A 10-year battle to get special door-to-door service for a Steilacoom woman with a disability is now in U.S. Federal Court.
Crystal McCann, 30, is suing Pierce Transit for denying her applications to use the Shuttle program eight times since 2004.
McCann has physical and mental disabilities, including heart disease, attention deficit disorder and epilepsy.
“She’s been a handful all of her life,” said McCann’s mother Cheryl Davis, “But I wouldn’t trade it.”
McCann lives with her parents, but is active in the community, participating in sports and other activities. But getting to those events is a chore, and Davis said her daughter’s condition prevents real independence.
“She’s my baby, and I don’t want to give up my baby,” she said. “But, I want her to be an adult and part of the community.”
McCann has tried to ride the bus multiple times. However, she often ends up lost. She also has frequent seizures, and according to her parents, little ability to comprehend.
“Too many people,” McCann said when asked why she doesn’t like the bus, “It makes me feel crowded.”
According to the lawsuit filed last week, Pierce Transit told McCann in March she “has the functional ability” to be a regular bus rider, and that her physical condition, “does not prevent bus use”.
McCann’s attorney, Todd Carlisle of Northwest Justice Project, said her case is part of a larger problem. It’s the fifth time Pierce Transit has been sued over denial of its Shuttle service, and Carlisle said his organization has dealt with more than fifty similar cases. Most were settled out of court.
Pierce Transit declined to speak about the litigation Sunday. It said roughly 5,900 people use its Shuttle program, which helps those who cannot ride the regular bus because of a disability.
Spokesperson Carol Mitchell said federal American Disability Act guidelines are vague on this issue, and Pierce Transit does what it can to accommodate. Those who are denied can appeal.
Mitchell said the “burden is on the applicant” to prove through medical information they cannot ride the bus. She also pointed out it costs Pierce Transit $42-per-passenger for the Shuttle service, while regular bus riders cost $6.
Carlisle contends Pierce Transit does not have an adequate way to gauge whether someone has the mental ability to ride the bus, despite earlier lawsuit settlements and application changes.
McCann and her parents only hope their legal fight helps others in similar situations.