County Connection cutbacks hit riders
- 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
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
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@...