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Disabled Passengers Plan to Sue in NYC
Brooklyn resident Mildred Escobar rode the B39 bus until it was cut in June. Disabled passengers in NYC are preparing to sue the MTA for the disparate impact of its transit cuts. Image via NBC New York.

Brooklyn resident Mildred Escobar rode the B39 bus until it was cut in June. Disabled passengers in NYC are preparing to sue the MTA for the disparate impact of its transit cuts. Image via NBC New York.

As WNYC reported this morning, disabled New Yorkers are preparing to file several “disparate impact discrimination” claims against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) over its recent transit cuts, which have hit the city’s less fortunate the hardest.

Over a month after the MTA slashed 38 bus lines, and reduced service on another 76, many disabled riders feel stripped of their “basic right to function,” as activist Susan Scheer told WNYC.  Scheer is in a wheelchair, and her bus line was cut in July.

Scheer,  who helped sue the MTA years ago to push the agency to begin its paratransit service, Access-a-Ride,  is collecting stories for one of the lawsuits from people like Anthony Trocchia, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Trocchia was born with muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair for 30 years. He used to go to Manhattan every weekend — to shop, visit parks, and see movies and friends. But the bus that took him there, the B39, was cut in late June; since then, he’s only made one trip to Manhattan.

Now that the B39’s gone, Trocchia needs to take three separate buses to make his way to his best friend’s house in the East Village.  This means paying for two rides each way, since the MTA MetroCard only provides for one transfer.

Access-a-Ride requires reservations at least a day in advance, so it doesn’t allow for any spur-of-the-moment decisions to head to the city.  What’s more, Trocchia says he doesn’t like taking paratransit because it segregates disabled riders from the rest of the community, whereas the city buses allowed him to mingle and “be seen.”

The city authorized commuter vans — known as dollar cabs — to run along some of the cut bus routes; but these vans are not accessible, so they don’t help disabled passengers. They also make the ride more expensive, since passengers often take them to reach a transit hub, and pay the van driver $2 or $4 in addition to the MTA’s $2.25 fare.

Only 73 of 468 subway stations and fewer than 2 percent of the city’s taxis are wheelchair accessible.

South Brooklyn Legal Services may file the lawsuit as early as this week.

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