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County moves to improve bus service for disabled, elderly riders

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners took steps toward improving C-TRAN service for elderly and disabled riders by establishing the Clayton County Elderly and Disabled Access Advisory Committee (CEDAAC).

The seven-member group will respond to community concerns during bi-monthly meetings, and will include subcommittees addressing citizen appeals, accessibility issues, and customer service.

While the BOC will have the last say in how C-TRAN dollars are spent, the CEDAAC will serve as a formal communication link between the county and the elderly and disabled riders, who use C-TRAN on a regular basis. CEDAAC is composed of C-TRAN's riders with various disabilities. The creation of the CEDAAC is a major step forward in addressing the needs of disabled citizens in the county, says Cheri Mitchell, a Jonesboro resident who is a local advocate for the disabled, and a regular user of C-TRAN's para-transit service.

"It's about time that we got to that point," said Mitchell, noting that she and other disabled residents have advocated for a county elderly and disabled committee since September of last year.

Mitchell said that C-TRAN's para-transit services have greatly improved since the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority took over C-TRAN's operation in October. She said several improvements needed to be made, including simplifying the reservation system for para-transit riders and creating a system in which the deaf can reserve para-transit pick up via e-mail, or text messaging.

"I really feel like the [advisory] board will make a real difference," Mitchell continued.

The CEDAAC board was created to emulate MARTA's Elderly and Disabled Access Advisory Committee (EDAAC), and act as a sounding board between C-TRAN and elderly and disabled riders, said Richard Bray, Clayton County's public transit coordinator.

"The purpose of this committee is to review, advise and make recommendations to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners about para-transit services," said Bray. He said the county will seek board members with a wide range of disabilities. He said meetings will be held as soon as the Board of Commissioners are able to appoint board members, and a board chairman.

Clayton County BOC chairman Eldrin Bell said the creation of the board is "a timely decision.

"It provides a structure for input from the members of [the elderly and disabled] community," said Bell. "In our earlier meetings, they came down here and they didn't feel like they were involved. This ensures their involvement.

"This allows MARTA to improve [its] program to better serve the disabled community ... we expect far better service," said Bell.