Wheeling into trouble

Jean Riker

Courtesy Of Jean Riker

When people use the Sacramento Regional Transit, most would agree it is pretty easy to use. The price is right, the stops are convenient, and the drivers have a good record for being on time—usually. However, those who are physically challenged have a hard time with all three Sacramento Regional Transit Systems. Jean Riker, 45, who previously worked for a Fortune 500 company, has been in a wheelchair for three years. Riker finds Sacramento Public Transportation in need of some changes for those who are in a wheelchair. She said it is a daily hassle to battle public transportation in this town, and she is determined to do something about it.

What bad experiences have you had using light rail?

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was exiting a light rail stop. Suddenly, I was stuck trying to open the door and push the button to my wheelchair with the same hand. The stop on 13th Street does not have a “ramp,” it only has a “lift” which made it impossible for me to get down.

Did the driver help you out of the lift?

No, the driver knew that I was stuck in the lift and just left me there, struggling to get out. He could see that I was in need of assistance and he took off. This left me angry, wondering why this particular stop did not have a ramp. If I had known that stop did not have a ramp, I would have taken another stop.

Was someone able to help you down?

Yes, but I do not like having to rely on anyone, and I shouldn’t have to.

Have all the drivers in the past left you on a lift?

No, many of the drivers that work for Sacramento Regional Transit light rail are very helpful and nice, but it is not fun to rely on them to help me off the lift. If there was a ramp at each station, there would not be this problem for those in wheelchairs.

What is the problem with light rail?

I have noticed only the nice neighborhoods have the ramps that make it possible for those in wheelchairs to have an easy exit, and those in lower-income neighborhoods do not have the ramps, only the lifts. Lifts are impossible, nearly impossible for those in wheelchairs.

How can light rail fix this problem?

Easy, take out the lifts and put in ramps in all light rail stops!

Is the Regional Transit bus wheelchair-friendly?

The bus system has two spaces for wheelchairs, but the real problem comes in for the drivers. An employee for Regional Transit told me the drivers only have 20-30 seconds to make a stop, pick up passengers, and leave the stop. When they have to make extra time for me, they seem to be in such a hurry, making me feel like I am in the way.

Does this prevent you from using the bus?

Sometimes, I just get sick of them rushing so fast, like, I am not there. Not only do they have to get me situated in the wheelchair spot, but also they have to clip or unclip my chair, which makes for such a time hassle for them.

How is the paratransit system?

I discontinued my membership to paratransit, because when I had it, I had to make a reservation, two days in advance. I would call two days in advance, and there would never be any open reservations. Sometimes I would be lucky and get a spot, but then guess what? They were usually late in picking me up.

How does this make you feel?

It just makes me feel angry and frustrated! I feel like I cannot get anywhere in this town, without running into obstacle after obstacle. I want people to understand just how difficult it is.

Do you think this happens just to you?

Absolutely not, this is not about me, it is about anyone who is physically challenged.

What would you like to see in the future?

I would like to see less challenging obstacles for those who are physically challenged. I think that most who are in wheelchairs are too old, sick or tired to advocate their needs.

What can you do about this issue?

I plan to speak out about this issue. I want everyone to know just how difficult it is to get around this town when you are in a wheelchair, especially on public transportation. I plan to get more involved in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and I plan to get more involved in my community. Whatever I can do to help advocate the need for change in public transportation here in Sacramento, I will do.

What do you see happening in your future, regarding advocating this issue?

For many people, dreams would include not being confined to a mechanical apparatus, but for me, it is how I can help those who are. My dream is to accept the hand I have been dealt and work towards a better place. I see myself in the future, not going away. I am going to stay here and I am going to do something about the way our city runs public transportation for those who are physically challenged.