Sunday, January 29, 2012

Michael Levines letter to the board

TriMet Board of Directors
Via E-mail
℅ Kelly Runnion

Re: There must be more options than just pricing people with disabilities off of needed due mandated LIFT Paratransit service. *Before you consider the fare increase proposal on the table, more below...

Dear Board Members:

I know there can be other options besides huge unfair fare increases focused on the backs of people with disabilities in order to balance TriMet's budget shortfall. That due to TriMet managements' errors causing the budgetary issues using proposed/unfair fare increases as the method of balancing TriMet's budget is ludicrous. That overall public transit needs to be managed in a proper manner keeping transit affordable encouraging people to use public transit as intended for a healthier environment etc. And, one example of poor judgment by TriMet management is the labor dispute with the union which to date outcomes have not been what management thought outcomes would be. That shortfall due to managements' wrong presumption has impacted the budget horribly and pricing people with disabilities off of LIFT Paratransit service because of managements' errors in judgment etc is clearly wrong. Additionally the ADA is clear paratransit service must be affordable and the proposal on the table makes LIFT unaffordable in direct conflict with the ADA as pointed out by TriMet management. (Management pointing out found in the ADA guidance for paratransit service: paratransit service must be affordable.)

Additionally TriMet management through the fare increase proposal process clearly blaming people with disabilities for cuts to fixed-route service. Clearly this unfounded blame is disrespectful attacking people with disabilities.

Responsibilities: TriMet managements' legal obligation to provide affordable due paratransit service. In addition, in accordance with federal law TriMet accepting federal funds, TriMet must be in compliance with the ADA, not portions of the ADA but the ADA in its entirety in regards to "civil rights" and transit which we all know is not the case. Again the proposal on the table as pointed out by TriMet management makes LIFT unaffordable for many ADA qualified TriMet LIFT customers, thus in this area too, out of compliance with the ADA.

That mismanagement including poor spending practices during the financial calamity, management exhaustively adding to budgetary issue by unnecessary spending, e.g., most recently as shared via e-mail and facebook by TriMet new bus shelters, barcodes on shelters installed and more being added in the near future, 75-million-dollars that could have been spent for service delivery and maintaining service delivery and needed upkeep for buses etc being spent on additional MAX service while TriMet cannot afford to keep up what they already are obligated to maintain, vehicles and service delivery. In addition the wasted time, time costing money, multiple times daily posting on facebook etc trying to create good public relations and reality adding more negativity towards TriMet, proof, just read the comments posted which are mostly negative against TriMet service and practices etc thus backfiring and TriMet continues trying and keeps receiving more negative feedback, I do not get it; does TriMet management like continued negative feedback? Doesn't TriMet management understand that action speaks the loudest, i.e., actually delivering good affordable and safe customer service is more important than postings that are again mostly answered with negative impact by TriMet's customers. That with better service etc word of mouth would meet all the needed public relations to share good service etc, wouldn't it be nice if this was the case?

Reality: removing excuses, better planning, smarter budgeting and truly understanding union/employee obligations and budget for obligations while negotiating could have reduced the financial disaster TriMet has been facing for a long time and now a monumental fiasco. Again people with disabilities needing and ADA qualified for due LIFT paratransit service are not the ones causing fixed-route service cuts, management only needs to look in a mirror to see who is at fault! Who is responsible and where is the accountability?

Board members please remember that the people TriMet Management would have you disenfranchise from TriMet service are people with disabilities, TriMet's most vulnerable customers, i.e., people with disabilities that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) criteria to receive mandated due paratransit service. Additionally confusing, seemingly a misunderstanding by TriMet management the meaning of "Honored"; TriMet term to identify people with disabilities "Honored Citizens", well we do not feel very honored at this time!

Using TriMet's term, "Honored Citizens", people with disabilities meeting the ADA criteria for due mandated TriMet LIFT paratransit service many face:
• No other options -- people with disabilities, meeting the ADA criteria for LIFT paratransit service, must receive affordable paratransit service or they have no transportation
• living on fixed incomes
• many living with incomes below the poverty level
• Many people with disabilities living with, if you want to call what they have discretionary income, the amount of funds they have to purchase toothpaste, clothes, medications, go to a movie, and yes pay for LIFT paratransit service etc is inadequate and more to often funds at or below $150 a month to cover all of these and more expenses. (We, people with disabilities having to prioritize what you would not give a second thought about)
• And, yes there are others without disabilities that too live on low income but, they do not have the same additional costs for healthcare, medicines, doctors, etc that people with disabilities have to deal with
• The fare proposal on the table for LIFT Paratransit service will put TriMet's "Honored Citizens", TriMet's most vulnerable customers in further negative financial positions forced to choose, set priorities, giving up food, doctors or transit, how can you morally with good conscience allow this to happen?
• TriMet management does not have the right to turn the United States of America into a third world country hiding people with disabilities. That pricing people with disabilities off of due mandated LIFT service turns people with disabilities into disabled people stuck at home the same as the car disabled on the side of the road: the car going nowhere and people with disabilities forced to stay home going nowhere...

