps in the nation, serving as a subject matter expert on accessibility in the design phase. Kareithi champions the ways technology can empower people with disabilities by providing more information about the built environment and oversaw a beacon technology pilot that provided directional wayfinding and real-time rider information to people with disabilities.

Kareithi has worked with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the University of Washington’s Taskar Center for Accessible Design and remains committed to exploring and implementing innovative technology mobility solutions in the accessibility space. These projects have the potential to transform the lives of CapMetro customers who need it the most.

The opportunity to be involved in this work is meaningful and he works to create more opportunities for others. Kareithi served as president of the Austin chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials for four years and is the chair of COMTO’s national Accessibility Advisory Council. As both an African American and a blind individual, he has shared that it’s important to him that COMTO provides a platform to minority professionals and people with disabilities. As the first chapter president with a visible disability, he brought a different level of representation at national meetings, highlighting the issues of opportunity, promotion and inclusion for people with disabilities. As chair of the national council, one of his biggest accomplishments is the establishment of the Accessible Innovative Mobility Track for COMTO’s annual conference. The conference now regularly includes presentations and workshops dedicated to looking at accessibility, access to transportation and the current and future role of mobility for people with disabilities.

In his community, he serves as chair of the PBS Austin Community Advisory Board. As a board member of the Transit Empowerment Fund, he supports projects that employ creative solutions to expand mobility to underserved neighborhoods. This is more than work for Kareithi. This is a passion and a mission. It’s also a legacy. Colleagues say it is common to see Kareithi with his six-year-old son and, one day, with his nine-month-old daughter, talking about a piece of transit infrastructure and explaining to him that his daddy was part of making this happen.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Transit is fundamentally a community focused vocation. It allows for people, particularly those with disabilities, to access mobility within their communities. Our agency engages a systemwide approach to accessibility, so I experience and work with all aspects of transit, from planning to community engagement to driver training. This provides for a constant process of learning and applying what I know. No two days are the same, but each day I play a part in making my community a better place to live, work and play all the while, literally, getting a chance to play with buses and trains for a living.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

Sitting at the helm of a newly created department as director of systemwide accessibility is an incredible honor and gives me a sense of pride in our organization. Having a Department of Systemwide Accessibility shows the importance CapMetro places on delivering a high-quality transit system for all persons regardless of ability. It is a recognition that people with disabilities are not the other-- in fact-- we are a natural part of human diversity and I am proud to be associated with that.

Cap Metro Logo Blue


July 31, 2012