How will changes to RTS affect riders with disabilities?

Mar 13, 2019

Credit RTS

As the ReImagine RTS project moves forward, changing the way buses move through Rochester, different communities are worried how the changes will affect them.

People with disabilities say many are concerned about fixed routes and paratransit.

Fixed routes are the big buses you see out on the roads, following a single route. And under the Americans with Disabilities Act, paratransit has to exist as a supplement to this service. Within three-quarters of a mile around a fixed route, riders with disabilities can access door-to-door transportation.

Rene Latorre, the director of advocacy and consumer affairs at ABVI Goodwill, said RTS proposals need to be tweaked more before they go to the final stages. She also said they are still willing to listen but also hope RTS hears their concerns.

"So we all know if there’s no fixed route, then the threat would be, then there’s no paratransit,” Latorre said. “So there were lots of questions of, ‘Well, what would happen? What would happen to our transportation and will we have any?’ So we're just trying to get those answers.”

Latorre said she knows it’s early — changes wouldn’t go into effect until the summer of 2020 — but people want to make a plan as soon as possible in case their routes change.

"If you were told you have no idea how you’re going to get to work a year from now, you wouldn’t wait a year from now to worry about it,” Latorre said. “You would be like, ‘Wait, I need a plan. I need to figure out what’s going to happen so I know I can get to work. So I know I can get to my medical appointments, my shopping.’

“It’s how people are surviving, it’s not just convenience.”

Bill Carpenter, president and CEO of RTS, said those areas will still be covered by community mobility zones, more flexible travel options for less dense areas.

"What we’ve done in our analysis,” Carpenter said, “is to make sure that every trip that was completed in 2018 that we were required to provide, we’ll be able to provide to the customers after we get done with the system redesign." 

Credit ABVI

Carpenter said he appreciates the patience that customers have had during the process.

If you want to learn more about paratransit services and how they might be changing, a meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at ABVI, 500 S. Clinton Ave.

A formal public hearing will be held at 6:00pm-7:30pm April 2 at the RTS offices, at 1372 E. Main St.

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.