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Regional bus service sought by Everybody Counts

Members Everybody Counts disabled rights group attended Thursday's Northwestern IndianRegional Planning Commissimeeting seeking regional bus service. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Tijmes Media

Members of Everybody Counts, a disabled rights group, attended Thursday's Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission meeting seeking regional bus service. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Tijmes Media

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Updated: June 17, 2014 2:36PM



PORTAGE — A disabled rights group renewed a plea for regional bus transportation service during Thursday’s executive board meeting of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Several members carried signs critical of the regional planning group.

Roy Dominguez, a board member of Everybody Counts, along with several of its members, addressed the board at the end of its meeting Thursday.

“An integrated bus system is important to us,” Dominguez said. “People with disabilities want to go to the doctor’s office, to parks, to festivals. None of that exists and you folks are the ones they look to give them some hope to make a difference in their lives.”

Mary Lee Vance, of Hammond, said as an administrator at Purdue University Calumet, she’s required to attend meetings that she can’t always get to because of the lack of bus service.

“We need to be able to travel locally,” she said. “We are not a bunch of people who are losers.”

At the end of the meeting, NIRPC Chairman Brian Snedecor, the mayor of Hobart, said he would discuss establishing a committee to examine bus transportation with Ty Warner, NIRPC executive director.

“I do understand there’s a need for mass transportation. ... Funding has always been an issue. It’s a balancing act,” said Snedecor.

After the meeting, Everybody Counts director Teresa Torres criticized NIRPC for its handling of more than $1 million from the now-defunct Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority.

When the RBA lost its funding and shut down, the Indiana Department of Transportation gave NIRPC the authority to distribute funding the RBA had earned for 2013 and 2014, she said.

NIRPC gave the 2013 allotment of $506,267 to agencies in Porter County and south Lake County, according to Torres. She said urban communities in northern Lake County didn’t benefit, although riders there generated the funding.

Since Everybody Counts complained, she said INDOT directed the 2014 funding of $562,701 to East Chicago Transit and the Gary Public Transit Corp., which is expanding routes in Hammond.

After criticism at the April meeting over the placement of public comments at the beginning of the agenda, Snedecor said he moved the public comment period to the end of the agenda.

“Things may come up during the meeting for follow-up comment,” he said.



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