Interested in helping improve the lives of seniors and people with disabilities? Join SacRT’s mobility advisory council!
Seventeen years ago, when Pam Flohr heard the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) was forming a citizen’s group called the Mobility Advisory Council to advise the district on accommodating people with disabilities and senior riders, she knew she had to be involved.
Flohr was working as a rehabilitation therapist and saw how difficult it can be for people with disabilities and elderly to get out of the house and participate in daily life, including getting rides to therapy appointments.
“I could see how transportation is a major limiting factor in what they can do,” she said. “If you don’t have terrific local transportation, you can’t be a terrific community.”
She’s served on the council ever since and says it’s extremely rewarding to help on such an important issue.
Now, SacRT and its Mobility Advisory Council (MAC) are issuing a new call to action. Volunteers are needed to join Flohr and her colleagues on the MAC. A handful of council positions are open.
SacRT’s call comes during an important month. On July 26th, we commemorate National Disability Independence Day, marking the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark law that led to the formation of SacRT’s MAC. In honor of the historic day, SacRT is offering systemwide free rides on all bus, light rail, SmaRT Ride and SacRT GO paratransit services. Learn more at sacrt.com/freerides.
Volunteers don’t need to have a disability to serve on the MAC, Flohr said. But they need to have some knowledge about mobility issues faced by the senior and disabled community.
Applications are available online at sacrt.com/MAC. If you have questions, or recommendations for potential members, please contact Priscilla Vargas, SacRT’s ADA Compliance Officer, at 279-234-8391 or by email at email@example.com.
Vargas, who oversees SacRT’s compliance with the ADA, says the MAC plays a vital role in guiding SacRT.
“MAC is really the voice of people with disabilities and seniors,” she said. “They are advisory, but they are well respected as valuable counsel. It’s important to have that voice to ensure that SacRT is considering full access to people with disabilities.”
MAC members currently are working with SacRT on planned light rail upgrades, which include new low-floor cars as well as a station modernization program. Those changes will make it easier for people with disabilities, including the visually impaired, to use transit. That will bring more of what Vargas calls “spontaneity” to their daily lives.
Members have visited light rail car manufacturer Siemens, and have worked with SacRT staff on designs for new station platforms to assure the platforms are safe and convenient for individuals facing mobility challenges.
Craig Norman, SacRT’s Director of Engineering and Construction, says the collaboration makes transit projects better for everyone. “I’m excited to work with the MAC to prepare for a vehicle that is more easily accessible to the elderly and people with mobility devices as well as the public in general,” he said.
MAC chairman Charles Johnson says the mobility group will help SacRT teach riders about the new trains and stations when they are completed. “We are going to be very involved in a training program for disabled and elderly to learn how to negotiate the new ramps and platforms.”
SacRT’s effort to serve the disabled and seniors has taken on added importance as more riders return post-COVID and as the Sacramento population ages.
Among those new riders is Natomas resident Michelle Hernandez, a former state worker who has mobility and immune system issues. She recently took her first ride on SacRT GO paratransit services and was so pleased with the experience that she messaged us a thank you on social media. The SacRT GO shuttle ride, she said, allowed her to help friends miles away in Elk Grove who are dealing with their own health issues.
The experience was more than pleasant, she said. It was enjoyable and empowering.
“My first driver and I talked about our favorite movies the whole way,” she said. “I really like that (both drivers) made sure that I could get up and down the steps. I probably should have used the ramp, but I try to challenge myself. My second driver stood right there and said, ‘Ok, you can do it. You’ve got two more steps. You’ve got one more step.”
“Thank you,” she wrote to us, “for making my life a little easier.”
Another new rider is 16-year-old Hunter Nousaine, a student at Sacramento New Technology High School who uses a wheelchair. This summer, he is taking SacRT buses and trains for a summer internship at Sacramento City Hall, where he is learning about how government works.
“Riding SacRT makes me feel a lot more like an adult,” Nousaine said. “It definitely feels like I’ve grown and matured. I’m really interested in politics and government. I want to make an impact on the community. Maybe even represent the community one day.”
Nousaine rides for free thanks to the RydeFreeRT program, which offers fare-free transit for youth and students up to 12th grade.
Flohr said that by helping smart and energetic people of all ages get out of the house and participate in their community, SacRT and its MAC can help the community as a whole.
“They can be employed. They can volunteer and offer community service,” she said. “They can give to their community. They can share their skills. They can reach their full potential.”
Although SacRT and the MAC have made much progress, there is more work ahead, said MAC member Frank Trujillo, who has visual impairment.
“The ADA has improved the lives of people with disabilities in all areas as well as transportation,” Trujillo said. “It has given us more independence to travel. We love and appreciate the (SacRT) service, and we look forward to making more progress.”