(Continued from July 24)
So now we have Centro Executive Director Frank Kobliski and his special assistant, Betty Petri, working on fixing Call-a-Bus (CAB), while Manager Linda McKeown continues to run the day to day operation—which isn’t going all that well. Every time I schedule a ride, I’m getting the same driver, Annemarie. Annemarie is a new driver who has a lot of experience, is very smart, and is a very, very good driver. It only takes a couple rides before we figure out what is going on. Because she is such good driver and gets along so well with me, all my rides are being assigned to her to shut me up. Linda McKeown wants to stop me from filing complaints.
Well, in the first place, this is a useless effort because riders don’t have all that many complaints about drivers. Our complaints are about the office staff and its implementation of incorrect policies. For example, say the bus to Fayetteville runs at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. CAB says we can only go outward bound from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Inbound, we only can travel from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Try to work with that! I mean, come on, try to schedule any activity—doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping, lunch with a friend—using that kind of schedule!
Fact is, the FTA regulations say 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; we’re supposed to be allowed to ride from first-line-bus-out to last-line-bus-back, but CAB schedulers will only let us ride from line buses scheduled, plus or minus one hour. The bus company is supposed to be serving the people, not the people serving the bus company. So David Knight, attorney at the Office of Civil Rights at the Federal Transit Administration, and I keep talking. I tell him what Call-a-Bus is doing, he tells me what they should be doing, I file complaints with Centro, and he talks to Centro.
Meanwhile, Annemarie is taking all my rides. She’s being sent across the city, running empty, just to pick me up. This offends me for two reasons. First, it is wasteful of CAB’s resources. Already, they don’t have enough buses on the road to meet the needs of the riders. In fact, call-takers tell us this: “We can’t schedule your ride; we don’t have enough buses.”
And what David Knight tells me is that is a violation of federal law. It is called a “capacity constraint” and it is totally unacceptable. The bus company has to have enough buses to carry the people. Poor people who are disabled have no other way to travel. The law says that the bus company has to have enough buses. Centro doesn’t. And Linda McKeown is using one bus as my personal limousine. Not acceptable.
Aside from the poor utilization of resources, and the fact that my peers are suffering worse service so I can have better service, this offends me because I want the same service everybody else gets. I want to know what the typical rider is experiencing. I don’t want the cleansed version; I want what everybody gets so I can do something about it. If I don’t know what’s going on then I can’t fix it.
The typical CAB rider is an elderly widow with bad arthritis. Her husband used to drive her wherever she needed to go, but now he’s dead so she has to use Call-a-Bus. She knows that she’s spending long hours on the bus when she’s dead tired and coming home from the doctor’s office, but she doesn’t know that she shouldn’t have to. I know. I know that she shouldn’t be kept on the bus for more than an hour within the city; I know because David Knight told me. Elderly widows not only don’t know the rules but also don’t know David Knight. They don’t have computers, can’t look up the phone number for the Federal Transit Administration, and don’t have unlimited long distance telephone service. I know, I do, I can, and I must. I represent a class of about four thousand Call-a-Bus riders—which does not include the people who are eligible but have been wrongfully denied access.
Linda McKeown does not know how many people have been approved to ride the bus. The number was given to me by someone working in another department of Centro. I asked McKeown at a meeting and she didn’t know the answer. I find this ignorance staggering. She has no idea how many people she is serving. To get Call-a-Bus, you have to submit an application. The application has to be approved, and then the applicant is assigned an identification number. And nobody counts?
Frank Kobliski knows how many employees he has, and how many are drivers. He knows how many buses he has, and how many are short buses. And he has never said, “Say, Linda, how many people are you serving?” Maybe if he’d ever asked how many riders there are then it would have occurred to him that he didn’t have enough short buses assigned to CAB, and CAB wouldn’t be denying rides based on capacity complaints. Do you think maybe?
So neither Frank Kobliski nor Linda McKeown knows what’s going on, but Linda keeps using Annemarie as my personal driver. She probably figures that if I get good service then I’ll quit trying to make Call-a-Bus work right. As far as I can tell, Linda has no concept that covers “for the good of the people.” She lives in a selfish world and can’t imagine one person working so that four thousand people can get their rights under the law. (To be continued)