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Disabled riders had no elevators at Sacramento light rail station for months


By David Manoucheri

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    SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA) — It should be an easy trip. You buy your ticket, wait at the station, and get on the light rail train when it arrives.

Kristopher Keeney thought the trip would be that simple.

“I leave at 6 o’clock in the morning, and you know, home at roughly 6:20, so I don’t have a lot of time for myself,” he said.

The double-amputee relies on the light rail at Interstate 80 and Watt Avenue to get to and from work every day. But he says for more than a month, just getting to the train platform itself has been a problem.

“The eastern elevator hasn’t worked since October,” Keeney said, adding that “this one (western elevator) stopped working in late June.

The day KCRA 3 met Keeney, neither elevator was working. There were no out-of-order signs, though one elevator had a barricade leaning up against the button. The other had a barricade several feet away, lying on the ground, chained to a pillar.

“They have a shuttle bus that’s supposed to help disabled people from down here to over there,” Keeney said, pointing to a bus waiting curbside, just a short distance from the wheelchair ramp. “But there’s only one bus. So it has to be the right area and correct time.”

Watt Avenue crosses over I-80, so getting to there, where a bus would take Keeney home, requires going up onto the overpass, which sits above the light rail station. When the elevators are working, that takes just a couple minutes. The shuttle takes much longer. From the I-80 location, the bus has to merge onto the interstate, travel east a couple of miles up to Madison Avenue, exit, cross over, then merge back onto Interstate 80 going west. The bus then exits, gets off, and lets Keeney off at Watt Avenue, where he would get on another bus to go the mile or so home.

The round trip can sometimes take up to 20 minutes or more.

“It’s a lot of time to go roughly. I don’t know what is that, 50 feet?” Keeney said while pointing up to Watt Avenue from the light rail platform.

If Keeney misses that bus, though, or it’s not there, his trip is far different. He folds up his wheelchair, lifts it up two or three stairs, and lifts his legs step, by step, by step. He does this up three flights to get to Watt Avenue. His big question: “When will both the elevators be fixed?”

KCRA 3 Investigates reached out to Sacramento Regional Transit to ask that question. In an email, RT said that recurring vandalism has been a problem at that station. They also said an unhoused person tried to camp in one of the elevators, wedging the door open, causing a fault to occur, which is a safety mechanism. Still, four days after KCRA 3 reached out, the elevators were fixed.

RT said it is implementing a pilot program that would have someone staffing the elevators when the light rail is running. They would also have security on-site to make sure it is secure during off-hours. Sac RT will shut the elevators off during off hours as well — all this to try and prevent further breakdowns, they said. A new grant has been awarded, also, to help them make necessary upgrades to the station. They have already begun the process of asking for bids to do the work.

As for Keeney, he is glad they have fixed the elevators, making his trip home a few miles shorter.

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