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June 17, 2011

An appeal to paratransit operators

by Nicole Schlosser

This week, the release of the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s report, "Aging in Place, Stuck without Options," which ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation — now and in the years to come — and presents other data on aging and transportation, shows the pressing need for not only more accessible public transit but paratransit as well.

The report is, of course, very important, but no shock to us here at METRO. We see the ripple effects of paratransit’s struggles almost daily in stories we write and post online. If you subscribe to our Accessibility e-newsletter or saw the stories we shared on Wednesday, you read about demand for disability bus passes increasing in Denver; in Florida, the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District is grappling with the decision to possibly close up to half of its bus stops because it can’t afford to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and in Northwestern Indiana, the Regional Bus Authority is striving to meet customer needs, which means buying larger vehicles and doing more to address client concerns.

Meanwhile, we are working on our annual paratransit survey. Look for that in our August issue. If you are a paratransit operator — public or private — you likely received an email from METRO Magazine, asking you to take a brief online survey. I hope that you will take just a few quick minutes to fill it out, and if you have more information to share about your experiences in this exceptionally critical aspect of transportation and public service, please feel free to email me. We want to get the most accurate picture of all that you do, and that means hearing from you.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Either 'Dump the Pump' or make your voice heard" here.

Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor

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  • Laura Henry[ June 17th, 2011 @ 12:01pm ]

    Truly I feel for seniors and the lack of transportation options but until you change the attitude in rural Arizona that 'other transportation options are available and this is a non-essential service' I don't think things will change and especially if the economic outlook does not improve.

  • Shawn Harris[ June 21th, 2011 @ 10:54am ]

    It is quite unfortunate that there is a lack of paratransit options for seniors in America. This article should definitely make communities stand up and take note of transit options in their perspective areas. There are however some bright spots when it comes to this issue. For example, there is a little transit system in the Northwest on Whidbey Island called Island Transit that sets the standard for the paratransit industry. Not only do they set the standard for their paratransit services, their services in general are free. Now there's a concept! Who would've thought that a small system in the Northwest would come up with an idea (fare free) that allows all the seniors on their island to enjoy the sense of mobility that should be allowed to everyone. Please feel free to visit the little system that could online at

  • jim leach[ June 24th, 2011 @ 8:33am ]

    This is a needed service that provides freedom to individuals that would miss doctors appointments and would not be going hungry because they would not be able to go to grocery stores for food. I believe we should not neglect the generations before us. All public transportation is or should be non-profit. We should be looking at ways to serve our communities and not how we can cut service to the elderly and disabled. We are hurting our nation and distroying the confidence of our senior citizens when at a time that they really need our assistance. Usually all meetings I attend are trying to devise ways to restrict disabled or elderly passengers from the paratransit service because of cost. They usually are trying to move paratransit passengers to fixed routes. This will reduce the cost. There is no advertisement for paratransit services. We are all getting older and we might (us) need this service one day and there will be no service.

  • Cathy Hutton[ August 4th, 2011 @ 8:06pm ]

    I am a Rural Public Transportation Contractor in Southwestern Arizona. Our services provide transportation for Seniors, as well as youth, disabled, and all in between. Our routes are very long and passengers are on the bus for as long as 3 hours for a one way trip. This is not a luxury, but a lifeline. Our route, Route 685 has been recommended for Elimination....why? Not because the service is not needed, but because of funding. This route is partially funded by the Federal Grant 5311, JARC and a 1/2 cent transportation sales tax in Maricopa County. Since the tax collected is less than anticipated by Maricopa County, this Rural route is in total jeopardy. Here is more of the situation: This service also provides 30 jobs in an area where there are not many to be had. Also we transport most of these passengers into Maricopa County, to have their needs met, such as medical and shopping, college and family. Our customers are contributing to the sales tax in a county they do not live in. Rural areas are always the hardest hit. If we lose this route, not only will all our passengers just be out of luck, for there is no other transportation available for over 100 miles, but the State will inherit 30 more unemployed people for State assistance. There has to be another way to fund these much needed transportation services. Once the powers to be understand what Rural Transportation is all about, then maybe we can find a fix together. I know I will keep digging for the answers!


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