03/20/05 — Bus system facing federal disability law

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Bus system facing federal disability law

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 20, 2005 10:26 AM

A federal mandate will force the Gateway system to begin offering door-to-door transportation within Goldsboro for many disabled people.

Beginning April 1, people who qualify will be able to arrange an unlimited number of rides during any hours that the city bus system is operating. Trips will cost $2 apiece.

How much it will cost Gateway cannot yet be determined. The agency doesn't know if it will have a handful of people who qualify or hundreds.

The new ride program will bring the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority into compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, said Paul Larson of Apple Bus Co., which manages the bus-vanpool service.

Basically, the ADA requires any bus system to offer transportation to any disabled person who lives within 3/4rds of a mile of a bus route but is unable to get to the bus stop, Larson said. Destinations can be to anywhere within 3/4rds of a mile of a bus route.

In practical terms, that means most disabled people who live inside the city can arrange $2 rides anywhere in Goldsboro. That means anywhere -- work, church, friends' house, restaurants, bars, even strip clubs.

"What if somebody abuses the system?," asked Andy Anderson, a member of Gateway's board, during Thursday's meeting.

"There's no such thing as abuse of the system," Larson said.

Minneapolis was forced to offer a similar service and "had a standing order to pick up someone at a bar every night at 1 a.m.," Larson said.

Gateway would not have to provide many rides from bars because these transports will only be done during the bus system's normal operating hours, which are 6 a.m.-6 p.m. But the point is that agencies that accept federal funding have no right to deny service, regardless of where people want rides, he said.

The only way anyone would lose access to the service would be if he or she repeatedly scheduled rides and then didn't show up.

People who want to qualify can call Gateway at 736-1374. The application process may include assessments by a health-care professional.

"Obviously, we wouldn't require that of a quadriplegic, but it might be necessary where a person's disability is not so obvious," Larson said.

An appeals committee will be available to people whose applications are denied.

Those who qualify will be able to arrange rides by calling 24 hours in advance to schedule appointments.