DATE: November 17, 2008
TO: Regional ADA Advisory Committee
FROM: Michael VanDekreke, Accessibility Specialist
RE: Summary of the October 30, 2008 Regional ADA Advisory Committee Meeting
The next Regional ADA Advisory Committee meeting will be held on December 4, 2008 from 1:30 PM until 4:00 PM in the RTA Board Room, located at 175 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago on the 15th floor. Please call Michael VanDekreke at (312) 913-3204 (voice) or (312) 913-3122 (TTY) at least two (2) business days before the meeting if you need an accommodation in order to attend.
On Thursday, October 30, 2008, the Regional ADA Advisory Committee met. Those in attendance are listed at the end of this memo. This memo is a summary of the items covered.
Announcements: Mr. Watkins asked Mr. VanDekreke to read the purpose of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee. Mr. VanDekreke read the purpose of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee as follows: The purpose of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee is to provide a forum for listening and responding to regional issues associated with regional fixed route accessibility, ADA paratransit services and the ADA paratransit certification and eligibility process.
Reading of the Agenda: Mr. Watkins read the agenda for the meeting of October 30, 2008. The meeting began with introductions of all members of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee members, RTA staff and public in attendance at the meeting.
Roll Call: Roll Call of committee members was conducted by Mr. Watkins and there were Seven (7) voting members present. Seven (7) members need to be present in order for there to be a quorum.
Approval of August 28, 2008 Minutes: Ms. Trawinski move to accept the minutes of August 28, 2008 as submitted. Mr. Biondi seconded the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.
Approval of the Agenda: Mr. Watkins added election of co-chairs for the Regional ADA Advisory Committee, review of the one-year terms that would be expiring this year, and discuss of the second audit to the agenda under new business. Ms. Trawinski moved to approve the agenda as amended, and the motion was passed by a unanimous vote.
Chairpersons’ Comments: Mr. Watkins commented on the importance of members attending not only the full committee meeting, but the subcommittee meetings as well. Mr. Watkins went on to explain that due to the number of issues in the region currently, we have to come up with solutions on how to bridge a working relationship between all the ADA committees. Ms. Trawinski did not have any additional comments at this time.
Presentation by Steve Schlickman, RTA Executive Director: Mr. VanDekreke introduced Mr. Schlickman. Before doing so he explained that Mr. Schlickman’s presentation will focus on questions that were submitted in advance of the meeting by the Co-Chairs of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee. At the end of the presentation, would take questions from committee members, and if members of the public had questions or comments, they could be asked during the public comments portion of the meeting, and they will be responded to at the next meeting.
The following is the presentation that was made by Mr. Schlickman:
“Hello, I am Steve Schlickman, Executive Director of the RTA and it is a pleasure to be here. I would like to apologize again for not being able to make my planned appearance at your last meeting. Unfortunately, that planned meeting was not coordinated with my annual end of September vacation I always take. I apologize that I had to be out of the city at that time. I do want to emphasize that you work is very important to me personally. It is also very important to my staff and also I can say it’s very important to the RTA. I have been receiving regular reports on your progress and organizing your committee so that it can be as effective as we want it to be. I look forward to continuing, after this date, the regular input from communication with you as you move forward considering your agenda items. As Michael said, he did submit to me a number of questions that you would like me to address. If I could, I would like to take those questions in turn and give you a response.”
The first question is, “What is RTA’s view of the goal of the Regional ADA Advisory Committee?”
“As I just said, we really very much value your input. Michael, stated the mission of the committee at the beginning of the meeting, and I fully endorse that. We view you as the representatives of the disability community, receiving direct input from the disability community on ADA matters. Not only as it relates to paratransit, which of course we have been receiving a lot of input on this year, but on all aspects compliance with the ADA as it pertains to transit service. We want your initiated input, but we will also seek your input on our own for those areas in which we feel we should get additional input from the disability community…in an organized fashion. I understand the committee bylaws outline the way by which to communicate with the RTA, and I fully support and am happy to communicate through that process. One thing that, in talking to Michael, we think is a good way for you to have effective input with us, is for you to submit a report on a quarterly basis, this is assuming you have something to report to us. This is something that I intend to not only share directly with the RTA Board, but also with my staff. We will take that input, analyze it, and react to it, and when necessary I would very much like to invite, or when you feel you would like to, your co-chairs to come to the RTA Board and having direct dialogue with the RTA Board at their regularly scheduled meetings. We do have a Mobility Limited Committee which probably would be the best forum for that interaction.”
The next question is, “Please explain the RTA ADA Oversight Committee.”
