Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spontaneity = Accessibility 2.0

Spontaneity is becoming the new buzzword for people with disabilities, a kind of Accessibility 2.0. I have heard Mary Leary, Senior Director of Easter Seals Project ACTION, use the term before and she employs it now as the guest writer on the Disability Blog. She writes about the next 20 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What Ms. Leary is seeking for people with disabilities is "a world of spontaneous living" and she is working with the inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities and its livability program to help her vision become a reality.
This interagency effort joins programs and policy areas in transportation, housing and the environment to create a synergistic approach to increase access and mobility. Accessible transportation is more than just getting to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, to work or to school. It is also about seeing friends and family, going to a park, going out to dinner, enjoying the fireworks on the 4th of July or traveling across the country.

Making Lemonade in Hard Times

If these were normal times, I would agree not only with Ms. Leary's vision, but also with the prospect of it becoming a reality. These are hard times, so my skepticism is tempted to take over. Metro Magazine's article about paratransit providers discusses strategies for dealing with lean budgets and the growing demand for paratransit service. Unfortunately, one of the strategies for already lean operations is cutting service.

People are working hard locally to make sure that others do not lose the transit service they already have. Two examples struck me today as demonstrating the challenges of financial hardships for transit systems and what individuals can do to retain the spontaneity that existing service provides them.

Local Stories

A rural New Hampshire woman who uses a walker convinced bus buddies to help her persuade local authorities to retain her bus service. However, an article in the Union Leader explains the dilemmas that transit systems are confronting, especially on routes with low ridership and very little help from the fare box.

I cannot resist a good Brooklyn story, especially one about a neighborhood I have lived in. The B71 (B for Brooklyn) transported people through Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Carroll Gardens before it was discontinued and budget cuts prompted driver layoffs. Now, according to a Wall Street Journal piece (likely written by a Slope resident, perhaps a Paul Auster neighbor), a new service is starting that will feature laid off drivers, TLC (New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission)-approved van service on discontinued routes ($1 fare, initially) and driver pay equal to their old jobs. In true Brooklyn fashion, the union that represents the new service's drivers is also involved in litigation to shut it down.

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