Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CARTA Board Meeting: Trees are Important, but so are Humans!

As I was leaving, I commented that had the town truly understood the impact of the route change, less landscaping may have been included in their recent widening project of Route 17. As the Administrator and Creator of Access to the Garden, landscaping is incredibly important to me. The quality of a human life is even more so. ~ Brenda Parent

TO: CARTA Board Members
DATE: February 20, 2013
RE: Recent changes in Route 401 and cuts to Paratransit Service

Dear CARTA Board members:

Recently I received a notice from Veolia Transportation stating that due to recent route changes in Mount Pleasant that I would no longer be within Tel-A-Ride’s ¾ mile Paratransit service area. I received no further explanation other than the fact that these changes would start within ten days.

As a long term resident living with a disability, I originally purchased my home, stayed in and modified my home on the basis of growing old and aging in place within my home. Having access to accessible transportation is not an option for me, I have been a quadriplegic since 1983. I chose my home based on the proximity to hospitals and other necessary services. I chose my home based on the availability of public transportation as well.

After contacting Jeff Burns with CARTA, I was informed that this change would only affect 14 individuals. This information is incorrect and falsely represented based on the fact that two additional riders who live further back than I do and on the marsh within my neighborhood did not receive notification. Also considering that our population is aging very quickly, and by the year 2030 over 20% of our population will be over 65 the impact is potentially huge.(1 in 3 people in this age bracket will have a disability.)

After reviewing Google Earth map, I ascertained based on an older map which did not accurately reflect the widening of Route 17, that I as ‘the bird flies’ was within .78 miles of the frontage road. After speaking to Jeff, the only solution was for me to wheel approximately 200 feet to be within the service area. Only on the days that are above 65 degrees and sunny, this may not be an issue. The whole purpose of Paratransit is to actually provide a door to door service when needed to individuals such as myself. As I get older that 200 feet might as well be a mile. This decision is absurd and may be medically impossible for me some days! Considering the fact that they will be expanding Paratransit service on both the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, two areas that will no longer have a fixed route service, this does not make sense.

After contacting Project Action, it was brought to my attention that CARTA held a poorly publicized meeting on this route change in December. I had absolutely no idea that this was going on and that it would personally affect me and potentially so many others to the extent that it will. Without Paratransit, I will be forced to eventually move.

“You can tell a lot about a society by how it treats its most vulnerable.” This statement couldn’t be truer. After reviewing a powerpoint of CARTA’s presentation on these route changes, I saw absolutely no indication that service to those who are the most needy of public transportation would be cut. This is appalling to say the least. I am shocked that the Town would allow such a thing to happen to its residents if they indeed realized that this was an actual consequence of any route change.

This letter is my written notice, in which I am not obligated to give, to inform CARTA and its supporting municipalities that I will be filing a legitimate complaint with the Federal Transit Administration’s ADA Civil Right’s Division regarding public notice, and specific ADA requirements for public transportation both with Paratransit and Fixed Route services. I will also be filing a Title II violation with the Department of Justice regarding non-compliance issues with all of CARTA’s facilities. I have no choice other than to exercise my Civil Rights.

Knowing that for years I volunteered to make CARTA a better and an award winning transit organization, this truly saddens me. For over twenty years I have watched accessible fixed route buses travel to inaccessible bus stops. What an unfortunate waste of money.

Brenda B. Parent
Certified ADA Coordinator

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CARTA ends Paratransit Service for Many Living with Disabilities

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) will be ending its specialized transportation Paratransit service for many people living with disabilities in the Mount Pleasant area who do not live within 3/4 of a mile of CARTA's current Route 40. Paratransit service, Tel-A-Ride will be available on the Isle of Palms and on Sullivan's Island, two areas that will no longer have a fixed route. The Federal Transit Administration's ADA policy requires coverage to areas within its core area that are not within a corridor. FTA ADA 49 CFR 37.131 - Service criteria for complementary paratransit. (ii) Within the core service area, the entity also shall provide service to small areas not inside any of the corridors but which are surrounded by corridors. Many residents have received notice that their transportation will end in ten days. For many that will be an end to their employment and independence. CARTA's current Fixed-Route service is not accessible to many people with disabilities who use wheelchairs and to those living with other types of disabilities that prevent them from traveling independently.

Although my neighborhood is within 3/4 mile of CARTA's route to the schools, I will also no longer have the opportunity to utilize Tel-A-Ride. I will be working diligently to have this issue resolved. I, like many others, moved to my neighborhood and have remained in my current home because of the availability of public transportation. Without public transportation, I will have to move. I will no longer have the opportunity to age in place. People living within East Cooper should be outraged by this pitiful reduction in service. In my neighborhood alone an elderly widow, a young man living with Down Syndrome and myself, a quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair, will be affected by this horrendous decision to cut services. The community as a whole should stand up for what is right. There is an appropriate saying that comes to my mind, You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens, our seniors and people with disabilities deserve more respect. This is wrong.