“This is a Coordination Committee, and at the last meeting of this committee we felt that name ‘oversight’ overstated the purpose of the committee, and probably sends the wrong message as to what its function is. I would like to underscore this and say, this is not a policy development group. It is an internal group about our agencies. Now typically as you may know, if you go to transit systems around the country, there is one agency that operates and sets policy for that system. Our structure here is to have an organization called the RTA, which is not an operating agency, but an oversight funding coordination agency, and three operators that need to work together to set policies. However, my approach to managing our responsibilities is to try and get the service boards and the RTA to act as one organization. It is a goal, can’t say we are there, but one of the vehicles by which we do that is we convene taskforces of our agencies on a regular basis. Because we place such a high priority on ADA compliance and coordination, the taskforce that we have set up internally within our agencies is to exchange information and discuss coordination issues is this group. Therefore, it better reflects our function. We are now calling ourselves the ADA Coordination Committee. Again, it is intended for information exchange and exchange of coordination issues. It does not set policies for ADA for all of our services. It is dictated by our Board of Directors at the RTA and the Board of Directors for the service boards.”
“Next question is, “How does RTA plan to include the Regional ADA Advisory Committee with this coordination group?”
“As I just said, it is important to realize that because it’s an internal management function, it’s not really a group in which we would have regular input from this group, but certainly we will be sharing the input that you give to me; that I transfer to the RTA Board of Directors. We will be sharing that also with this coordination group. And occasionally, when it’s appropriate, we will definitely consider inviting you to meet with this group to discuss important matters both to you and to us.
“The next question is, “How does the RTA see its role as having oversight over the service boards?”
“That is something that was discussed very heavily last year in Springfield. As you know, we had a series of financial problems last year, there was a lot of concern in Springfield as to the effectiveness of the RTA; prior to that financial crisis and how to improve the effectiveness of the RTA so that we can avoid future financial crisis or prevent them from ever happening. The legislature reviewed our enabling legislation which has very broad statements of authority that are related to general oversight for the service board’s, budget approval, allocation of funds, coordination of planning, and service and other coordination matters. Generally stated, the difficulty with general statements of authority is not always clear as to what the expectation of the General Assembly is that exercises that general authority. Well, in our discussions last year, it became very apparent to us as to what they specifically wanted us to do. Rather than giving us general authority, they specified very specific mandates that they wanted us to achieve in the exercise authority. The most important ongoing oversight authority is our financial responsibility and our planning responsibility. In fact, they gave us a very specific mandate that we must always be doing strategic planning; we must have a strategic plan, and we must evaluate the service boards’ budgets and business plans against that strategic plan. They also prescribed certain things that would go into that strategic plan. They also required us to not just be looking at an annual budget in the two years subsequent to the annual budget, but we should be moving ten years out on the financial side, so that we have a better sense of the trends occurring with our finances and can better anticipate and avoid problems which had actually been building for a number of year. There were some restatements of the desire for us to coordinate. It’s still somewhat generally stated but we are moving forward and attempt to improve RTA’s role as a coordinating agency with the service boards. We will not, however, interfere in the day-to-day decision making of the operators. Clearly, we are still a long separation between our oversight responsibilities, our coordination and planning responsibilities and their responsibilities to operate their service. While we will certainly have our customer service office, we will continue to receive service input that needs to be transferred to the operating agencies for their considerations and for their actions. Now, with the strategic plan, I might say that in a very important element of the strategic plan is addressing needs of the mobility limited. I have actually said to my board, and they have accepted the fact that we should actually have a policy statement within the strategic plan dealing with ADA and policy issues that go beyond ADA that affect the mobility limited community. As part of the input we will be receiving from you, it should be focused on what that policy statement should be, and we will also be discussing it with the internal coordination group as well as the board and through the public hearing process that we will have as part of the strategic plan, as well as in two other activities that we will engaged in which I will address next.”
The fifth question you asked is that, “Please discuss the purpose of the ADA Compliance review for Pace Paratransit”.
“The RTA is in the process of that audit. It is not an audit in itself. It is a statutory requirement that on an annual basis the RTA staff is to estimate the projected annual cost of ADA Paratransit services that are required by the ADA and reported back to the RTA Board. And that is what the function of that review is, which is currently underway. It is basically to get a better understanding of what is level of paratransit service is out there compared to what is required by the ADA. A consultant was hired. That consultant is moving forward and is currently doing an analysis of the Pace paratransit service and is beginning to compare that to the requirements under ADA.
Sixth question is, “Please explain the Chicago Paratransit service transition line and where we are in the process of this audit”.
“I think some of who have been attending our meetings understand the discussion I have had with the Board on this. We appreciate the input that you have given us at those meetings through your committee. We clearly understand the great concern, criticism that has been leveled about the Pace paratransit service and the transition that occurred last spring; the trapeze service particularly going to the zone system. We have heard much from the user side, we have heard much from the management side and quite frankly there was conflicting input. It was my thought, which was accepted by the RTA board, that one way to get the truth is to exercise our audit authority. As part of our oversight ability the legislature has now made it very clear that the RTA has general audit authority over the service boards. Actually this is the first time that we have exercised that authority by asking for an audit of the transition process for a review of the effectiveness of the service changes that were put forward and to analyze that against the input that we have been getting from both the users and from management. We putting out an RFP, which is in Procurement right now and there will be bids and we will accept those bids, review them and select the best proposal. As part of this process, after we give the auditor a notice to proceed, we strongly believe we need to have a set of public hearings. We have received input from the user community in order prepare what we wanted to review through the management audit. Adding to that base line information would very helpful in the auditor’s ability to target the management elements that they need to focus on.
