Nancy Garcia knows the routine.
Wait for the bus to lower, wait for the lift to come out, get on the bus to where the driver is waiting to strap her in, get strapped in, and hand the driver her money so that they can depart from her stop. But Garcia, a Gainesville resident for 10 years, said the routine is what has helped her get out of her house and around the city.
“I take the bus everywhere.” Garcia said. “I just wave my hand and the drivers stop. The lifts don’t get stuck as much anymore, and people don’t stare and point when the driver uses the lift, because they are used to it.”
Taking a bus is now a normal everyday part of disabled people’s lives because the service seen dramatic improvements in the last few years. RTS reported in their yearly ridership report that they had over 40,000 handicapped and disabled riders from October 1, 2012 to September 30,2013. The public transportation service has taken steps to ensure that their buses are fully equipped for handicapped and disabled riders.
Chip Skinner, marketing and communications supervisor for RTS, said RTS has made many changes to help facilitate all passengers.
“All of our buses can accommodate wheelchairs.” Skinner said. “They are able to ‘kneel,’ meaning that the front end would come down which would help someone who is ambulatory or (using) a cane.”
These services are offered on the city routes of the RTS bus system, but there is also a service that allows riders that qualify for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Paratransit service is offered through RTS, which is a shared ride door-to-door service. Skinner explained that while the service is more personal, the service still runs like any other RTS bus.
“They still do only provide service like we do.” Skinner said. “On a Sunday, they start at 10 a.m., like we do, and stop at 6 p.m., like we do.”
While Garcia has used both services, she stated that she still had one issue with the RTS service in the city.
“Some of the bus stops are not paved.” Garcia said. “This does make it a little more difficult. I think that if they were able to pave the bus stops, it would be a lot easier for me to move around.”
Skinner also pointed out the unpaved stops and the issues that this would cause with passengers. But Skinner added that RTS was working on paving these bus stops, but warned that it would take some time.
“All bus stops should be ADA-compatible.” Skinner said. “However, this is an unfunded mandate by the state, as well as the federal government, so we have to wait for available funding.”