Report Shows Concern for the Disabled Who Use Public Transportation
Improving public transportation is a top priority for the city
ANCHORAGE - A report released by a municipal advisory commission reveals accessibility for residents with disabilities remains a major concern for public transportation systems.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Advisory Commission’s 2011 review, improving access to public transportation remained a top priority for Anchorage residents last year.
But Lance Wilber, director of the Public Transportation Department, said accessibility is just one hurdle.
“I think the challenges are making people aware that our buses are ADA accessible,” he said. “We can lower them, and a lot of folks with disabilities might not know.”
While Wilber said most of Anchorage’s bus network complied with federal standards, a new set of regulations set to go into effect March 15 coupled with changing equipment meant new challenges for public transportation.
“I think that one of the things is wheelchairs, frankly, are getting bigger,” Wilber said. “They’re getting heavier.”
For the People Mover buses, that means possible upgrades to lifts and loading pads, but those who ride regularly said they’ve seen drivers go out of their way to make the network accessible to everyone.
“They say, ‘Ok, we have a wheelchair waiting at such-and-such a place, we have to alter our route to pick them up,’” said David Stencel, who waited for his bus at the Downtown Transit Center Friday afternoon.
He said there are plenty of stops to choose from, but sometimes just getting there is the problem. With near record snowfalls across Anchorage this winter, many bus stops are buried under several feet of ice and snow.
‘When it’s snow upon snow, that is a challenge,” Wilber said. “I think folks with disabilities and able-bodied individuals are challenged that way.”