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updated: 10/29/2012 12:27 PM

Paratransit advocates still seething over 'limo' comment

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  • Ray Campbell of Glen Ellyn, who uses paratransit, speaks to RTA Chairman John S. Gates Jr. after his public apology this week for earlier remarks referring to paratransit as "federally mandated limousine service."

      Ray Campbell of Glen Ellyn, who uses paratransit, speaks to RTA Chairman John S. Gates Jr. after his public apology this week for earlier remarks referring to paratransit as "federally mandated limousine service."
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer


Thanks to the binders full of emails I received on paratransit, I'm turning the column over to you today. But that's not the only hot transportation topic this week. We've also got some feisty comments on red-light cameras, plus IDOT explains why work on Butterfield Road is taking soooooo long.

To recap, Regional Transportation Authority Chairman John Gates apologized Wednesday for comments he made to the Daily Herald Oct. 4 about paratransit, the pickup service for riders with disabilities. Gates had compared paratransit to a "federally mandated limousine service."

He later acknowledged that he misspoke, explaining "my comments were inappropriate and unfortunately could be misconstrued to suggest bias against the disabled community. Nothing could be farther from the truth," Gates said, noting that his father is blind.

The remarks touched a nerve with Mary Garber who wrote, "when using the words limousine service, it strongly implies a luxury. From a parent's view who has a 22-year-old son who is visually impaired, who cannot nor will ever be able to drive -- a luxury would be to have sight, have a car, AND be able to go to a store or a movie where and when he wanted.

"This service is anything but a luxury, it's a NEED."

Bill Gallik, a former Wheaton resident who is blind, said, "the last few years I lived in Wheaton I enjoyed the paratransit services provided by Pace. Before that was available I can honestly say that living in the Western suburbs was a nightmare for anyone who couldn't be self-reliant in personal transportation.

"The Pace services were a wonderful change and helped quality of life. However, I thoroughly understand the frustrations of public transit heads concerning the costs associated with providing these services. As with many things in life, this is an intricate balancing act in that the people that need these services do indeed need these services."

Debbie Nelson of Arlington Heights wrote that, "my son didn't choose to be born with an intellectual disability. He didn't choose to not be able to drive. Same thing for those with physical disabilities. I volunteer to help young men who are paralyzed in wheelchairs because they broke their necks in high school sports accidents. Is Gates going to look my son or one of these guys in the eyes and blame them for costing 'a ton of money' if they ride the bus?

"Thankfully (Pace spokesman) Patrick Wilmot got it correct in stating, 'This is basic transportation that is a lifeline for people with disabilities to have access to their community.'"

We'll give the last word to Karen Simpson.

"I have a friend who has cerebral palsy. She was never able to drive because of an eyesight problem," wrote Simpson, an Arlington Heights resident.

"She married a man who was perfectly healthy. About 10 years ago, her husband was having problems with his back. It turned out he had an infection of the spinal fluid and consequently became paralyzed from the waist down. He is now in a motorized wheelchair. He also has declining eyesight and is legally blind. My friend had a hip replacement due to cerebral palsy and now has to use a walker. She relies on family to take her to doctors' appointments whenever possible but sometimes has to rely on Pace. I also help her whenever possible. Her husband has to use Pace transportation. They need Pace transportation in order to take care of themselves."

One more thing

A reader's complaint about a red-light camera caught Mark Korczyk's attention. He recalled a red-light camera series the Daily Herald published in 2009 and implored us to "please stop patronizing these whiners. These are also the same idiots that breeze around the corner every right-hand turn they make -- regardless of whether there's a light or not, and whether there's traffic or not, and invariably hold up traffic or nearly cause an accident, and/or (annoy) everyone they pull in front of. Love it when they're on the cellphone too," Korczyk added.

"As for the reader's comment about cameras making intersections more dangerous, I disagree. What I see are less 'drivers' running red lights, turning left on yellow/red ... and in general paying more attention to the law in and around intersections."

That's not how Frank Gardiner of Grayslake sees it. Gardiner recently received a ticket at Routes 59 and 120. He writes, "I was driving north on Route 59 and turned right onto Route 120. I believe that I did come to a full and complete (albeit momentary) stop before turning right onto Route 120, but I assume whoever reviewed the video did not believe that I did. Nowhere in the Illinois traffic code can I find any reference to HOW LONG you must hold a stop before turning right on a red light.

"I reviewed the video in the link sent to me with the ticket several times, and I still contend that I did come to a full stop before turning, but at best the video was inconclusive. It is obvious to me that in the case where the evidence is not conclusive, the authority who makes the decision sides against the driver. I wonder how many other people have fallen victim to this particular little moneymaking scheme?"

You should know

Mark Hannan of Wheaton understands that the Route 56 (Butterfield Road) project "is a significantly large and complicated contract, with multiple agencies. But it certainly seems like the work has stagnated, despite a record, dry summer that should be conducive to completing projects on time or ahead of schedule. Are there any incentives to completing this project ahead of schedule? Do local officials have any say about road closures in their areas when work is not taking place? Why isn't work done at night? When will the project be finished? Shouldn't the public and travelers deserve better?"

Here's what Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Josh Kauffman had to say.

"Route 56 experienced utility relocations. The extensive heat this year allowed for work to be done without rain delays, but the extreme heat affected the maximum temperature requirement for placing both concrete and (asphalt) materials. Typically, there aren't incentives on very many projects, but occasionally on major interstate projects. This project was coordinated with the locals. All project details are shared with local authorities prior to the project being let for bid. Nighttime work is not mandated on many projects as it could provide sensitivity issues due to potential nighttime noise ordinances. It is rare that involved parties will agree to allow continuous nighttime work, especially in residential areas." Final surfacing will come in 2013, Kauffman added.

Got any transportation questions or issues you want to vent about? Drop me a line at


Nothing says happy hour like an open house event with Metra. You can learn about the agency's strategic plan, its budget and possible fare increases. The forums run 4 to 7 p.m. and dates include: Thursday at the Kane County Government Center, Building A, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva; Thursday at the Crystal Lake City Hall, 100 W. Woodstock St.; Nov. 7, at Chicago Union Station, 210 S. Canal, Chicago; Nov. 7 at Wheaton City Hall, 303 W. Wesley St.; Nov. 7 at Arlington Heights Village Hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road; and Nov. 8 at Grayslake Village Hall, 10 S. Seymour.

Gridlock alert

It's been a very scary few days with pavement patching on Roosevelt Road (Route 38) in DuPage County, but the work will appropriately stop after Halloween. Until then, beware delays if you're driving on Roosevelt between Route 53 and Route 59.

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