Concerns raised about ADA accessibility on Aggie Spirit buses and at bus stops


By Donnie Tuggle

Published: October 6, 2022

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed by Former President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and was created to ensure that disabled Americans are protected from discrimination in several areas, including transportation, employment, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.

With College Station being the second home to the Late 41st President of the United States, those with disabilities say they would like to see the city and university collaborate to become a more ADA-friendly community.

John Nicks is a Plantersville resident who visits Aggieland often for doctor’s appointments and visits to the Texas A&M campus for events. He says he’s faced some challenges with transportation that he says should be a top priority for both Texas A&M and the city of College Station.

Recently after parking his car in the Northgate Entertainment District of the city to catch the Aggie Spirit Bus to and from campus Nicks says he encountered several obstacles.

The first of those obstacles he says was getting his wheelchair off the sidewalk near the bus loading zone. The area between the sidewalk and street is not paved and is mixed with grass, gravel, and rocks. Nicks says he has to also get his wheelchair over a curb to access the bus’s wheelchair ramp.

“It’s a little tricky for me to get up and down if I was boarding or deboarding at this bus stop right here,” said Nicks. It’s a bit of a challenge. Sometimes you have to ask for assistance or use your brute force or what little bit of strength you have in your body strength to try to lift up.”

Nick’s challenges didn’t stop there. He says after getting to the bus, the lift was not operational and he was forced to wait for another bus to come. Overall he says it was an experience that was dehumanizing for him.

“It felt awful. It’s like dehumanizing as an individual,” said Nicks.

Nicks says he also believes Texas A&M Transportation Services should put more focus on training drivers on how to assist people with disabilities and ensuring the equipment on buses is checked daily.

“I don’t feel like the buses are fully maintained well on the lifts and the drivers are fully trained,” Nicks said. “That {checking lift} should be one of the top priorities that they should do before they put the bus into service.”

In a statement, both the city of College Station and Texas A&M University say they’re committed to ensuring people with disabilities have the resources and assistance when traveling through the city and on campus.

“We learned about this concern this week and are looking into the matter.”

Tad Fifer, communications manager with Texas A&M says the university really wants to partner with those with disabilities to provide solutions that meet their needs and encourage them to contact us with their concerns.

Fifer says all drivers are instructed on how to operate lifts and load passengers with wheelchairs onto a bus during training and that refresher wheelchair lift training is provided via online videos. He also says drivers are reminded frequently to contact dispatchers if they have any questions or issues using the wheelchair lifts.

As with any aging fleet, Fifer says the equipment will occasionally fail despite buses being checked prior to departing the transportation facility.

“Our oldest bus equipment has wheelchair lifts that are not always reliable. When an unexpected lift failure occurs, the drivers are trained to contact dispatch to see when the next bus on the route will be coming to that location,” said Fifer. “Dispatch determines if the next bus will be quicker or if sending out a para van will be the quickest way to provide transportation to our para passengers causing them as little inconvenience as possible.”

Fifer says Texas A&M is also constantly replacing older buses in its fleet.

“In the last 2 years, with the addition of our new buses, we were able to retire 47 old buses from our fleet. That is the good news,” Fifer said. “Unfortunately, we still have 35 old buses that will remain active in our fleet for at least the next few years.”

“Another piece of good news is that our newest buses (57 buses) have a manual override on their lifts that won’t fail,” said Fifer. " Truly, our problem exists with 35 buses and their lifts inconsistency of working or not at any given time. We’ve looked into replacing these lifts, but the parts are not readily available.”

Fifer says the university also offers paratransit service designed for getting students, faculty, and staff between the A&M campus and their local residences.

“We just ask that you contact us and let us know what your needs are, let us be good partners with you because they may be things we can do with our daily service that might help fit your needs,” said Fifer.

The university also provides accessible parking and paratransit services on the day of home football games. Information on gameday accessible parking and paratransit service can be found here.

For more information on the Texas A&M, Paratransit Service click here.

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