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County Connection cutbacks hit riders

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  • 12/24 Contra Costa Times
    Published Wednesday, December 24, 2003, in the Contra Contra Times Bus cuts impact harder on disabled, seniors By Theresa Harrington WALNUT CREEK -- Richard
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 24, 2003
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      Published Wednesday, December 24, 2003, in the Contra Contra Times

      Bus cuts' impact harder on disabled, seniors

      By Theresa Harrington

      WALNUT CREEK -- Richard Einer, paraplegic who uses a motorized
      wheelchair, used to travel easily throughout the East Bay, whizzing
      out his front door to a nearby County Connection bus stop.

      He'd take the 102 bus to the BART station, where he'd transfer to
      another bus or ride the rails.

      "It's been great," he said Friday morning before a trip to Concord. "I
      could get to all my doctor's appointments."

      That changed Sunday, when County Connection's first round of
      cost-saving cuts took effect and seven of Route 102's weekday runs
      disappeared. Einer is now stranded from 8:15 a.m. to 3:23 p.m., and
      visiting his doctors will be either less convenient or more costly, he
      said.

      He will now have to wait for hours to return home or he'll use County
      Connection's van service, which costs $3 each way. That's six times
      more than the 50-cent bus fare he pays with his disabled punch card,
      and it's not manageable on his limited Social Security and disability
      income, he said.

      Einer has filed a complaint against County Connection, alleging the
      cuts leave him with no affordable transportation alternative and
      violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

      Bus company general manager Rick Ramacier said the agency does not
      believe Einer has a viable ADA complaint but is investigating.

      "Transit operators cannot discriminate against disadvantaged people,"
      he said. "When you add or subtract services, you have to consider if
      they're going to have disparate impacts on the people who are
      protected by civil rights laws."

      Einer contends his service is being cut so severely, it no longer
      provides a transit lifeline. Other bus riders were unhappy with the
      cuts for other reasons.

      Carol Galas of Walnut Creek complained to County Connection's board of
      directors last week about the decision to discontinue Route 111 along
      Geary Road. She said she rides that bus several times a week to
      volunteer at the senior center, downtown library and City Hall.

      "This particular bus line allows me the freedom to take on such
      pursuits, as I am a widow with a medical condition that prevents me
      from being able to drive," she said.

      While riding the bus for several days, she collected more than 60
      signatures on a petition to keep the bus running. Regular riders
      include Ygnacio Valley High students, the elderly and people who do
      not speak English, she said.

      "I hope they will be able to find out from somebody that one morning
      their usual bus will not be arriving," she told the board.

      Board members said the cuts were based on low ridership. They said the
      transit agency is so financially strapped that a second round of cuts
      will be necessary.

      While most bus riders will have to adapt to the cuts, Einer may get
      some help. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which
      distributes funds to Bay Area transit agencies, may begin setting
      aside money for "lifeline transit." This is transportation to work or
      medical services for people who would otherwise have great difficulty
      getting there.

      If County Connection qualifies for lifeline funding, Ramacier said,
      some of Einer's bus runs could be restarted.

      "I've done probably as much as I can do," he said.


      Reach Theresa Harrington at 925-945-4764
      or by e-mail at tharrington@...
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