GRTC May Cut Routes Used by the Disabled

September 20, 2013

Online Story by Katherine Johnson
Video Story by Natasha Haskamp
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va.—Crystal Harris, a regular public transportation customer, depends on the CARE buses provided by GRTC to get around. Harris and her husband both have cerebral palsy and can’t drive, but she said the bus service gives them a sense of independence.

As of now, the Harrises and others in the disabled community have access to bus service everyday of the week, including nights, weekends and holidays.

“My husband and I live alone, and we do everything on our own. So we really need this service,” Harris said.

However, with GRTC considering cuts to disabled routes, that independence could be threatened. Harris decided to take a stand, and started a petition to keep routes as they are now.

A final decision on the cuts has been put off twice now by Richmond’s City Council. If the cuts are made, weekends and holidays will be eliminated. The bus will only run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday.

“We have to be heard. Often times, there’s disabled people who want to speak out but they can’t speak because they’re too afraid or they don’t have the capability to speak, so therefore no one speaks and we don’t have anyone to really fight for us,” Harris said about her decision to start the petition, which has gathered over 600 signatures.

Larry Kegin, GRTC transit official, says the transit company tries to meet everyone’s needs with the budget they have.

“We are all here to put service on the street, not take it away…but we do have a budget and a business to run, and at times when the budget is a problem, something has to give,” Kegin said.

Although GRTC has offered the care service for disabled commuters for years, they’re not required to.

“This is an optional service, so we’re doing all we can to keep all of our core functions in place and in tact, so we can move forward to a sustainable future,” Kegin said.

Because of budget restraints, GRTC also proposed an increased rate, from $2.50 to $3.50.

“Whenever we provide one of these car trips, it costs the customer $2.50, but it costs GRTC and hence the city of Richmond residents $30. There’s a big difference,” Kegin said.

According to Kegin, GRTC and the city council would have to make a difficult decision about the cuts.

“We don’t like we when we impact someone’s life from a travel standpoint,” Kegin said.

Harris and others who rely on the care service are still waiting to see what will happen with the routes.

“If people without disabilities would just put themselves in our shoes, they might think differently about the choices they make,” she said.