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TARTA’s paratransit service, TARPS, marks milestone

For people living with disabilities, transportation can often be a barrier.  It was a need the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, or TARTA, recognized nearly three decades ago and in October of 1989, it launched a service dedicated to those with special needs.

“TARPS started running on October 2, 1989, before President George Bush signed the ADA into law,” director of paratransit services at TARTA, Connor Briggs said. “I’m very proud to work for an organization that was on the cutting edge of this type of service.”
 

30 years later, TARPS is providing more than 950 rides a day and 300,000 year getting passengers with disabilities to work, doctor appointments, school and social events.  During a celebration commemorating the milestone, Briggs praised his staff for their hard work and dedication, adding that everyone behind the scenes works “tirelessly” to make each day better than the last.

“It is no secret to anyone in this community that TARTA is in an important transitional phase right now.  And I would be naïve to say that TARPS service is perfect in any way, shape or form.  But we have great staff behind us that’s working every single day to provide a service that’s needed for the individuals that ride TARPS on a daily basis,” Briggs said.

One of those passengers also spoke to the crowd of elected officials, TARTA employees and community leaders.  Angie Goodnight, who is also works with the Ability Center, never relied on public transportation.  She says she used it to get to Southwyck mall as a teenager, and aside from that, she always had a car to get her where she needed to go.

But in 1998, a major health crisis changed her life forever.

“I was 32 weeks pregnant for my fourth child and I developed pancreatitis.  I went into a medically induced coma for 14 days and I was only given a 30% chance to live,” Goodnight explained.  “At home I had a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old and a one year old and then a newborn and I woke up from my coma, 14 days later totally blind.”

Now, not only was she adjusting to life as a mother of four, she was doing it without her sight.  The hardest part, she says, was feeling as though she’d lost her independence.

“People often ask, what part of your disability was hardest for you?  For me it was getting into my car and going to the store for a gallon of milk or running to do something with one of my kids or being able to be that mom to go on that field trip, that was a little hard to swallow at first,” she recalled.  “I started to ride [TARPS] and what a sense of freedom.  It wasn’t just to take to work.  I could take my kids; we could do social things.  We could go to mall.  We could go to the movies.”

Goodnight has been a TARPS rider ever since, even taking the bus to the 30th anniversary celebration.

“I’m extremely independent.  I want to do my own thing. My kids drive and always say, ‘mom, I’ll take you, you don’t have to ride the bus,’ but I don’t want my kids to have to come over at 7:30 in the morning to run me to work [or wherever]. I can take TARPS and I really do enjoy it.”

Despite facing financial limitations system-wide, TARPS continues to run seven northwest Ohio communities, including Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Rossford, Sylvania, Sylvania township, Toledo and Waterville.  Briggs says it boils down to the organization’s commitment to accessibility.

“Accessibility matters and I’m grateful TARPS can play a small part in ensuring community wide accessibility,” he said. “I’m excited to see what the next 30 years holds for TARPS and for TARTA as an organization and if it has a positive effect on just one individual, I feel like all of this is worthwhile.”

 

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Revised: 10/22/19 10:20:50 -0700.

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