Blind Lincoln mother has ideas for better transportation services

Posted By: Bayley Bischof 

When you need to go somewhere, what do you do?

The answer is likely, get behind the wheel of your car and drive to work, to your children’s school or to the store.

But what if you couldn’t?

That’s life for some with disabilities, like Stacy Cervenka.

This summer, Cervenka, a mother of two here in Lincoln, enrolled her son Leo in a week long day camp that cost $200.

But by the end of it, her family spent $500 on that camp.

"Every day I had to pay Uber or Lyft $15 to get him there, and then $15 to get myself back home, then pick him up for $15 and then $15 again to get us home,” Cervenka said.

Cervenka and her husband are both blind and therefore can’t drive.

This is the reality her family and others face every day, when Star Tran, and Handi–Vans, vehicles those with disabilities can schedule, don’t meet their needs.

Cervenka went before the Star Tran Advisory Council Thursday, armed with ideas to make Lincoln more accessible.

"The city could do what many others are,” Cervenka said. Take some of the money spent on Handi-vans and partner with Uber or Lyft. An example is in Boston, the rider pays the first $2, the city may subsidize $15 and you’d pay the rest."

She said this would serve people with disabilities better than the current Handi–Van system and may not even cost the city more money.

"The Handi–Van system is set up for individuals to call to call the day before up to seven days to book their trip,” Mike Davis, transit manager for Star Tran said. “We do have a certain number of subscriptions, so people can take a trip every day, they can sign up for that but there is a wait list."

Cervenka said this isn’t a realistic mode of transportation because there’s no guarantee you’ll be picked up on time, and it can’t be relied on multiple times a day.

"The system is predicated on an outdated model that people with disabilities only go out of their homes once a week to medical appointments or to visit family,” she said. “It doesn’t assume you have a busy life with children, jobs, and are involved in the community."

She said transportation problems like she faces is the main reason 70% of blind people are unemployed.

But if Star Tran partnered with ride share services, people with disabilities would be able to call an affordable ride they can rely on.

"It would mean we could put our son in whatever preschool in town we could afford,” Cervenka said. “We could send him to any public school we wanted. That when it’s snowing or 90 degrees, I can take my kids where we need to go."

Star Tran said they are going to reach out to other cities that successfully use ridesharing programs and see if it’d be possible in Lincoln.

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