Bus riders appeal to Lake council to fund RBA, keep services alive

2012-05-15T19:15:00Z 2012-05-16T23:57:06Z Bus riders appeal to Lake council to fund RBA, keep services aliveBy Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 15, 2012 7:15 pm  • 

The services the Regional Bus Authority provides mean more than preserving her independence, Lena Daron said.

"I'd be really sick if I couldn't get to my doctors or physical therapy" by bus, said Daron, a 40-something Hammond resident who is deaf.

Daron also depends on the bus to go shopping for clothes and groceries, she said.

"I'm an independent person. I would be isolated without the bus," she said through interpreter Diana Hill, of Hammond, an advocate for transportation.

Daron and Hill were among 50 people who traveled Tuesday from Hammond's Dan Rabin Travel Plaza to the Lake County Council meeting in Crown Point on easygo buses underwritten by the First Baptist Church of Hammond. The riders said they hoped to tell their stories to the council.

Without a permanent local funding source, the RBA said it will shut down its bus services June 30.

As she waited for the buses, Alice Flores held a small American flag and a sign made by her grandchildren that read, "The Bus Stops Here." The 73-year-old Hammond resident said she takes the bus four or five times a week, primarily to grocery shop and to visit the dentist and her doctors.

"I have to go to the doctor where my husband's insurance is taken. My doctors are all in Munster," said Flores, who lives in North Hammond. "We don't like to ask our kids for rides everywhere. We're in dire need of bus transportation."

She said, "Our representatives have to look after our needs."

Sandra Jackson, 54, said she would love to be able to drive a car, but her seizures prevent her from getting a driver's license. Without the bus, she would have to rely on a friend who works six days a week and is only available Sundays, she said.

"Doctors don't work on Sundays," Jackson said. "I'm going to have a lot of problems without the bus."

Those who don't depend on public transportation "don't understand what we have to go through," she said as she boarded the bus to the council meeting.

The council's chambers were packed with RBA supporters and representatives of the disability rights group Everybody Counts and Gary Public Transportation Corp., who sought to address the council on funding for buses.

The council suspended its rules to allow comments from a half-dozen people. Most of the time allotted for those comments was used to present opposing views about RBA funding.

RBA Executive Director Tim Brown told the council, "We need a global system, a global solution" to regional bus transportation that takes into account all fixed-route, paratransit, demand service and express buses in the area.

Everybody Counts Executive Director Theresa Torres said her agency supports regional transportation but wants GPTC to run it.

"This is the first time the RBA has reached out to people, to its riders. They have painted themselves in a corner," Torres said.

Council President Jerome Prince dashed any hopes the council would take action on the issue Tuesday.

"There is a misperception," Prince said. "Nothing can happen today. No action, no vote. We have been working on this for the last six weeks. This wasn't on the agenda today."

RBA rider Flores said after the meeting that "things went very badly."

"That's disrespect," Flores said. "It sounds like they've already made up their minds."

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