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Bull Runner institutes program for disabled riders

The Bull Runner’s new call ahead program for riders who use adaptive equipment seeks to reduce the hassle of overcrowded buses for those who need special accomodations. 

Students with adaptive equipment or service dogs who couldn’t find space on an overcrowded Bull Runner can now use a call-ahead system to let staff know a space for them is needed on the bus.

The Bull Runner is instituting a pilot program that will allow students who use walkers, crutches, wheelchairs or other equipment to give a heads up to bus staff to either make room for them or, if the bus is too crowded, send another bus en route to give them a ride.

“… Students who use adaptive equipment or have service dogs have expressed some concern that it’s often difficult to board busses because they’re so crowded and there’s people standing in the wheelchair isles or in the wheelchair spaces, and so this is one attempt to try to alleviate some of that concern by allowing students the option of calling ahead if they choose to do so that another bus can be put en route to accommodate them more directly,” Deborah McCarthy, director of Student Disability Service (SDS), said.

She said there have been complaints about students with adaptive equipment not being able to get on crowded buses. The complaints have come periodically for several semesters, depending on the semester and the bus routes. 

One student placed a complaint with Parking and Transportation in December asking them to do something about the situation, McCarthy said. SDS did not author the program, Parking and Transportation Services did.

The new program will help students with disabilities by providing a way to avoid there not being enough room to accommodate those who need the space.

“Presumably, the intention is that a student would then be picked up sooner if they were to call ahead because another bus would be sent out to help to manage some of the need, as opposed to having to wait for the next one and then finding out that the next one is also crowded,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said she put out the notice for the program on Thursday and, to her knowledge, the service went into effect the following day. She does not know if anyone has used it yet.

Calls must be made no more than 30 minutes in advance of a student intending to ride the Bull Runner. When placing a call, students should provide their name, as well as the intended bus route and bus stop to the dispatcher. The number is (813) 974-6902.

The system is not for making advanced reservations and is currently only in place for the Bull Runner. As for those who may take advantage of the new system although they do not qualify, McCarthy said there is nothing currently in place to stop anyone. They will solve that problem when it happens. For the most part, however, McCarthy doesn’t think this will be a big issue.

“I guess I would say that all pilot programs have the potential of being misused,” McCarthy said. “I have faith in the USF community that the people who will call ahead will call ahead because they need to call ahead.”