Mr. Watkins asked how long the audit would take. Ms. Gallucci responded that it would take approximately three months.
Mr. Schlickman continued: There will be an audit report which will be submitted for the board’s review and for the public’s review.
The seventh question was, “Why were there two rounds of RTA public hearings this year?”
“Since I came here three years ago, it has always been somewhat troubling to me that we would wait until the budgets were almost crucially locked into place before we sought public input. That did not make a whole lot of sense to us, and therefore as part of the old reform process that we are engaging in, which by the way places a high degree of reliance on a transparent approach to ensure the public credibility of our process; we felt it was more effective to get public input before we started the budget process. Our budget process typically starts or most formally starts with our September 15 marks that we set for the service boards. We thought we should have input before then, and that is what we did. We had a round of thirteen hearings throughout the region. By the way, the Act only requires that we have one public hearing and only requires that at the end of the process; not at the beginning. These hearings that we have engaged in go way beyond minimum requirements, and I think is a more effective public input process than was actually prescribed by law. We still have to have public hearings at the end of the year, review of the budget process and we are going to begin those hearings very soon. Again, we will be conducting thirteen hearings around the region. We welcome the disability communities’ input as part of that process. It is my goal to do more in regards to collecting public input. We need to develop a structure, not just for the input, but for the application of that input. I will confess that we have more to do in that area and I promise we will do that.
That covers all of your questions, and I hope that I have adequately answered them. I welcome your questions or comments.
Question from Mr. Biondi: How many people will be on the coordinating group? Will there be paid riders?
Steve’s response: The Coordinating group is comprised of the staff members of the agencies. It is not a user’s committee. We will have a board member from each service board in that group. It is an internal management group that we use to assist our management approach to the whole issue of ADA compliance.
Mr. Smith asked Mr. Schlickman, “How does the RTA comprise the budget for paratransit? Does the RTA receive federal funding for paratransit”?
Mr. Schlickman responded that “the RTA does not receive federal funding for the operations for paratransit. We are eligible to receive capital funding for paratransit. Pace has used some federal funding for paratransit on the capital side. As you may know, we have a serious shortfall on capital funding right now. Pace has indicated to us they could use more capital funds for paratransit service. We have submitted to Congress a request for paratransit vehicle funding to be considered as part of the economic stimulus package that is under consideration in Congress.
In terms of how we look at their budget; it is now a separate budget item that Pace must submit to us. We set a funding mark for paratransit service as we do for mainline service. They must adhere to that funding mark. There is a statutorily prescribed recovery ratio that was supposed to go to twelve percent. It has been reduced back to ten percent so as to avoid the pressure of having to either cut back on costs or increase fares. The ten percent requirement does anticipate meeting the ten percent requirement into the future. There will have to be incremental or regular fare adjustments to accommodate the cost of the service.
The legislature also provided a $100 million set aside annually for paratransit service. That is money we fully set aside into a separate fund and that is the first money that goes out from us to Pace to cover the cost of paratransit service. The budget for paratransit this year was roughly $85 million dollars. We understand that the cost of paratransit service is exceeding that. It is not official yet as to what the overrun will be, but the hope is that the difference between the budget of $85 million and the $100 million was to set aside money for the future so that we can we can invest that, have it grow, have it be there to accommodate future expense growth. We felt that that was going to be there for a number of years. If the cost of paratransit services is at a higher rate, of course, we will draw down that money; that is set aside faster than we anticipated. We are very anxious to receive from Pace the specifics on this year’s budget and performance against that budget. We have asked them to submit a full explanation as to why they may be exceeding the budget so that we can make sure it was not due to management issues.
We know that we have the responsibility of meeting demand for ADA paratransit service and therefore regionally we have the responsibility to fund it. We also want to make sure that it is run in the most efficient manner and that we do not reward inefficiency as we go forward.”
Mr. Smith asked, “How do businesses pay for direct paratransit service for their companies?”
Mr. Schlickman responded, “Yes, I am aware of in other cities there are provision for direct services to companies. There are arrangements for those companies to help subsidize that direct service. We have received reports on that service. We always need to learn from the best practices of other cities. Grace Gallucci is behind me. It is Grace’s department who is responsible for the oversight of the paratransit service. She is also responsible for doing research on best practices, on performance approaches; on ways to better deliver service overall. Grace, I’m sure, is looking at other cities on a continual basis and will strive to learn from those experiences.”
Ms. Serpe thanked Mr. Schlickman for being at the meeting, and proceeded to ask her question. “You talked about an audit to look at the how the new zone system is functioning, and you mentioned the RFP. When do you anticipate actually having feedback that is going to be useful and translate into riders having a different experience?”
