|Will the proposed elimination of the paratransit bus service turn CCPT into a train wreck?|
© 2017 Luke T. Bush
PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – May 19, 2017
Irresistible force meets immovable object.
The force: Advocates for the disabled who are against the elimination of the paratransit bus service provided by Clinton County Public Transit (CCPT).
The object: County officials who contend that unless the paratransit service is dropped the whole public bus system will fail due to cost overruns.
Presently people in the disabled community use the paratransit service which provides door to door rides. This enables the disabled to conduct activities like able-bodied citizens: shopping, getting to work or to a doctor’s appointment.
The county Planning Office proposes to shut down the paratransit service and shift its riders over to the fixed bus routes including those in the city. City routes run on a one hour schedule without much extra time for delays.
North Country Center for Independence (NCCI) Director Robert Poulin says this will mean problems for all riders if this proposal is approved. Each city bus has a lift to accommodate riders with walkers and wheelchairs. Using this lift takes time, meaning delays. If more of the disabled are using city buses then the delays will keep accumulating during the day, he says, making everyone late.
Also the new system means less area coverage for rural riders and it will run only on certain days during the week.
"[The proposal] will leave a lot of people out in the cold,” he says. “"People who need the service the most have no alternative."
At a recent meeting at NCCI advocates sat down with county officials to review the proposal, a discussion that ended up running for over two-and-a-half hours. Robert says the Planning Board officials had made up their minds and wouldn’t listen to any alternatives. Advocates pressed their case, winning a concession that the new system if implemented would operate under a three month trial.
But that concession doesn’t mean advocates are giving up with their opposition to the proposal.
"Our position is still that we absolutely oppose the elimination of paratransit in any way, shape or form,” says Robert.
Addressing the issue of cost overruns Robert says the county could do a better job of containing costs.
Planning Board officials reject a standard fee for all buses, saying that the city routes are paying for themselves. Robert explains a standard fee would help contain costs for the entire system. As NCCI director he doesn’t pit one program against the other at the center.
"I've got some great programs [at NCCI] that cost me money to run them,” he explains. “But they are valuable services, they help people in extremely important ways. And I make up the shortfall with other programs that make more money.”
Also if a program isn’t working that well, he adds, then he consults with other centers to see how they successfully run the same program. Robert thinks the county doesn’t take advantage of consulting with public bus operations in other communities for their expertise.
Instead of taking time to look at alternatives, Robert says, the county takes the easiest solution. "In this county the answer seems to be 'cut, cut', and always cut from the people who need it the most."
Advocates will keep resisting the proposal. There are upcoming forums where they will present their case. Robert says that NCCI has offered assistance for people in the community who are starting petitions.
"We are going to explore every avenue because our goal is to stop this from happening,” he says. He rejects the message to people in the disabled community that they should just stay home.
For more information on the upcoming forums and how to participate in activities against the proposal Robert can be contacted at NCCCI, (518) 563-9058, Ext. 101.
(Related article: http://writog.blogspot.com/2017/05/opponents-to-ccpt-proposal-it-wont-work.html )