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Disabled passengers fight cuts to city transportation

Published: Jul. 17, 2013 at 4:00 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2013 at 4:04 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Disabled people in Richmond made their voices heard, Tuesday evening, over proposed changes to their bus lines. This comes as GRTC is pushing significant cutbacks to transportation for its CARE service. Those buses transport people with disabilities.

Even though CARE buses will continue to transport disabled people anywhere regular riders go, GRTC is proposing that extra routes be cut back, and fares raised.

Disabled passengers made their way to the podium to address a Richmond City Council committee on the issue.

"Without (CARE transportation), we would be stuck at home all day, and that is just not a healthy way to live," said Jeffrey Gordon, who suffers from a brain injury.

GRTC is pushing a fare increase from $2.50 to $3 per ride. Any routes outside the general public bus schedule could be cut, scaled back, or upped in price. For example, CARE buses wouldn't be traveling to places like the outskirts of Henrico. GRTC points out that disabled passengers will still have all the same routes as regular buses do. Those run seven days a week, from early in the morning to about midnight.

"We have numerous clients who will lose access to critical medical care because their doctors and providers of choice reside in Henrico County," said Jason Young, the executive director of Community Brain Services.

The cutbacks could also mean some special needs employees losing their jobs, since they say they'd have no way to get there. Raymond McCray suffered a stroke, and works at a movie theater in Short Pump.

"I feel prepared to endure another hardship," said McCray.

GRTC maintains that it has a $500,000 budget gap to fill, and also needs to consider funding regular riders too.

"The folks at city council have heard us say this. If nothing happens with these papers and the CARE service, something has to give," said Larry Hagin, the GRTC planning and scheduling director. That "give" could mean GRTC layoffs, increased fares or route reductions across the city's mass transit system.

However, wheelchair-bound Glenna Craig questions how and where the city is allocating money. She works two jobs and rides CARE regularly.

"How did (the city) come up with the money for the Redskins training camp?... What is more important, for people to sit and watch men kick a football, or to have transportation for everyone in the city of Richmond?" said Craig.

City Council members say they appreciate the feedback and that a balance needs to be found in funding for both the general public and CARE riders.

They City Council will take up the issue again next Monday.

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