NIU buses run smoothly for handicapped

By Matt Gronlund

After nearly a year of use, the handicapped-accessible Huskie buses are running smoothly.

Last year, six accessible buses were purchased to comply with the American Disabilities Act. Seven more buses will be purchased by 1994, with three scheduled for August 1993 and four the following year, said Janet Potter of the Student Association Mass Transit Board (SAMTB).

Once the purchase is complete, the entire Huskie fleet will be accessible to handicapped students and DeKalb residents.

The six buses already purchased cost approximately $1 million. Each individual bus cost $173,000. The lift option cost $20,000 per bus.

Dave Rudy, a Huskie Bus driver on route six, said students use the lift on his bus almost everyday. “I have four students from the high school who ride pretty regularly,” he said. Ruby said he also has had some senior citizens use the lift.

“They like it, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get out,” Ruby said. “This way they have the freedom to get out, see the campus or go out to lunch.” The only alternative they have is the Transvac, Ruby said.

NIU students, who provide the most funding for the buses through student fee money, might not be using the buses at a great rate, however.

Dan Williams, a sophomore wheelchair user, said he does not know of any students who use the lifts. “I don’t really even know when the accessible buses run,” he said. “I haven’t had a need for the buses.”

“Most students use the Freedom Mobile,” said Linn Sorge, coordinator for Students with Disabilities.

The Freedom Mobile is an SAMTB-funded vehicle which transports impaired students from their door to class or even into DeKalb. “It goes door-to-door and into the stores, not just on the road like at Jewel or Walmart,” Sorge said. After Thanksgiving, the Freedom Mobile will make class-to-class runs for mobility- impaired students.

“Many of the Huskie routes are in inaccessible places,” Sorge said. “Some use the buses if they’re on the routes.”

Potter said in one instance she made arrangements for a student who was on a route with a non-accessible bus to switch an older bus with one of the new accessible buses.

There have been no major problems with the lifts. “It got stuck once, but it was fixed by the next day and working fine,” Rudy said.

“On the whole, we need more buses and more accessible stops,” Sorge said. This goal could be achieved when the fleet is fully accessible.