On April 16, 2010, ADAPT protested at Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) headquarters demanding that it stop violating federal law, and address and redress the issues of bus pass-ups, broken lifts and ramps, and trip denials on Lift Line. During that protest, with no response from CEO Mark Aesch, it was suggested that we write a letter to each of the RGRTA Board members to request a meeting.
Though our requests to meet with RGRTA’s Board of Commissioners had been ignored in the past, in good faith, we wrote individually to John G. Doyle, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, as well as each of the other members. The letter was sent on May 14, 2010, with a June 1 deadline for response about the requested meeting.
June 1st came and went without an answer. This was personal to our members who are denied transportation, so it should be personal to the RGRTA Board members who are responsible to the community for public transit. Therefore, we made the decision that John Doyle would get a personal visit at his place of work. Mr. Doyle is President of Doyle Security Systems in Rochester.
On June 9, 2010, thirty of us gathered in the rain about one block away. We marched to the building’s entrance, and many of us were able to get inside before being stopped by Doyle Security employees.
Once inside, we asked for Mr. Doyle, but he was not there. His employees chose to argue with us, rather than get on the phone and call their boss. We began loudly chanting, “Who do we want? John Doyle! When do we want him? NOW!!” We chanted so loudly that customers calling their “call center” could hear us in the background. Needless to say, they wanted ADAPT gone, and used every tactic to try to get us to leave, but we held firm. It was obvious that Doyle staff were embarrassed that we had breached their secure building!
Finally, the police were called. When they arrived, they were not in a negotiating mood, and told us in no uncertain terms that we had to leave the building. Our people tried hard to negotiate as best we could to get a simple meeting about our grievances, but when the officers began threatening arrests, we felt that we had gotten our point across very clearly and decided, this time, to leave.
Shortly after we left, Stephanie Woodward, Transportation Systems Advocate for CDR, received a text from her sister, who works at a well-known security firm, a competitor of Doyle Security. They had sent out a memo saying that Doyle Security had been “broken into”! (The door had not been locked!) We had vacated the building before any press could arrive so, unlike the April 16 protest, there was no media coverage.
The following day, I attended a meeting with the Bus Fareness Coalition and two members of the RGRTA Board of Commissioners, as well as the RGRTA Director of Customer Relations. They had a conversation among themselves about how “John’s house, no, his office was broken into”, and how perhaps, “Anita could update us on this.”
Still wondering about the impact of this latest step to enforce our civil rights, on June 14, 2010, Diane Coleman, Director of Advocacy at CDR, received a letter from RGRTA’s attorney, asking for clarification about the “alleged” violations. On June 16, 2010, CDR received another letter, this time from John Doyle, himself. In his letter, he cited statistics and surveys that gave RGRTA a 95% satisfaction rate. This was the first time that CDR has seen a response under John Doyle’s signature.
This effort will continue. ADAPT and the Center for Disability Rights will not stop until RGRTA complies with the ADA and develops a culture of respect for people with disabilities.