New 88 bus to disenfranchise some disabled | June 20, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 20, 2008

New 88 bus to disenfranchise some disabled

Service cuts, even with additions, to cost more with less access

by Sue Dremann

Disabled bus users remain adversely affected by cuts in VTA 88 service, despite a new community bus and some restoration of the previously cut route.

The new bus-route 88 was unveiled to Midtown residents Wednesday night by Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority officials. The shiny blue, red and silver bus carries 28 passengers and has a state-of-the-art wheelchair lift and fold-back seats to accommodate disabled passengers. Many people with disabilities said they not only live far from a bus stop, but will pay triple the fare for using Outreach paratransit service.

"There is a rule in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that controls paratransit. If you live within three-quarters of a mile of a fixed bus route, you are eligible for Outreach. But if you live outside of the three-quarter mile (radius), they are charging three times the normal fare. That cuts out the blind, many of whom are living on SSI. The city and VTA has to keep that in mind," Dawn Wilcox, a Midtown resident said.

Residents who already use Outreach will not be grandfathered in, Lihn Hoang, a VTA spokeswoman said. And riders who live outside the three-quarter mile limit will pay $10.50 each way — $7 more than the standard $3.50 one-way fare.

In May 2007, VTA proposed a plan to eliminate the portion of the 88 line that traveled from the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station, along Channing Avenue, across on Louis Road and along Charleston Road, citing low ridership and a duplication of services with the Palo Alto Shuttle.

Officials restored some of the service in January, but residents said it cut stops to schools and Midtown merchants.

The new route will include more frequent service and service to Midtown and Louis Road plus school commutes to Jordan Middle School and routes on Middlefield and Louis roads to Terman Middle School and Gunn High School. The route drops trips to San Antonio Shopping center and the San Antonio Caltrain station. Hoang said route 35 will serve the area. And trips will be made to either downtown Palo Alto or California Avenue shopping districts. Another bus, 89, offers limited service to California Avenue on weekdays, only during the morning and late afternoon.

Many disabled residents moved to Midtown because it is a "walkable" community, but the shortened route will make services less attainable, they said.

On Wednesday evening, "Jack," who is blind, reflected on the irony of the 88's unveiling.

"This is the closest the bus will ever get to my home," he said.

To shop at the Midtown Safeway, Jack will have to carry his groceries a half mile while balancing his white cane, he said.

"I used to use the 88 that went to Stanford Hospital and the shopping center, but I can't do that now because they eliminated it," he said.

Jack's options shrunk on several fronts when VTA modified service countywide, he added. When service to Menlo Park on the 22 bus was eliminated, Jack lost two sources of transportation. He can't take the 22 to Menlo Medical Clinic where his eye doctor, blood draw and cardiac services are located. And he can't take Outreach because VTA doesn't have a presence in San Mateo County anymore, he said.

Ruth Fisher, who lives near Channing Avenue, said the 88 and 89 buses don't stop anywhere near where she lives. At Channing and Newell, the bus stop was one block from her home. But now she must walk to Middlefield Road to catch the 35 bus.

"I used to meet people who relied on it to go to Stanford or California Avenue or to go to work. I don't know what's happened to them. We've been completely abandoned in this part of town," she said.

Clients at Abilities United, a nonprofit organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities, have also been adversely affected by the cuts, according to Sheraden Nicholau, Abilities United employment services and independent living skills manager.

"It's a concern. ... Our ILS (Independent Living Skills) instructors had to teach our clients new routes and new ways to go to work, to go shopping and to visit friends and family," Nicholau said. "New ways" of finding transportation may mean arranging transportation or walking further, she added.

Abilities United clients often face social isolation and depend on a monthly social event. But many now have trouble attending due to the 88-bus changes, she said.

Isolation is also a problem for veterans at the Palo Alto Veterans' Affairs Western Blind Rehabilitation Center.

Newly blinded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who stay at the blind center don't have off-campus bus service on weekends because of the changes to the 88 line, said Lila Jaffray, clinical coordinator for the blind center. Veterans are on limited incomes and must rely on taxis to take them to town on weekends, which is often too costly.

"Every Monday morning I come back and I hear them complaining. They've been there all weekend," she said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at


Like this comment
Posted by anonymouse
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2008 at 11:22 am

Nice editorial on the VTA's bus service. What's it doing in the news section?

Like this comment
Posted by Walk don't ride
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I have sympathy for the VTA I see the 88 bus in many locations on my walks around south Palo Alto and it is nearly always empty.

As a resident of Santa Clara I'm paying taxes that support this bus which never seems to have any passengers. End it now before we waste anymore money on this government supported VTA bus line.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2008 at 2:05 pm

The fact that some of these VTA buses are empty has little to do with market demand; it's a *public policy failure*. We have a discombobulated series of public transport groups, populated by unpaid politicians who don't know the first thing about moving people around, efficiently. There's literal political graft in the system, and too many people collecting a paycheck at the administrative level who are not listened to.

Mass transport is poorly incentivized, too costly, inconvenient (in terms of hours and location access), poorly coordinated (with other mass transport systems), poorly funded, and so on. It's a national disgrace.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm


The other poorly you omit to mention is poor advertised and poorly available to find information.

There is very little help for someone who waits at a bus stop to know when the bus will come or where it will take you and if you get off at Stanford or San Antonio, or somewhere there is no way of finding where to get the bus for the return journey. The schedules are hard to find, the web site is no use, the pay scheme is out of order (two rides cost two fares even if you are transferring from one route to another to get to your destination). VTA needs to become a transport facility aligned with all the other transport facilities across the Bay area and they need to get one ticket options, family tickets for offpeak travel, maps at destinations and other user friendly services that make people want to use public transport rather than have to.

Like this comment
Posted by JFP
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Once school is back in, there will be plenty of students on the 88, if they publicize that it is back.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2008 at 10:35 am

Summer school starts tomorrow at Gunn? Will there be a bus service?

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2008 at 9:59 am

No bus service for summer school.

It seems that even the VTA route planner doesn't know when the 88 operates as using today's date and asking for route and times to get to Gunn for summer school showed the Louis Road service working.

This is particularly difficult as Gunn is serving both its own and Paly students from the other side of town for summer school so the typical summer student lives further away from Gunn than the regular school year.


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