- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Three to four afternoons a week, Schuylar Langston boards a city bus, then rides 12 miles to a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. Once there, he frequently works until closing time, busing tables and washing dishes.

Langston says he enjoys his part-time job, which he began two weeks ago. But when the lights in the restaurant go dark, the 23-year-old faces a problem: finding a ride home.

The Sioux City Journal (https://bit.ly/2aqbQkG ) reports that Langston was diagnosed with autism and anxiety in fourth grade and currently resides in a Crossroads of Western Iowa home in the Riverside neighborhood with two roommates. He’s tried driving before, and he said it simply isn’t an option because of the stress.

“I feel like I’ll get in an accident or something,” he said. “I also have a bad sense of direction, and I’m not sure I can get through Sioux City by myself.”

Since city buses only run until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Langston must make other travel arrangements after hours. For now, his sister is picking him up at night, but he’d like to find a long-term solution.

Options in Sioux City, however, are limited.

“The only thing we’re down to is just a regular taxi,” said Traci Poston, Langston’s mother, who lives in Kingsley. “And for him to get a taxi out by the mall clear to this side of Riverside, which is clear at the very end of town, you’re looking at $20 to $30.”

Crossroads of Western Iowa does offer transportation assistance for its residents, Poston said, and Langston frequently catches rides to grab groceries and make doctor visits. But for Langston’s commute to work, transportation services won’t be available in the long-term.

Jamie Gross, residential director for Crossroads, said that’s because Sioux City’s division currently offers a residential program but not a supported employment program. For an employee to transport a resident to work each day, others living at the home would be left alone.

“There’s a staff member there whenever they’re home,” Gross said. “We do provide transportation, and our job is to get them to the grocery store, out and about in the community, but we have to consider, what do the roommates do when we’re doing this?”

Looking for an answer, Langston and Poston researched the New Freedom Nights & Weekends Program through the city transit system, which provides reduced-rate, after-hours transportation for disabled riders. To be eligible, riders must first qualify for the city’s paratransit service.

The family has applied for the paratransit service, but they see where Langston could feasibly fall through the cracks. According to the program’s brochure, the application process takes into account a rider’s ability to get from residence to the nearest bus stop, use an inclined ramp and locate and understand the bus schedule.

That’s not a problem for Langston, which puts him in a quandary: His disability prevents him from driving, but he’s not disabled in a way that keeps him from riding a normal bus route.

Dawn Kimmel, mobility manager with the Siouxland Regional Transit System, acknowledged some people who need after-hours transit do not qualify for the city’s program, and budget constraints make it impossible for the program to fit all needs.

“It’s developed specifically for people for paratransit (services). There’s not funding enough for it to reach further populations,” Kimmel said. “But it would be great to have the opportunity to help coordinate some night and Sunday service for people who don’t have other options.”

Aside from the nights and weekend program, Kimmel said taxi is the only 24-hour public service.

Assistant City Manager Mike Collett said extending transit hours is at the top of his priority list when funding becomes available.

“It comes down to budget,” he said. “It’s our number-one request.”

Poston said affordable transportation for those like her son seems to be a missing link in a system otherwise helping him move toward independence.

“If they can’t drive and we’re not giving them access to the transportation, … then how are we getting them on their own?” Poston said.

Gross agreed, saying she has seen several others struggle to find adequate transportation during her time working with Crossroads.

“We absolutely want to help people and see that they can get the jobs,” Gross said. “Our whole program is based on getting people more independent and learning to do things like that on their own, and so I think that definitely is a need.”

Gross said supported employment services will likely come to Sioux City’s Crossroads program, but she did not know a date.

Poston said she’s not interested in handouts, but rather would like to see a transportation service — whether it’s city or privately run — for people like Langston.

“I think if somewhere we can show proof that these people have a disability, … then we should be able to show it to somebody, and they should get a reduced rate,” she said. “We have no problems paying for it. We just want it to be there.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal, https://www.siouxcityjournal.com

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