Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Tardy TANK vans annoy riders

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Carol Maschinot waited nearly a half-hour past the time a Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky van was supposed to pick her up on Monday in front of Northern Kentucky University's student center.

        For many, public transit tardiness is an inconve nience. But for people like Ms. Maschinot and Jeff Murray, it can be much more — they use wheelchairs and rely on TANK's Regional Area Mobility Program (RAMP) to take them from Fort Thomas and Florence, respectively, to their NKU classes and back.

        “They might be late picking you up,” said Mr. Mur ray, 39, a senior history major. “They might add people to your route and make you late.”

        Ms. Maschinot, a 46-year-old senior majoring in English, said when she complains about the service, TANK workers either don't respond or are tardy and rude when they do.

        But Gina Douthat, TANK's director of communications, said the company studies each case individually.

        There are two TANK services for the handicapped: RAMP, which started in 1978 and runs 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, and the 2-year-old Demand Response Program, also known as the “Day Tripper,” which operates 8 a.m to 5 p.m.

        RAMP clients pay $.75 per trip for pickup from home to anywhere in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, while the other program costs $1 per trip and takes people to the nearest bus stop. The other difference is, RAMP requires a doctor to certify a person's disability, while anyone may use the Day Tripper service.

        TANK also takes people to three facilities that serve the disabled: Redwood School and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Mitchell; BAWAC Inc. rehabilitation center in Florence; and New Perceptions Inc. in Edgewood. TANK General Manager Mark Donaghy said individual clients have to call for service between 24 hours and two weeks in advance and provide the pickup time and destination each way.

        According to Mr. Donaghy, the RAMP program averages about 4,000 trips a month, and the Day Tripper about 1,000.

        Ms. Maschinot and Mr. Murray try to arrive at NKU around 9 a.m. They say when TANK puts clients from the RAMP and Day Tripper programs on the same vehicle, the driver is late — which Ms. Maschinot said is unacceptable because classes she needs to graduate can be taken only in the mornings.

        Both think the programs should remain separate, but Mr. Donaghy said that's not always possible.

        “Sometimes the most efficient way to move passengers is to use any vehicle we have to make they happen,” Mr. Donaghy said.

        As for the service complaints, Mr. Donaghy said a third dis patcher who takes only RAMP and Day Tripper orders has been added, and the department has moved to a larger office at TANK headquarters on Madison Pike.

        Ms. Douthat said the RAMP service issue could come up at Wednesday's TANK board of directors meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday if clients in the audience bring it up.

        Ms. Maschinot said the only alternative when the TANK van is late is to take a more expensive cab.

        “I need these classes,” she said.


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