Imagine if the only way you can get to a doctor’s appointment, work, or to visit a loved one were public transportation offered by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). Now imagine if your Metro bus route was suddenly cut. That’s the bleak reality for many Metro riders and eventually for disabled riders who use the paratransit system.
Earlier this week, the NFTA discontinued the 57 Flex bus route in North Tonawanda, and a portion of the 55L Route that traveled from Niagara Falls to Lockport.
Unfortunately, when a fixed bus route is eliminated, the paratransit system goes with it. The paratransit service is a readily accessible and affordable option for an individual who has a physical or mental impairment, and I fear that once it’s gone, the quality of life for those in the disabled community who depend on the system will be gone too.
Unfortunately, these routes were cut even after I fought to secure $6.4 million for the NFTA in the New York State Budget. Of that amount, $2.5 million was aside to help the NFTA maintain current schedules for bus routes in jeopardy of termination. The fact that these routes were cut despite the state funding is tremendously discouraging.
To address these issues, I also sponsored a bill that recently passed in both house of the state Legislature that prevents NFTA funds from being diverted. The legislation ensures that money allocated for the NFTA goes directly to the NFTA’s general fund rather than being redirected to the state for governmental purposes. I’m hopeful the governor will sign this bill into law, not to strip the NFTA from its excuses for route cuts, but so we can work together to maintain critical services.
The paratransit service for the 57 and part of the 55L is scheduled to be discontinued next March.
But, I promise to continue fighting for the physically and developmentally disabled to ensure they retain independence. As an elected official and chairman of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, it’s my responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), I believe we have not only a moral, but a legal obligation to make sure these individuals have public transportation to get them to where they need to go.
The alternative of forcing them into homes will have severe physical, emotional, and mental costs to those with disabilities, not to mention excessive costs for taxpayers. Taking their means of transportation away from them negatively impacts their quality of life, jeopardizes their independent living, and possibly infringes upon rights afforded to them through ADA requirements