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Writog: writer-photographer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thinking Outside The Silo

Advocate Debra Buell, foreground, speaks about disability problems in Clinton County at the Coordinated Transportation Human Services meeting held Tuesday morning.

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Tuesday  2/19/13

Clinton County legislators were absent from the meeting.  Too bad.  They could've learned how to save money for their constituents, beleaguered taxpayers.

Then again space was tight inside the small county building conference room, almost every seat taken by community service providers and others interested in the issues at hand.  A representative from New York State Department of Transportation, Michael LaBello, through his PowerPoint lecture discussed how the county could help disabled citizens being underserved by present transportation options.  And it didn't mean more money being spent.

Also attending the Coordinated Transportation Human Services meeting was disability advocate Debra Buell.  She talked about the scheduling problems with the paratransit bus provided by Clinton County Public Transit (CCPT).  She and others with mobility issues find themselves at times without a ride to a doctor's appointment because the CCPT paratransit bus was booked up.

Such denials might affect governmental funding for CCPT.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act certain criteria have to be met in providing transportation services to mobility impaired people.  Unmet criteria could mean funding gets yanked.

Disabled people have to be fighters, Debra continued, if they want the services they are entitled to.  But most find it hard to fight because they suffer from depression.

Part of the paratransit problem, she explained, was a subscription service that had been started by CCPT.  Individuals with regular appointments could subscribe, being guaranteed rides with certain times and dates.  The problem was that it wasn't a level playing field for all mobility impaired riders.  Changes had been made but those already using the subscription service were grandfathered in.

One solution would mean more expense, adding another paratransit bus and driver.  But things don't have to be that way, Michael LaBello pointed out.

NYS DOT Representative Michael LaBello answers a question during his presentation on mobility management.

His PowerPoint presentation featured an animated cartoon short with different vehicles – buses, vans, taxis – circling around each other in confusion, honking, while the green mercury in the money thermometer topped out at a high reading in dollars expended.

Michael said that all agencies in the county should come together, identify their transportation needs, and then look for ways to eliminate duplication of service.  Right now most agencies were stuck in their own individual silos when instead they could be pooling resources.

He cited the shared vehicle program in Oswego, NY, that reduced the number of vehicles being used from 62 down to 43 as part of multi-agency coordination.  Each agency paid into the system a portion of the operating expenses determined upon use by that organization.  Overall spending was down from 6 million to 4.5 million dollars.  

He stressed that each community was different and what would work for Oswego might not completely apply to Clinton County.  A mobility management program could be adaptable to a particular community.  It might be a mix of public buses, church vans, agency vehicles and contracted taxis.

Michael mentioned that a consultant hired by Clinton County had completed a transit study and it was a good place to start.  But, as noted at least a couple of times during the meeting, county legislators had to get involved.

Debra mentioned that Essex County is running a mobility management call center, using special computer software to keep everything coordinated.  She suggested that Clinton County could work with them

James Bosley, Planning Technician for CCPT, was in attendance, addressing certain points raised during the meeting.  After the meeting he told me that his agency is considering different options to deal with the paratransit denial problem.  One might be to drop the subscription service that had been grandfathered in.

A series of signs created by advocate Debra Buell cite statistics regarding disabled citizens in 
Clinton County.

[ Revised to correct Michael Labello's job title: 2/19/13 - 10:25 AM ]


Blogger Debra Buell said...

I can't thank you enough for this BEAUTIFUL article! You did a tremendous job summing up the very lengthy and complex issues and ideas.

I have forwarded your link to various legislators, state officials and members of the Coordinated Transit Group. I am hoping that your facility with brevity will help me to enlist the interest of the legislators in particular.

Thank you!

Debra Buell

10:01 AM  

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