OK: CART Customers Who are Disabled Say They Need More Transportation Services in Norman

July 28--NORMAN -- Residents who are disabled said the Cleveland Area Rapid Transit bus system, also known as CART, offers them a lifeline to the outside world, but its services are limited, especially on weekends.

No service on Sundays "means we can't go to church," said Jayelle Martin, who uses the CARTaccess service for people with disabilities.

Service stops by 6:30 p.m. Saturdays, "which means we can't go to concerts or plays, either. We'd really like to lead a normal life. We'd like to get involved in our neighborhoods, but transportation is a big problem," she said.

Martin and about six other residents with disabilities pleaded for more services Tuesday at the city council meeting.

"At least, don't cut our services," Martin said. "We're thankful you have a service we can use, but we need more."

City council members Tuesday approved a $310,500 CART contract with the University of Oklahoma for the fiscal year that began July 1. The amount allocated is the same as last year, but less than the $400,500 approved two years ago, officials said.

In June, CART announced it would have to cut services on four bus routes and on outlying disability service to cover more than $100,000 in funding cuts on the federal and city levels.

CART is operated by the University of Oklahoma, but the bus system also relies on federal and city funds.

CART Director Doug Myers said in a news release he hoped the cuts would have only a minimal impact on services.

No changes were made to the CARTaccess primary zone -- areas within three-fourths of a mile of a regular bus route -- but Monday service ended for the secondary zone, which covers all other areas within Norman city limits, he said.

Users voice concerns

Resident Terry Myers, who uses a motorized wheelchair, said she relies on CARTaccess to get to doctors' appointments because the wheelchair is too big for a cab and, although it can be placed on a regular CART bus, it takes extra room and the buses often are too crowded.

"I was a nurse and thought I knew what it was like to be disabled. I found out (once she became disabled) that I had no idea," Terry Myers said.

She said the rides "are discomfort like you wouldn't believe," and a single doctor's visit can take up to six hours to get there, see the doctor and get home again.

Martin said she relies on CART bus service to do her grocery shopping, but she's limited to "just what you can carry or hang on your chair. That's not much."

People with disabilities also don't have the option on hot days of waiting until night to do their shopping, because the last run is at 8 p.m., she said.

CART buses give more than 1 million rides annually, and the CARTaccess vans provide about 25,000 rides a year to people with disabilities, officials said.

Councilman Dan Quinn said OU determines the routes and services, while the city contributes money and acts in an advisory capacity.

Councilwoman Carol Dillingham, chairman of the council's transportation committee, said she was determined to work for better services, especially for residents who are disabled.

Copyright 2011 - The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City