Mr. Schlickman responded, “I think that our first objective is to understand the reasons for the proposals that were made and implemented, the effectiveness of those proposals and to analyze that information. The expected time frame for that audit would be 6 months.”
Grace Gallucci added that it’s (the RFP) in the Procurement department now, it will be put out on the street next week, expected to go to the board for approval of a contract and auditor in December, and the we are looking for approximately three months to complete it; approximately 6 months overall. Mr. Schlickman added that at the end of that process; as part of the report, the scope of work does not necessarily require them to propose anything new. It is to assess what is already in place. It is our job to take that report and consider what it means to us in the way of providing better service to the community within in our limited financial means.”
Commissioner Tamley asked about the method by which the second audit will be performed.
Mr. Schlickman responded that the auditors will follow a traditional audit process. “You will recall that we went through almost a year long management audit by the Illinois Auditor General. Basically, we expect Pace to be an open book. Anything that the auditor feels that he/she needs to have should be made available to us. The auditors are very detail-oriented; they get into all the information they need to achieve the scope. By the way, we have received your full input and comment on the scope for the work on this audit. I greatly appreciate that. I think it’s made a better scope of work than we started out being. I hope you are now happy with that scope of work, and it is now our job to select the best audit team to achieve that scope of work.”
Mr. Biondi asked, “Are you going to make your findings accessible to the public?”
Mr. Schlickman responded that the audit will be submitted not only to the board, but also to the Regional ADA Advisory Committee. “We would definitely submit it to you for your review; given you had a lot of input on the scope. We would like your evaluation on it and reaction to us, and that would clearly be an evaluation that we would convey to the RTA Board.”
Mr. Watkins thanked Mr. Schlickman for being at the meeting. He further commented that, “I know the process we are dealing with is all new. I know relationship wise, with the RTA now a form of oversight for service related issues, that across the board you are looking to work with all riders. I know within our community it is especially important. We do need support in a lot of ways; specifically we need support in reaching out for committee members. I am very much appreciative of the projects that are already under development that you have reached out to us for. I do know there are going to be a few other projects over the next few months that will be brought forth before this committee. There are some mainline issues out there. We started a Fixed Route Committee, which Ms. Janice Stashwick is the chair of that committee (Ms. Stashwick is on the phone), so over the next few months we will be working on those issues. The issues around paratransit right now are what they are. I know we will get through them. I also know in the long run, it will probably be a good solid year before we actually see results of whatever is coming up. In general, somehow or another we need to bridge some of these situations. I feel, in my personal opinion, lack of communication has been the RTA’s fault. The lack of communication between the public and what has been put forward to us about some of the plans about the paratransit transition has been a problem. There has been a lot of misunderstandings also. I think it is more of the misunderstandings we have to work on. Working with Pace, working with RTA, and working with the entire community. We have six counties that this committee needs to be working on. I know we need help reaching out to the other counties for membership for this committee. I know throughout many of the outer counties, you have the Dial-a-Ride service that Pace provides which is a wonderful program. We have had limited communication with those that are involved. We need that help from Pace and from the RTA.”
Mr. Schlickman thanked Mr. Watkins for informing him and noted that he was not aware of the challenge getting members for the committee. He responded, “Thank you for telling me that. I was not aware of that challenge and certainly we should endeavor to assist you in any way we can to attract interest in your work. I would say that our first stop should be with our appointing authorities in the collar counties; in particular the county chairman. Every county has their own contact with the mobility limited community. I’m sure we could get assistance from our appointing authorities to identify individuals that might be interested in serving on your committee. We would definitely help you with that.
Mr. Watkins thanked Mr. Schlickman.
Ms. Trawinski added, “I’d like to reiterate what Mr. Watkins just said concerning our willingness to cooperate with you. This is a new adventure for all of us. We are boldly going where no one has gone before and that is ok. We are also in the situation here where, because of our personal service and our use of transit has been in a somewhat crisis mode for several months. What you get to see is the angry side and the assertive side because not only do we speak for ourselves, but very often, for constituents who are not healthy enough to come and give testimony at your Board. We come across as those people who are calling to arms all the fears and all the problems we have. Please understand we are all qualified professionals. We also live within the disabled community but within the general community as well, and that we are here as professionals as well as people with disabilities. We are looking forward to a positive relationship, but an open one. We need to have an opportunity to sit down periodically, share ideas and share concerns. Everyone is busy, we all have lives, and we need to work on things. But for us and the people we represent, transit is such a critical piece and it has been so tenuous for the last year and a half both in terms of funding and in service provided; and in clarifications thereof that it has been a very difficult struggle and all the people that we represent are constantly badgering us because they feel that we are the leaders of the community. They want answers from us and we can’t give them answers. And so, we come to you with all of our problems because that is the nature of the beast. We are dealing in the somewhat crisis mode. Hopefully, that will end some time in the future, but until then we need to recognize that this is why we are responding this way. With the onset of winter, we are also going to see a whole different issue with riders and with service and all of those issues that go along with the change of season.”
