Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Letter to the Editor

I Had The Displeasure of Having To Ride SVTA

I had the displeasure of having to ride SVTA vans and buses for years until the new federally mandated medical plans forced me to change health care providers. I now have rides provided by a better company, and I am no longer confronted by the following SVTA events: rides totally missed; late pickups; four hour waits; riding around for hours; and riding in vehicles not in proper repair.

No longer do I have to listen to a driver's personal radio tuned to a Gospel Station at a high volume, which was so loud at times the driver could not hear a siren on an emergency vehicle right next to her so she could give right-of-way.

Another SVTA vehicle was a brand new city sized bus that had a cracked window up front where those with walkers or canes sat for easy access to doors.

Another vehicle had brakes that squealed. I was told that the squeal was caused by asbestos dust that built up in the brake drums.

Most of the time the seat belts, which are required to be fastened by all passengers, did not work. Either they did not retract out far enough to fasten around me or other larger riders, or the belt did not have a working buckle. When I brought this to the attention of the SVTA, I was told their buses were inspected every morning.

Finding out about SVTA and Local Transportation Disadvantaged Board meetings was a joke. Many times the only way I found out about a meeting was from the Rider Advocate. Even after I addressed this with the SVTA management, meaningful notification was lacking, and when notification did arrive, it was almost always a day late or arrived just before the meeting.

Even when notification was timely, I was unable to obtain transportation. However, a board member did arrange transportation twice when I had a grievance to address.

I was told to attend other meetings I would be provided transport at the rate of three dollars every ten miles. This is rural Florida. I have a very limited income. A sixty dollar round trip fee was not in my budget to attend these public meetings.

When I questioned why board members were provided transportation, I was told I should apply for the position of Secondary Riders Advocate and transportation would be provided. The seated board members are all employed and make substantial salaries and can afford nice automobiles and the fuel to run them.  I used the system. Why should they be provided with free rides to the public meetings when the system users, who like me are obviously in dire financial straits, have to chose between food or attending an SVTA or Local Coordinating Transportation Disadvantaged Board meeting? Where is the sense of that?

I now have a transportation provider that is not the SVTA, which is problem free, and I hope to have a long association with them.

Good riddens to the SVTA.

Richard E. Todd
Lake City, FL

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