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Disabled riders defend bus system to council

A debate broke out at Thursday’s city council meeting in Pocatello.

Several people showed up to say they wanted the city to take a look at de-funding, or severely reducing the funding, for Pocatello Regional Transit, the city’s bus system. But those voices did not go unopposed.

Defenders of the transit system said they received a “call to action” Thursday morning. PRT knew this would be an issue at the public budget hearing, and called in some of its most dedicated riders.

An army of wheelchairs rolled in to the public budget hearing in an effort to let the council and public know, they depend on PRT’s door-to-door pick-up system just to live.

Those who opposed the funding of the bus system said the buses are ineffective, no one rides them and the buses take people distances that they could easily walk.

Tracy Martin, who has been wheelchair bound since a semi hit her on the highway, said the bus system has allowed her to get a job, buy a house, get her graduate degree and be a contributing member of society.

People against the bus system said they didn’t want anyone to be left out, but were concerned that $7.1 million had been allocated to the transit system. But, Pocatello Chief Financial Officer Dave Swindell said money has been accumulating over several years, and $486,000 were taken from property taxes for PRT this year. That $7.1 million will be accompanied by a $1.7 million dollar federal grant to build the new transit building.

In the end, it was hard to ignore just how much disabled people rely on the transit system.

“I guess my big question is, have they ever used it? Have they ever needed it? Has anything ever happened in their lives that made it so they couldn’t drive their own vehicle? I’d like them to live a little bit in my shoes, and then tell me what I’m supposed to do,” Martin said.

The city will take written comments on the budget until Aug. 15.

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