San Luis Obispo County

66-Year-Old Disabled Veteran Could Have Only Mode of Transportation Suspended

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif - A 66-year-old veteran could have his only mode of public transportation suspended.

Larry Stayton is disabled. He uses a service called "Runabout," a paratransit service with the Regional Transit Authority. A new policy has made it hard for him to keep the rides coming to his home, but he's fighting to change that.

Larry suffered a brain injury in the Army. Years later, he had a stroke and now requires 24-hour care, but being bound to a wheelchair has not kept Larry from enjoying life.

"Today, Aubrey is going to take you to Pismo Beach, the RTA will pick you up around 10:15," said care manager, Paul Smith, to Larry.   

A "no show" policy at the Regional Transit Authority was implemented last year, meaning if you cancel or aren't there when a driver arrives a certain amount of times, they will suspend your rides. Larry missed six rides in the past five and a half months, but his attorney says there is a reason for that. "Sometimes Larry's ill, sometimes the caregivers are ill," said Geraldine Champion, Larry's attorney.

Right now Larry and his attorney are appealing the 60 day suspension. "As soon as we heard the appeal we extended his ability to keep riding and he hasn't lost any trips," said Jeoff Straw, the Executive Director at SLO RTA.

When we asked Straw why the policy was needed for a program funded by tax payers, this is what we were told. "For example if we schedule 22 rides on a bus with a single driver in a day and we have no shows it is just wasted resources," said Straw.

RTA says it will review Larry's reasons for missed rides, however, his attorney says even if they win the appeal, a policy change is needed. "A reasonable modification for someone with a severe disability and not demand that he be able to behave like someone with a mild disability," said Champion.

When we asked if modifying the policy was something RTA would consider, Straw replied, "Yes, absolutely."

Larry's appeal hearing will be at RTA on Thursday. We expect to hear a decision by Friday.

RTA says since the "no-show" policy was put in place, it has had 32 appeals. 22 of them have been eliminated.

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