Published: Mar 05, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 05, 2013 06:40 PM
Editors note: 2nd of 3 parts
The fact is, EZ Rider could help me, and others like me.
The American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) stipulates that the paratransit service must help the disabled who live within three-quarters of a mile of a citys public bus stop. And, if a disabled person has serious, unmet transportation needs, but lives farther than three-quarters of a mile from the regular bus route stop, the paratransit service may choose to help.
OPT must help all those disabled in Orange County to whom EZ Rider denies service and Orange County is 401 square miles. OPT drives people to/from Graham, Mebane, Saxapahaw, Hillsborough, and Morrisville. OPT also takes the disabled into Caswell and Alamance counties, and covers most of Durham County to reach Dukes numerous medical facilities.
EZ Rider has a yearly budget of $2 million. OPTs entire operating budget, which addresses all the needs of the poor, elderly and disabled who live in Orange County, is about $900,000. (2010-2011 fiscal year)
EZ Rider transported 1,200 disabled people and made about 62,000 medical, essential and life-enriching trips during 2010-2011. Do the math: EZ Riders budget per person/per trip equals $32.26.
Currently, approximately 324 people in Orange County are approved to ride OPT. The Department of Social Services (DSS) reports that one-third are regular riders (108 people); others take OPT for special needs. Medicaid allotted $52,000 for the transportation needs of our countys medically disabled. (2010-2011)
OPT provides from 500-600 trips/month to our disabled (including the 108 regular riders and the 216 who occasionally ride). For 550 trips per month, $7.88 is allocated for a week of trips. Whether a rider makes one trip or five trips in one week, the sole funding for his trips is $7.88.
If we count only the regular riders, the yearly allotment of Medicaid funds for one persons transportation needs is $481.48. Then the approximate weekly funds available per person come to $9.26.
DSS states that its difficult to determine the average number of weekly trips made by regular riders, but
Its clear that $7.88 or even $9.26 per week per person for a disabled OPT client is grossly less than the $32.75 per person per trip available for those EZ Rider selects to help.
EZ Riders budget is substantial and their services fulfill all basic needs as well as life-enhancing and personally-enriching destinations.
OPT is operating a demanding service on an underfunded budget. Of course it cant offer more than the minimal, necessary trips to and from medical appointments.
Why is there such a huge discrepancy between the services available to the disabled population of all of Orange County, depending on whether OPT or CH Transits EZ Rider provides the services?
Chapel Hill Transits EZ Rider receives federal funding, and benefits from Chapel Hill and Carrboro town taxes. EZ rider also receives a large grant from UNC.
And, UNC and UNC Hospitals contract with Chapel Hill Transit for university-related transportation needs and goals.
But, UNC has no contracts with OPT, and has not donated funds to help improve the transportation needs of its Orange County disabled population. Chapel Hill Transits acting director, Brian Litchfield, speaks of the slippery slope, concerned that if we start helping one underserved disabled person, where will we draw the line? This is sloppy thinking. The real question is: why are we thinking about drawing the line between those we help and those we ignore?
I am all for UNC and Chapel Hill Transit working together to improve our areas transportation needs; after all, the UNC and UNC Hospitals are our areas largest employers. Coming Sunday: A matter of survival
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