‘It was depressing’: Frustration mounts over gaps in handicapped-accessible transportation

CATS has 3,104 stops, but many blank spots are left that the service does not cover.
CATS has 3,104 stops, but many blank spots are left that the service does not cover.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 6:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte residents who rely on public transportation to get around are being left behind all because of where they live.

Michelle Faulkner is one of them. She qualifies for handicap-accessible transportation but cannot access it.

“At first, it was depressing,” Faulkner said.

She started losing her vision about six years ago. Now, legally blind and receiving regular dialysis for failing kidneys, Faulkner is no longer able to drive herself.

“First, I relied on friends and family, which very quickly runs out because they have lives too and can’t dedicate every day to what I need,” she said.

Faulkner first turned to the Charlotte Area Transit System and its paratransit services. It’s available to those who can’t access fixed bus routes because of disabilities.

Faulkner qualifies and was approved by the city, but she was told she couldn’t get the service.

“I almost cried. I felt like it was the end of the world, like what else am I supposed to do?” she said.

The City of Charlotte’s website says it follows the Americans with Disability Act Program, which provides paratransit services to anyone living within three-fourths of a mile of a bus stop.

CATS has 3,104 stops, but many blank spots are left that the service does not cover.

Related: CATS reducing the amount of bus service stops due to staff shortage

“Somebody that does not have to worry about transportation, they are really lucky right now,” Faulkner said.

Sherri Thompson is on the CATS Community Transit Committee and also qualifies for paratransit services.

“I work to help advocate for better transit here in Charlotte,” she said.

Thompson is focused on access to transportation for all but says she noticed a disparity for people who sometimes need public transportation the most - those on a fixed income.

“So, to take public transportation, if they don’t live close to it, it really hurts them,” she said.

Thompson encourages people to reach out to the City of Charlotte ADA coordinator to find all their options. She also wants to hear stories from people who need the services the most.

“Let the people at CATS know, ‘Hey I’m dealing with this, will there ever be a bus stop? Is this something that will be open one day?’” Thompson said.

According to CATS data for the month of July, an average of 580 people used paratransit services every weekday. Without the services, Faulkner often relies on Uber.

“We just really need help,” she said.

Faulkner hopes change is coming for the service.

“I would hope that they broaden a little bit and create a door-to-door for people like me that do not have a close bus stop. We really need that,” she said.

WBTV reached out to CATS officials multiple times for an interview about paratransit services. They would not make someone available to speak for this report.