Some Norwich seniors were concerned transportation issues might prevent them from casting their ballots Tuesday.
Previously, the seniors road a Southeast Area Transit (SEAT) District bus, which dropped riders off in front of the doors of Rose City Senior Center. But recently the route changed, and the bus wasn’t scheduled to drop off in that spot.
Gail Forbes a hip problem and said she would be in pain if she had to walk from a bus stop two-tenths of a mile away to her polling place at the senior center.
“I hear a lot of people saying well, if you don’t vote you can’t say anything. Well if you can’t get out and vote because transportation is no longer available to you, what do you do,” Forbes asked.
She lives in senior housing in the Taftville section of Norwich, doesn’t have a car and said SEAT buses come directly to her complex. But that route no longer goes to the door of the senior center.
Instead it drops passengers off about two-tenths of a mile away on Ox Hill Road.
“I could walk it, but I would be in pain. But I’m looking at some people who are in walkers who can’t really walk that far,” Forbes said.
NBC Connecticut rose the concerns to Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, who reached out to SEAT. General Manager Mike Carroll sent out an email later in the afternoon saying they will drive passengers to the door of the senior center on Election Day.
Carroll said the change in drop-off location came because new buses SEAT acquired over the summer would scrape along the pavement when driving up the incline into the senior center.
While Mahan Road was recently repaved, public works said the pavement is not any higher. The parking lot to the senior center was not repaved.
Mike Wolak, senior affairs director with the Rose City Senior Center, pointed out the scrapes on the road and also another entrance to the Senior Center yards away. He said coach buses opt to use that entrance.
“It seems like there should be a simple solution to it. Why doesn’t the SEAT bus just use the first entrance? There’s plenty of room down on that far end to swing a bus through here,” Wolak said.
But he hasn’t reached out to SEAT about it since he hasn’t personally heard complaints about the issue.
The senior center does have its own transportation but besides medical calls, they will not be running during Election Day. Classes at the center were canceled because it’s a polling place.
Carroll said SEAT would prefer buses do not go through parking lots.
“Because there are safety issues in parking lots, there’s pavement issues in parking lots, there’s running time issues in parking lot,” Carroll said.
When asked about using an older bus for the route, since they didn’t hit the pavement, Carroll said, “we really can’t dedicate on any given day based on the make of the fleet.”
SEAT will be posting the fact they’re stopping at the senior center on Election Day on their website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. They will be using one of the older buses from 2007.
SEAT will continue to explore other options after that, according to Carroll.