Forum set Thursday on local transit issues for elderly, disabled
For Jim Ross, chairman of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee, the promotion of public transportation is a personal thing.
"Five years ago, I lost my vision and with it went my ability to drive," he said. "Just like that, I could no longer jump in the car ... to go anywhere. It was an abrupt eye-opener. How do I get to work, the store, my children's school or the doctor? I found myself now shut-in and overwhelmed by the simple task of just going somewhere."
The importance of serving transportation needs for seniors and individuals with disabilities is at the heart of a Thursday forum, which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Westport Center for Senior Activities, 21 Imperial Ave.
People are invited to share their thoughts about what is working in the current system, and how the town can serve the needs of this population.
"One of the primary goals of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee was to increase community awareness and solicit feedback from Westport citizens about public transportation in Westport," Ross said.
"In general it's very, very good," said Hilda Cole, 85, of Westport, who uses the paid door-to-door transit service about three times a week.
"It's convenient for me because I don't have a car anymore," she said, and the service brings her to doctor appointments in both Westport and Norwalk, as well as the senior center.
She made special mention of the drivers. "They're all very, very nice," she said. "They help people get on. They take people's walkers off the bus. If they have a tote bag with them, they make sure to hand it to them after they're down."
If she'd like to see anything change, it would be the service running on weekends.
"Everyone would love that, because they have a lot of nice programs on the weekends," she said.
"I think it's really important for seniors to have safe transportation options so that they're not stuck at home," said Susan Pfister, director of the WCSA.
She said that isolation at home increases a senior's susceptibility to cognitive deterioration.
"We need to look at how we provide a delivery of services that will meet their needs, because (those needs) are not going to get any less," she said.
Lillian Rossen, another senior who makes regular use of the door-to-door service, said that service should be expanded so it's available to everyone.
"I don't know why they have to take just seniors," she said. "Other people who live at a distance can go on the bus and pay, and they'll make more money."
"Sometimes I'm the only one on the bus, and sometimes there are only two of us," she said. "If they were more flexible, they might have greater use."
"Westport public transportation is a service available to all Westport citizens and, as a community, we must regularly check to make sure that it is meeting the needs and has the support of the citizenry," Ross said.
"Hearing the collective voice of the Westport community on public transportation is essential for town officials to make the right decisions on behalf of its citizens," he said. "We look forward to an interesting dialogue with Westport seniors about their needs and the transit services."