Disability Advocates take aim at NORTA

Memo to NORTA: don’t mess with transit access advocates

NORTA bus stop on Gentilly Blvd

Attorney Andrew Bizer filed a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and the RTA alleging that approximately 95% of their bus stops are not ADA compliant. Bizar and Francis Falls pose for a photo at a bus stop on Gentilly Blvd., Monday, March 28, 2016. (Photo by Ted Jackson, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

They never quit, because they know they have the Americans with Disabilities Act behind them.

NORTA has a horrid record when it comes to disability access. The “paratransit” program has been an expensive and ineffective method for the transit service to avoid lawsuits. It’s going to be difficult for NORTA, the city, and Veolia, to avoid addressing the access being raised here:

The plaintiffs include Francis Falls, Mitchell Miraglia, and Thad Tatum, three men who use wheelchairs.

Each complained about a lack of accessible routes to bus stops, inadequate or non-existent wheelchair landing pads at bus stops, bus benches that are not on an accessible route, and covered bus bench pavilions that are not located on an accessible routes. They also said they faced difficulty entering or getting off buses due to the lack of level landing pads at bus stops. The lack of pads has put the men at risk of tipping out of their wheelchair when try to get on or off the bus, the lawsuit said.

The problem here is that the law forces NORTA to fix the bus stops, not provide the buses. Providing disability access is a challenge, because the overall ridership for NORTA is so bad, the authority is strapped for cash. Now they’re going to have to fork out ten to twelve million to make bus stops accessible, so wheelchair  riders can wait over an hour for the next bus on backatown lines. Veolia will blame the ADA advocates for ruining their service goals.

New Orleans’ public transit issues need to be addressed as a whole.