“There is one question I wanted to bring to you and that is, clients have asked me that they have already attending some of the Pace budget meetings. They have been told that Pace is not putting forth a budget for paratransit because they are waiting for the RTA to take care of either what they are calling an audit or adjustment. Their concern is will something happen in December where suddenly they will be told that there will be a fare increase? What can we tell our constituents about what the fiscal reality looks like for them come January?”
Mr. Schlickman responded, “I cannot tell you what Pace is going to do with paratransit operations for next year. The RTA has never been in the position of telling the service board what level of service to provide; what their fares should be from year to year. That has not been our authority. That has changed under this new Act, in that the Strategic Plan cannot provide guidance to the service boards as to what they should be doing with their fares. We, in your terms, are going where we haven’t been before, and we are finding our way through that process. We have to do it in a cooperative fashion and in partnership with the service boards as best we can. We will be inserting ourselves in a way we’ve never inserted ourselves before and that troubles the service boards. We are not necessarily getting quick process on all of that. It takes time. Now being more specific, just to understand your question: They have put out a paratransit budget, but they haven’t addressed what they will do with fares for next year?”
Ms. Trawinski, “Principally, fares and then of course the back-up concern is always any limitation on service because they are reducing their own fixed route service or for whatever set of reasons, they are diminishing the service they will be providing in terms of a quality of service; but certainly fares are pre-eminent.
Mr. Schlickman responded, “Our Strategic Plan right now, which we are mandated by law to use to evaluate service boards budgets, is not at all specific or it may not address the issue of paratransit service to the extent that it would have any impact on what Pace proposes. We do not have a Strategic Plan that is complete, and will probably not have one until well into next year. We have a whole planning process to amend that and that is what we put forward to our Board. Having a true, complete, and quality Strategic Plan that we can evaluate the budgets on our occurrence of the 2010 budget year. Until then, the service boards are left to their own guidance on how they implement and deliver their services; subject only to the financial limitations that we place on them. We set their funding amount and we set their fare box recovery ration. We cannot tell Pace to have a higher fare box recovery ratio than the 10 percent, except by law. They are subject to figuring out on their own how to best meet those limitations. As long as they are meeting those limitations, under our current arrangement, we do not have any authority to say anything else.”
Ms. Trawinski responded, “Clearly you see the dilemma where we are hearing from Metra, we are hearing from Pace Fixed Route, and we are hearing from CTA Fixed Route. Obviously, they are setting forth budgets with certain proposals about fares. And yet Pace has said they will not talk about fares for paratransit. Our constituents are very concerned. I’m only bringing that to your attention.”
Mr. Schlickman responded, “If they are not submitting a budget to us, that sets a different fare, then we are assuming that they will meet their fare box recovery ratio and live within their funding allocation as we have set. If they cannot and they need a fare increase, then they have to go through the regular fare increase process which would require public hearings.”
Ms. Trawinski responded, “OK, thank you.”
Tom Greninger of Pace commented, “The budget as submitted proposes no fare increase for paratransit. My understanding is that the Board wanted to get feedback from the studies and the audits that are going on and then reconsider the issue. As Mr. Schlickman said, if there are any proposed fare increases that has to go through a public hearing process.
Mr. Schlickman responded, “Therefore, I expect that they will not address that fare issue until well into next year.”
The Regional ADA Advisory Committee thanked Mr. Schlickman for attending the meeting. Mr. Schlickman responded, “It was very pleasurable, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.” Mr. Schlickman exited the meeting.
Mr. Watkins informed the public audience that if they have any questions for Mr. Schlickman, they can submit them to the committee and will come back to the next meeting with the answers from Mr. Schlickman.
RTA Accessibility Specialist Comments: Mr. VanDekreke gave his first Accessibility Specialist report as requested by the committee. He introduced Ms. Grace Gallucci who introduced her new staff, Mr. John Goodworth.
Mr. Goodworth has 40 years experience; 20 of that being in the transit industry. When the ADA legislation first came out in the early 1990’s, John was considered an expert nationally in Fixed Route accessibility. John’s has worked with several ADA Advisory committees. He is noted for involving members of the ADA community to participate in designing Fixed Route stations. He involves the ADA community by allowing them to look at turnstiles, go through turnstiles, use their own exits and entrance plans; he makes the ADA community feel a part of the system.
Mr. Goodworth spoke to the committee, “I have had ADA in my heart for many years. I have had a few accomplishments that I will be able to share with you as we meet in the future. Let’s make it the very best system in the country. Thank you so much.”
Mr. VanDekreke thanked Grace and John for attending the meeting. He will keep Mr. Goodworth posted on updates as they become available. Mr. VanDekreke will also help coordinate with Mr. Goodworth different projects that require input from the committee.
