Speed bumps line busing transition

Late last year, the Trumbull County commissioners made the decision to transition the transportation services that were provided by the Department of Elderly Affairs to the Trumbull Transit Board. The idea was a good one – eliminating a redundant service and saving money.

The trouble is that this transition has not gone smoothly, and Community Bus Services, which has the contract to provide transportation for Trumbull Transit, does not seem to be doing a good job absorbing these clients.

The clients who had previously been served by the Department of Elderly Affairs are all elderly or disabled. This particular population often requires a little extra care when transporting. Those employed by Community Bus Services do not seem to understand this.

Roger Blackshere of Bloomfield has been on dialysis since 2010. When he first began dialysis, he started out using Trumbull Transit rather than Elderly Affairs transportation.

During one trip, his wheelchair tipped over. The driver did not pull over and right his chair, but left him until the next stop. Mr. Blackshere stopped using Trumbull Transit after that and began using Elderly Affairs. When Trumbull Transit absorbed the Elderly Affairs clients at the beginning of the year, Mr. Blackshere was forced to go back.

He expected some difficulty during the transition, but found that it went beyond that. Drivers would not pull all the way into his driveway. While Mr. Blackshere no longer needs a wheelchair, he does have difficulty walking; and Elderly Affairs provided door-to-door service to him and others. Trumbull Transit should be providing that same service.

Another issue has been scheduling. Mr. Blackshere has been picked up as much as 90 minutes early, outside the one-hour window that Trumbull Transit has for pickup. Dialysis for him takes four hours so he would have been gone from home for as much as 6 hours with no food. This poses issues for him as he is diabetic and needs to eat consistently.

He says that others at his dialysis center have had the same or similar issues. Mr. Blackshere has also reported that he has, at least once, not been picked up.

I spoke with a social worker who deals with many people who are former clients of Elderly Affairs, and she confirmed that Mr. Blackshere is not alone. She also told me that dealing with Trumbull Transit to resolve issues can be difficult. Although there is a grievance policy in place, clients are not informed of the process. Excuses are often made. Service will improve for a short time, but then return to what it was.

Also, Trumbull Transit questions whether those going to dialysis really need transportation. The social worker assured me that when transportation is requested for those going to dialysis, all other options have been exhausted.

After dialysis, many people feel very drained. Blood pressure can drop; and for many people, especially those with other medical issues, it is not safe for them to drive.

Another client of Trumbull Transit, David Filipzich, told me a rather disturbing story. Mr. Filipzich is wheelchair bound. The van he was riding in ran over a pothole, the hydraulic line for the wheelchair lift broke, spilling hydraulic fluid all over Mr. Filipzich. His driver offered no assistance to clean Mr. Filipzich. Store employees at the store where Mr. Filipzich was going ended up helping him.

The condition of the vehicles in general is also a concern, particularly in light of the fact that there are almost new Elderly Transit vehicles not being used. As part of the transition, which was begun last November, shouldn’t there have been some agreement as to what to do with those vehicles-perhaps selling or loaning them to Community Bus Service? If there was such an agreement, why hasn’t this taken place by now, seven to nine months later?

The Trumbull Transit Board needs to take more oversight over what Community Bus Services is doing. Members of that board as well as the commissioners should take a ride sometime or go sit in the waiting room of a dialysis center to find out what is really going on. Transit boards in other counties have at least one client on the board. The commissioners should consider this when appointing members.

This whole transition seems to have been handled poorly by the commissioners, the Trumbull Transit Board, and Community Bus Service. While it is a good idea to consolidate and privatize the transportation services in this county, it needs to be done in an efficient manner that serves the community well.

Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at editorial@tribtoday.com