Letter to the Editor, Post-Standard (continued)
Do you know who comes to the [Public Transportation Advisory Committee] meeting? Linda McKeown, director of Call-a-Bus. Fifteen disabled people sit there and try to make some sense out of the system, and Linda refuses to help.
Last month we asked her how many people work in the Call-a-Bus office and she refused to tell us. Why is Call-a-Bus being run with all the secrecy of the CIA? We’re not terrorists—some of us don’t even have feet, let alone sneakers in which to hide explosives. Why is a public service agency hiding from the public?
Call-a-Bus riders are among some of the most intelligent, patient and understanding people in the city. Evidence of our intelligence is the fact that we have been able to stay out of or get out of institutional care. Our lives in wheelchairs have taught us the deepest patience that you’ll find anywhere; we have learned to wait. We have, collectively, suffered every bodily ill known to man, woman or child. Believe me, we understand the difficulties of life. We can understand a lot, if given the chance.
We have few complaints about the Call-a-Bus drivers. They are senior Centro drivers who have bid for Call-a-Bus trips and are, frankly, enormously grateful to no longer be toting teenagers to Carousel Mall. The drivers like us. (We bake cookies!) Our problem is with the Call-a-Bus office staff.
Why are we being denied information? Ms McKeown had a meeting about the American Disabilities Act and how it applied to paratransit. She refused to let me attend, saying it was for “agency people.” My College Board scores were high enough to get me into medical school; I can understand. I want somebody to explain to me why I am denied the opportunity to learn how the system works.
Ms McKeown and her assistant, Jim Bacon, repeatedly respond to questions with the statement “We’ve been through this before”—and then they won’t go through it again. In fact, they give this answer to questions that I have never asked before! Their intent is to prevent the disabled public from learning how the system works. Ms McKeown refuses to describe the steps they take to schedule rides.
After filing an application to use Call-a-Bus, we get a letter that references three categories of eligibility. At the last transportation meeting, Linda told us that if we didn’t agree with our eligibility status, then we should appeal. Later, under rigorous questioning, she revealed that there are “more than a hundred” sub-categories of eligibility. We had no knowledge of this.
I requested—but after a month am still waiting for—a list of the sub-categories that have been applied to me. These are judgments about my capabilities made without my knowledge by people who’ve never met me based on a brief written questionnaire. Call-a-Bus is not obliged to agree with our doctor’s assessment of our abilities. Ride requests are being turned down based on a secret code.
The regular phone operators answer questions with phrases that are non-answers: “It’s not eligible.” What’s not eligible? Eligible for what? There is a clear intent to not be forthcoming, to withhold information, to prevent riders from knowing how to use the service. The intent is to use information to control, not to serve.
We—the people who use Call-a-Bus—want to know how to work with the system. We want to understand the problems Linda McKeown, et al, face. We want to sit down with the staff and hear how they put together a schedule. We want to know what our eligibility ratings are.
We want to understand what we can do to interface with the Call-a-Bus staff so that the limited resources are used most effectively to provide the best service for the most people. (My neighbor and I took the same Call-a-Bus downtown. We returned at the same time on two different buses. Explain that to me.)
The users of the system are intelligent people who can make excellent suggestions about how to improve the Call-a-Bus system. Why won’t the Call-a-Bus staff work with us? If able people can get their bus schedules thirteen hours a day, why are disabled people only allowed two hours? When the Call-a-Bus office closes, why isn’t the schedule handed off to Centro Customer Service?
Why can’t the schedule be set two days in advance, and then tweaked one day before travel? Call-a-Bus runs off the line bus schedule, plus or minus one hour. That means that if the line bus nearest your home picks up at 10:30 a.m., Call-a-Bus can pick you up anywhere from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. How can you schedule an appointment with a businessperson when you won’t know until 4:00 p.m. the day before what time you will arrive? Imagine I am your client, then you tell me how to schedule a meeting with you.
On one of my Call-a-Bus rides, the two rides prior to mine had canceled. How often are rides canceled? Has anybody done a survey of why rides are being canceled? What happens to the personnel and vehicular resources when a ride cancels? Why isn’t there a stand-by list to fill in on cancellations?
Why isn’t a disabled person serving as an advisor to Call-a-Bus? Why isn’t there a disabled person on the Centro board? Why aren’t the people using the Call-a-Bus service being asked what they need?
Why couldn’t I see the Christmas trees at the Everson Museum? It was the only Christmas activity I was going to have this year and I feel very badly about missing it.