Mr. VanDekreke reminded the committee that he needs nominations for Eligibility Review Board “ERB” members. He explained the role of the ERB and the process for selecting new members.
Ms. Serpe asked when the ERB meets. Mr. VanDekreke responded that Lillian Wallace, an RTA staff member is responsible for organizing the appeal hearings. If you are an ERB Committee member, Ms. Wallace will call you for the appeal hearing and will inform you of the date and time of the hearing. She sets up the meeting with the person who is appealing and also finds an ERB member to listen to the appeal.
Ms. Trawinski added that over the last 2 ½ years, the appeals have always been in the mornings between 9:30 am – 12:30 pm. She also noted that attending the meeting also includes several days of training on FTA and state regulations. The process also includes understanding all the jargon of the evaluations. There are files that get to be quite lengthy; it is a very involved, complex process.
Mr. VanDekreke commented that Ms. Trawinski has been on the ERB Committee for a while and that she would be a good resource to ask questions about the appeals process.
Mr. VanDekreke discussed the next item in his report, GoRoo. He informed the committee that he had sent out the announcement on GoRoo and hopefully they have received it. He explained that at the Fixed Route Sub-Committee meeting on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 a presentation will be given by RTA staff, Gerwin Tumbali, Manager Engineering and Technology, on the GoRoo system. Mr. VanDekreke explained that the GoRoo system is a software program that will become the new Travel Information Center online trip planner. Currently, the online trip planner is tripsweb.rtachicago.com where people plan their trips. GoRoo is a new server that the RTA is going to be hosting and it has the multi-model system so that there are a lot more options to plan trips.
Ms. Trawinski asked, “Will the demonstration also be done using assistant technology?” Mr. VanDekreke indicated that it has been discussed internally, but that we do not have that type of technology in house right now. Ms. Trawinski asked if someone could bring in the assistive technology, if the presentation could also be done using the assistive technology? Mr. VanDekreke responded that he is open to her suggestion. He encouraged the committee to come to see the GoRoo demonstration.
Mr. VanDekreke informed the committee that he had send the RTA Budget Public Hearings schedule to them earlier that morning. Ms. Trawinski asked the ending times of the public hearings. Her concern was that people who needed to use paratransit would need to know what time the public hearings end. She commented that people who used paratransit rides would like a few parameters, and it would be helpful to put an end time.
Mr. VanDekreke informed the committee that he has hired two Travel Trainers. One trainer is confirmed to start on November 10 and the other trainer’s start date has not yet been confirmed. Mr. VanDekreke will introduce the Travel Trainers at the December 4, 2008 Regional ADA Advisory Committee meeting.
Mr. Watkins asked Mr. VanDekreke to give a brief background of the Travel Trainers. Mr. VanDekreke responded that one of the Travel Trainers currently an assessor at one of the RTA paratransit sites. The other trainer previously worked for the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, and currently works in a program teaching assistive technology throughout the six county region.
Committee Members Questions Regarding Reports: Ms. Trawinski asked the committee if they have any questions of the RTA based on the reports they have received.
RTA Update: Mr. Watkins thanks Anne LeFevre for the report she submitted and expressed that he knows that is has been a process to change the way that she has given reports in the past. He is impressed with the report because it helps understand what is going on throughout the region.
Commissioner Tamley asked, “The waiting list for travel training is really high. Is that unusually high or is there a reason for that?” Mr. VanDekreke responded that, “Yes it is very high right now. As of this morning we have 107 people on our waiting list for travel training. The program has taken off within the last year, and we have not been able to keep up with demand. We have had this program in-house since December 2005 and the waiting list has grown. At the same time there has been a lot of staff turnover this year, so we have been unable to meet the demand, which is why we are in the process of hiring two new travel trainers at this time.
Ms. Serpe asked, “What is the age range; is there a minimal age range, in terms of travel training?” Mr. VanDekreke responded that the point of travel training is to help individuals travel independently, so they would have to be of an age that was safe to travel independently.
Mr. Smith asked if the program does outreach. Mr. VanDekreke responded that “we do not do outreach in this program. Only if people request it when they apply for paratransit certification. However, sometimes different school programs will call me and ask me to do presentations about different services in the region that are available to assist people with disabilities in using public transportation. And always during those presentations I bring up travel training as part of ADA paratransit certification.”
Mr. Reynolds asked if the Goroo software manufactured by the same person who manufactures Trapeze. Mr. VanDekreke responded that he was not aware, but he should attend the presentation of Goroo and ask Gerry Tumbali, who would know for sure.
Mr. Watkins asked if Ms. LeFevre would provide a summary of how the different assessment sites are set up differently, and what the RTA requires of the assessment sites, not only of their physical layout, but also of the standards we require for conducting the different assessments. Ms. LeFevre reported that she would try to put something together for the committee.
