Physically, there’s a lot wrong with Julia Bayne. Walking a short distance is challenging, painful and difficult.
Julia’s friend and neighbor, Michelle Patriquin, uses a wheelchair. They can relate to one another’s disabilities. They say they push on and make the best of it.
But they’re having trouble accepting being denied a ride.
“When I need to go to the store or go to the doctor’s, they would come out here to pick us up and now they’ve stopped it,” says Patriquin.
Hampton Roads Transit eliminated the Para Transit service to the Oceana area where Julia and Michelle live.
“Our goal is to provide more service to people, but the reality is that we can’t in this case,” says Tom Holden, a spokesman for HRT.
Under the new plan, if the disabled women want to catch a ride, they have to walk or find another means to get to a bus stop on General Booth Boulevard.
We drove the distance. It’s more than a mile away.
Julia says for people in their condition, that doesn’t make good sense.
“If you live within two and a half miles of a public bus service, you have to walk there. Well if you could do that, you wouldn’t be eligible in the first place,” says Bayne.
Holden who is speaking for HRT says there’s a viable reason the route was dropped.
“The number 37 was just a weekend route, even at that, a very small, poorly used route so we got rid of it to make better use of the funds we do receive,” says Holden.
Like any business, HRT has to work with a budget while providing a service. It’s their position that few people used the Para Transit route in Julia and Michelle’s neighborhood so it made sense to eliminate it.
“That is ludicrous. If you have one disabled person in any area, the ADA is supposed to cover it. They’ve never mentioned in the ADA a certain number of people being required,” says Bayne.
Julia is referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act that is designed to protect the rights of the disabled. Is the HRT decision a violation?
Not according the experts at the Endependence Center who lobby for the disabled.
Kelly Gonzalez, the Virginia ADA training coordinator, offered this opinion: “It’s not a violation of the ADA. HRT is legally required to provide Para Transit Service within 3/4ths of a mile of a main line bus route, but they can make exceptions. “
NewsChannel 3 took action to get results with HRT.
There is some good news on the back side of this. The city of Virginia Beach has approved some funding for some additional service in Virginia Beach this year.
Julia and Michelle’s Oceana neighborhood is on that HRT list getting funding for some additional service.
Does that mean the ladies will have their Para Transit Services restored?
“I can’t make that promise yet because that service has not been fully developed, but we want her to have access to our system,” says Holden.
Julia and Michelle say they`re not asking for charity; they are more than willing to pay the six dollars round trip.
HRT says the new funded routes will start in the fall and will include Oceana where Julia and Michelle live.
The route is still in the planning stages, but once the process is complete, it could very well be good news for the ladies, perhaps a ticket to ride.