Additionally, Board members, truly face reality, TriMet's fixed-route service is not totally in compliance with the ADA: that adding/forcing more people with disabilities onto fixed-route service, if they can actually ride fixed-route service due to their disabilities, clearly this forcing otherwise ADA qualified paratransit customers onto fixed-route you will be directly causing further additional discrimination against people with disabilities forcing them onto a system not totally in compliance with the ADA. (e.g., and not truly an exhaustive list of issues of ongoing noncompliance the huge lack of mandated stop announcements, mandated announcements not being made way too often, internal, external, and requested stops mandated needed to be called -- not called, and TriMet management if they are willing to be truthful are very aware of this discrimination, and yes, it is noncompliance thus discrimination when service is delivered not meeting mandated ADA minimum guidance, and in addition there are so many other issues of noncompliance that for years TriMet management has been in denial while continued noncompliance is real, and thus, still many ongoing issues with fixed-route lacking reaching the scope and spirit of the ADA. (Remember federal funds have many conditions and to receive the federal funds one obligation being in compliance with the ADA and TriMet in many cases not in compliance; what would the TriMet budget look like without federal funds. Board members you need to take a hard look at what management is doing, or rather what management isn't accomplishing!)

*Before you consider the fare increase proposal on the table:
• Have you looked at and compared other options?
• How much income will the 30-cent per LIFT ride generate per year?
• How much income would another 10-cent per ride on fixed-route generate per year?
• How much income would 15-cents a ride increase for LIFT along with a 10-cent increase for a fixed-route ride - what would the combined income of the two increases be?
• There must be a compromise equally raising fares between fixed-route and LIFT services and with better management hopefully next year and so on there will not be need for further huge increases
• That only a 5-cent increase the last increase for fixed-route, and a 30-cent proposed increase now for LIFT is a disproportionate financial hardship on people with disabilities versus people using fixed-route service without disabilities
• That the highest ridership on fixed-route is Monday - Friday a.m. and p.m. prime time, i.e., people using TriMet fixed-route service to get to and from work, people with jobs, people with monthly incomes, not people living on fixed incomes like SSI or SSDI. People that can better afford fare increases; again needed at a minimum, fairness, a proportionate increase for all, just one thought: increases of 15-cents for fixed-route customers and 15-cents for LIFT customers, again, not 5-cents for fixed-route and 30-cents for LIFT customers
• And, why vote in future fare increases at this time. Suggested is other cost saving proposals, e.g., free fixed-route service for LIFT eligible customers, which we have spoke about and I have not heard anything back, and what about further investigation into propane as an alternate fuel source as they experts are claiming will save TriMet one-dollar per gallon; how much savings would a dollar a gallon equate to per year for TriMet? Let us look at cutting cost before approving future fare increases! (The last fixed-route increase was for just one-year)

I hope the January 25 board meeting will generate some needed good questions of staff and thus discussion. Reminder, you the TriMet Board sent a message to TriMet management in July that the LIFT fare increases were not acceptable. That you the TriMet Board wanted to see another proposal, and truly you have not received one. I hope you as our representative body will not accept the smoke and mirrors, the deception, and the hiding through the smoke and mirror/deception the same proposal as you would not approve in July. That TriMet management still wants an unfair disproportionate fare increase for people with disabilities, still the same 30-cents in 2012 and still 3-dollars per ride by 2015 as management wanted in July and you would not approve. I urge you not to approve the proposal on the table. That you take a hard look at all options including the options and questions proposed in this letter. I urge you to do the morally and responsible think, NOT ACCEPTING THE CURRENT FARE PROPOSAL FOR INCREASED FARES FOR LIFT SERVICE AS PROPOSED BY TRIMET MANAGEMENT!!!

I am offering once again my willingness to participate in discussion further detailing the concerns and rights of people with disabilities. I will be at the board meeting on the 25th and willing to answer any questions you might have...

Michael Levine, APD
Chair, PDA

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