There is one aspect I believe a LOT of people overlooks when it comes to being disabled, and that is getting around town. Whether it is for going to medical appointments, having dinner, visiting the library, seeing a movie, or going to the grocery store, we need to get around also just like you who drive.
Currently where I reside here in the heart of Topeka, Kansas there are two methods of getting around, and both are under the operations of Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority. My first reliable method is the fixed route bus system.
At this time, our buses run six days a week, leaving no service in Topeka on Sundays. Up until a few months ago we ran from 5:45 am to 5:45 pm, so for an example if you left work at 5:00 pm and you needed to pick up groceries. Depending on how close that grocery store was to your home you could make it but not with a round trip. Recently, Susan Duffy – General Manager of TMTA revised the schedule to announce service would run an additional hour to 90 minutes depending on where you needed to be. That does help if you wanted to go have dinner or head for the library. However, how would you get home? Most restaurants on Wanamaker don’t start dinner service until 6:00 pm, which leaves you enough time for soda and to leave.
Governor Bill Graves in 1998 received a transportation grant that allowed TMTA to have an evening reservation service. I used this service daily when I worked at KTKA-TV while attending Shawnee Heights and Kaw Area Technical School. This reservation service worked in a way like this:
- You want to meet your date at the West Ridge Mall indoor movie theaters for a 7:00 pm showing on Wednesday, and have dinner on Wanamaker.
- On Monday or Tuesday before 5:00 pm, you would have to call TMTA’s dispatch and make your reservation informing them where and when you want to be picked up, also if it were a round trip when EXACTLY you would be ready to return.
- TMTA either used their own paratransit buses or contracted out Topeka’s two taxi companies.
While the service worked half the time, some of the time drivers showed up 20-40 minutes LATE. This reservation system worked following the fixed route service in the evenings through 11:00 pm on weekdays and Saturdays, and from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm on Sundays. Nevertheless, with weekend reservations you needed to schedule on Fridays of course.
The other problem with being disabled and using the fixed bus routes in the winter is with wintry precipitation buses hardly run on schedule, making any appointment times a sure miss.
Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority started a new service upon my start at Washburn University, and that’s the new rentable bicycle program. Now in its second year with two hundred bikes throughout Topeka, you can rent up to two hours under a monthly or annual contract and any time after this is paid by the hour. The problem I have is you cannot lock up their bike at any place in Topeka; you have to lock it up at a particular Social Bicycles hub or risk being charged $3.00. The bicycle program works now rather well when the buses have stopped running, behind schedule for a wheelchair pickup, weather or an accident plus on Sundays. You can use it to go grocery shopping and head back where you came from.
Moreover, if you are a Washburn University employee or student there is a discount for the bicycle program, and free bus rides on the fixed-route.