SALT LAKE CITY — Blind since birth, Utah resident Linda Holladay has depended on mass transit to be her primary mode of transportation around the Salt Lake Valley for the past three decades.
And while it was a bit of a challenge 30 years ago, her ability to get out and about over the years has increased significantly with the expansion of mass transportation in general, and more specifically the growth of services geared toward improving mobility for disabled Utahns.
Holladay was among the many people who celebrated the 30th anniversary of paratransit’s inception within the Utah Transit Authority. The agency Thursday commemorated the occasion at the Riverside/Paratransit headquarters.
Holladay, who was among the first regular users of the service, said the development of specialized transit for people with disabilities made a dramatic difference in her life by helping her and others live more independently.
“It’s really a good service and it’s really useful for me because they come and get me outside my building and take me where I need to go,” she said. “It’s really nice and the drivers are more personable.”
UTA launched paratransit service to address the transportation needs of people with disabilities within the agency’s ridership boundaries, explained Cherryl Beveridge, UTA special services general manager. Prior to paratransit or flextransit, many people with disabilities were essentially “homebound,” she said.
“Flextrans was a great option for people who previously couldn’t afford to pay for private transportation,” she said. “It created independence.”
Noting that one of the greatest barriers to employment for people with disabilities was adequate, reliable transportation, she said paratransit service provided a critical option to address that demand and other everyday needs as well.
“We were able to create a transportation network that allowed people freedom and opportunities to get employment or (provide) medical transportation or even just to the movies or the grocery store,” Beveridge said.
When the service started in 1988, it was somewhat limited in scope and reach, she noted, but not anymore.
The paratransit system operates a fleet of 113 vehicles with 120 drivers and 4,200 registered customers, she said. When the program was initiated, there were just 25 drivers and a small number of vehicles, she said.
“The very first day, we transported 50 customers,” Beveridge said. “Today, we transport over 1,500 customers a day.”
“Flextrans is for people who can’t functionally use (traditional) fixed route service,” she explained. Users may have physical, cognitive or visual disabilities, she added. “It’s …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News