Pace Service Update: Mr. Watkins asked the committee if there are any questions for the report that was submitted by Pace. Mr. Watkins asked why, in the Pace report, under McHenry County, the numbers are so small? Ms. Clark responded that there are only three fixed routes and they run rush hour only. Tom Groeninger of Pace added that “if you looked at the ridership by people that have a disability, it is very high, specifically around the dial-a-ride service. The dial-a-ride is so big there, and it is cheaper for riders.”
Mr. Watkins asked, “Is there any way in the future for Pace to break down the amount of people with disabilities that are actually riding; and also by the different counties? The more we can understand about the amount of people with disabilities throughout the different counties, the more we will have a better feeling for the different needs and the attention to them. Mr. Greninger responded that he can do that.
Mr. Watkins referred to page three (3) under Paratransit Ridership. He asked that the word “variance” be explained. Mr. Watkins also requested that in the future the pages of the Pace report be numbered. Tom Greninger explained that ridership is separated out into three pages by years 2008, 2007 and 2006. Mr. Watkins interrupted and asked if there could also be a side note on the bottom of the report. Mr. Watkins stated, “The idea is the timeframe. The more the committee members can understand what’s going on, they can come directly to Pace with questions at the committee meetings.”
Mr. Biondi asked, “If you are a subscription rider, why can you change your time, but not your location?” Mr. Greninger explained that if you have a subscription and you want to change it to a different time or location, you must cancel that subscription for that day and book a new trip.
Commissioner Tamley asked, “Was there a reason that the report stopped in July?” Mr. Greninger responded that the reason is because the report is tied into the Taxi program and they do not get the Taxi information for sometimes six weeks after the end of the month. Pace is hoping to roll out the taxi fare card program that hopefully will speed things up.
Mr. Smith asked, “What kind of fare card will be given for the Taxi program?” Mr. Greninger responded that “riders will be purchase an electronic fare card. Under the current system, riders have to buy vouchers to ride in the taxi program. Under the new electronic fare card system, you can go online or by phone or by mail and add value to the card. This eliminates carrying vouchers around. Just swipe the card and the value is automatically deducted.”
Ms. Trawinkski asked Mr. Greninger to email the press release announcement of the new fare card program. Mr. Greninger agreed to email the press release.
CTA Service Update: Mr. Watkins explained that there was a snafu with the CTA report. CTA is in the processing of upgrading their website and the report was not received due to error. Ms. Montgomery will resubmit the report. Ms. Montgomery submitted information on the next CTA ADA Advisory Committee meeting which will be Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 1:30 – 3:30 PM at 567 W. Lake in the CTA Board room.
Metra Service Update: Mr. Watkins thanked Jim Ferneborg for the Metra reports that he submits to the committee. The reports are very helpful and keep everyone up-to-date on what’s going on at Metra. Mr. Watkins commented that he has been getting automatic updates on a regular basis from Metra which he appreciates. Mr. Watkins asked the committee if there are any questions for the report that was submitted by Metra. No questions from the committee.
Jim Ferneborg of Metra commented that he provides the committee with a construction profile report that has been the same one for the last couple of meetings, and he did not see a need to change until the construction season comes to an end in December. At that time, Metra will be able to let you know how we did; we are on schedule. By the way, the Roosevelt Road station has opened formally, but the elevators are not in. We are still waiting on the city for approvals, but when that happens, that will be good. We will have accessible elevators at the platform.
Membership Subcommittee: Mrs. Trawinski gave the report. The committee met twice. Unfortunately there has not been a big response in terms of participants. Membership is critical if the committee is to be a regional committee. Ms. Trawinski encouraged people to join the committee. She stated, “When you join these committees, you are accepting responsibility and you also accept the responsibility to be on other committees to help the main committee work efficiently. We will be emailing letting people know when the meetings are. If you miss a meeting that does not mean you can not come back. There is no ‘three strikes and you are out’!”
Fixed Route Subcommittee: Chairman Watkins read Ms. Stashwick’s statement on being elected as Chairperson of the Fixed Route Sub-Committee. “I am please to have been elected to first chairperson of the Fixed Route Sub-Committee of the RTA ADA Advisory Committee. I fully recognize the important work that this sub-committee will address and plan to work hard on this group addressing the needs and goals of people with disabilities in achieving full accessibility and affordability in fixed route public transportation. It is within the sub-committee where a lot of our work will be done and all members of the full RTA Regional ADA Committee can and should consider attending fixed route meetings. The Fixed Route Sub-Committee will be meeting bi-monthly beginning in November. Our first meeting will be November 12, 2008, 1:00 – 3:00 PM; in addition to a presentation of the new Goroo software program. We will be prioritizing what our sub-committee will work on during the year.”
Commissioner Tamley asked, “Can only committee members join the subcommittees or can outside community members be on the subcommittees?” Mr. Watkins responded, “The bylaws state that only committee members can serve on the committees.
Commissioner Tamley asked, “We are not inviting anyone else to be on any of these committees?” Mr. Watkins responded, “That is the way the bylaws were written earlier this year.” Mr. Watkins added that he has a feeling the bylaws of the committee will be revisited by the end of next year.
