Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Metro training center tests riders

Aim: Help disabled to board buses

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SILVERTON — Planners say Metro's new eligibility and training center, which opened here Monday, is a milestone in the effort to serve people with disabilities.

        But Silverton officials see a bigger advantage: It boosts its business district, and links the city to the future of light rail.

        “It is a milestone for us because it is the first training center where we have all the things we test to determine eligibility in one setting,” said Paul Jablonski, Metro general manager.

        “It is the first of its kind in the country.”

        The center, at 7000 Montgomery Road, has a regular Metro bus inside, equipped with wheelchair lifts.

        The bus is surrounded with a physical setting that simulates an outside bus stop: uneven sidewalks, traffic lights, grass and gravel areas, park benches, an incline and steps.

        “It will be used to assess the riders we have using our Access system to see if they can ride regular buses,” and will help determine if new riders with disabilities can board regular buses.

        Mayor James Siegel said the center also will boost the image of Silverton's business district.

        “It is right in the middle of our business district and that is a big plus for us,” he said.

        Vice Mayor Lintonio Burke said the center will link Silverton to the future of light rail because it's about a block from a proposed light-rail line that will run from Covington to Blue Ash.

        “I am looking forward to the light-rail line,” Mr. Burke said.

        “I think the training center being here connects people with disabilities close to future transportation systems.”

        One of the planners, Marci Cassidy, uses a wheelchair, but has been a regular bus rider for eight years.

        “We really like being able to use the facilities available and get on a regular bus,” Ms. Cassidy said.

        Mr. Jablonski said they will begin today ) testing the eligibility of the potential riders.

        “We get about 80 applications a month from people re questing use of our Access service,” he said.

        Metro's Access service has about 40 buses that pick up passengers at their homes. The federal American With Disabilities Act requires that the bus company provide regular bus service for all riders, including those with disabilities.

        Riders who cannot ride regular buses may request the Access service.

        Mr. Jablonski said 60 percent of the company's fleet of 420 buses is equipped with wheelchair lifts.

        Metro also will open a Park-and-Ride in the parking lot of the training center. Riders may enter the lot off Highland Avenue at Montgomery Road.

        The Silverton Park-and-Ride offers 60 free parking spaces on Metro's Route 4 with bus stops along Montgomery Road.


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