Regional Transportation Authority Chairman John Gates Jr. Today apologized to members of the disabled community for referring to ADA paratransit service as "limousine service."
Gates said he made the remark "without thinking" while trying to describe the difficulty of providing funding for federally required paratransit service for the disabled.
Gates made the comment to a meeting of the Daily Herald newspaper editorial board Oct. 4.
Gates was quoted as calling paratransit service "federally mandated limousine service."
Gates today called the remark "off the cuff and thoughtless."
"In my haste, I completely misspoke and I apologize," Gates said at an RTA board meeting.
"My comments were inappropriate and unfortunately could be misconstrued to suggest bias against the disabled community. Nothing can be farther from the truth."
Gates said he is "very sensitive" to the issue because his father is blind.
Gates said the RTA fully supports paratransit service for some 50,000 certified users a year at an annual cost of 140 million dollars.
Also speaking at the RTA meeting were three people with disabilities who said they were offended by Gates' comment. Marcia Trawinski, a former chairwoman of the RTA's ADA advisory committee, called Gates' remark "ill-informed and ... Ignorant."
Ray Campbell from Glen Ellyn, who is blind, said paratransit is a "lifeline" for the disabled.
He called on Gates to work to improve the dialogue between the transit agencies and disabled riders.