Information Requested from Committee for Service Board Reports: Mr. Watkins commented that this issue keeps coming up at every meeting. Commissioner Tamley stated that she does not understand the agenda item. Mr. VanDekreke addressed her statement. “This was an item added on the agenda a long time ago and we never really talked about it. We were talking about what the committee wanted to hear from the service boards and from the RTA in terms of the reports. But it appears as if that committee is now getting the information that they want to get from the service boards and the RTA, so it is no longer an issue, therefore this agenda item worked itself out”.
New Business: Mr. Watkins stated, “According to the bylaws, I agreed to a one-year term. If anyone wants to run for a two-year co-chair, the election will be up. Also, I want to review the initial terms. There are numerous members including myself whose one-year term is expiring December 31, 2008. Jim Watkins, James Reynolds, John Robinson, Alice Segal and Amy Serpe’s one-year terms all end on December 31, 2008.
Elections at December 4, 2008 Meeting: Elections for a new Co-Chair and continuation of current expiring terms will take place at the next meeting.
Schedule of 2009 Meeting Dates/Times: Mr. VanDekreke stated that at the next meeting, we will vote to agree on the 2009 meeting dates. “We would like to have those dates at the beginning of the year finalized for the whole year so we can put them our website.” “The Regional ADA Advisory Committee has always been the fourth Thursday of every even month from 1:30 – 4:00 pm and at the next meeting we will need to agree if the dates be the same times next year. The Fixed Route Sub-committee will be the second Wednesday of every odd month and we can also vote to continue those times at our next meeting.”
Mr. Watkins made a few comments about the Pace Paratransit Transition Audit scope. He reported that a public meeting would be held in suburban Cook for suburban riders who use the Chicago service in addition to the public hearing in Chicago. He also mentioned that the auditor will need to talk to the paratransit carriers themselves also to look into different issues. Lastly, he stated that the GPS systems should also be included in the audit as part of Trapeze.
Response to Public Comments from 8/28/2008 Meeting: Ms. Trawinski, “What we have stated in the past is that if people have comments, they may bring up issues or questions during the public comment. We want to strongly remind the committee members that it is not our place at that point to respond; it is our job to listen. Those issues are then filtered back to the appropriate where they can get answers either individually or collectively, then they are either responded to individually or they can be responded to at the next meeting. For example, if someone or some group of people had brought an issue in August, rather than having us make a response then, we take it under advisement, give it to the people who can answer it and then bring it back so that it could be answered at this time today. There was nothing brought specifically that needed a turnaround response time from August.”
Jim Ferneborg asked, “If a public comment from the floor comes to one of the representatives of the service boards and we can answer it, can we so?” Mr. Watkins responded, “I believe that is right, but again the bylaws were voted on, and the process is outlined in the bylaws. If we need to revisit these bylaws, I think we should. Ms. Trawinski added, “Because we have a tight schedule and we want to give that time for the comment, what we are hoping is if people can remain a few minutes after the meeting and can respond individually that is a more efficient use of the official time. That is where we will go based on our bylaws right now.”
Public Comment: Darlene Hale asked, “Why is the public participation in this RTA ADA Advisory Committee so extremely limited? Also, why is the public comment, as Jim said, if you can answer our questions the same day why do we have to wait three months to get answers to our questions? Are you going to represent disabled people by yourselves or is the public actually going to be involved in this meeting?” I thought it was wrong that there is only one person here from the public, which is me, and I could not make one comment to Mr. Stephen Schlickman. My comment was to thank him for caring enough about paratransit riders and the disabled community that he is conducting an audit to see the discrepancies between what Pace paratransit is saying versus what is going on with the riders.” Also, when it comes to membership, I was informed last year at this time that you had openings for new membership and all you needed to do was fill out an application. I filled out an application over a year ago, and I am still waiting to find out if I could be a part of the RTA ADA Advisory committee. Do you want certain people on this committee; people who have nothing to say; who go along with the vast few of you; or do you want new members that actually do something to help the paratransit riders, the people who use public transportation on fixed route? Is it more dictatorship or is the public involved? Do I have to wait three months to get a response to that?
Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 3:46 pm.
Voting Committee Members
Larry Biondi, PCIL
Amy Serpe, CPS
Janice Stashwick, Access Living (via conference call)
Marcia Trawinski, Metro Seniors in Action
Non-Voting Committee Members
Christine Montgomery, CTA
Karen Tamley, MOPD
Mary Beth Clark, Pace
Michael VanDekreke, RTA
Jim Ferneborg, Metra
Other RTA and Service Board Staff:
Grace Gallucci, RTA
John Goodworth, RTA
Ann LeFevre, RTA
Suzanne Richards, RTA
Steve Schlickman, RTA
Karen Thurmon, RTA
Tom Greninger, Pace
Bob James, CDT