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A Better Route

Disability advocates score a victory with the abolition of conditional eligibility for STAR paratransit services

Users of STAR will no longer have to count blocks or check the weather forecast before scheduling a trip. STAR—Special Transportation Available by Request—is a paratransit service offered by the Capital District Transportation Authority for those who are unable to use or have difficulty using regular bus routes due to disability. The CDTA Disabled Advisory Committee, working closely with advocacy groups and CDTA executive director Carm Basile, has abolished conditional eligibility for STAR riders.

Previously, a rider with conditional ability would be limited to service depending on a variety of conditions, ranging from weather to sidewalk accessibility.

“An applicant would go to the doctor and the doctor would give them eligibility but say that only if it was raining they would need STAR or if there was no sidewalk they should have it, and they would piecemeal it together,” said Donna Suhor, director of the Capital District Coalition for Accessible Transportation and a member of the Disability Advisory Committee. “Others would call up and they would be denied because they were within three blocks of a bus stop, but the dispatcher would ignore the fact that the person might have to make a transfer. Or someone with conditional eligibility for rain would have problems making a reservation two weeks in advance. Who knows what the weather is going to be two weeks from now?”

CDTA has agreed that the policy, which first began in 2007, was too restrictive and confusing. Instead, people eligible to receive STAR paratransit service will either have full eligibility or seasonal eligibility, which limits service to the winter months.

“This is a very, very big success,” Suhor said. “It’s a very positive thing. I hope other areas in New York state hear this and it helps other people, too.” For example, the New York City Mass Transit Authority still has conditional eligibility.

As previously reported in Metroland, Suhor and the CDCAT have had many complaints from STAR riders and have been major players in advocating against conditional eligibility, as well as what they view as an overly intensive certification process. Similar services are required of all public transportation systems across the country under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Those who wish to apply for STAR must first go through a medical examination.

Suhor pointed to the active disabilities advocacy community and new CDTA executive director Basile for this recent success. “The new director seems a lot more reasonable than Ray Melleady ever was,” Suhor said, “and we have a lot of hope for solving a lot of STAR problems with him.”

Denise Figueroa, CDTA Board of Directors member and director of the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, was also instrumental in advocating for improvements to STAR service.

“There were too many conditions, and it was almost an impossible task for the dispatchers to even determine whether the trip was eligible or not. It made sense all around, for the disability community, obviously, but also from CDTA’s perspective to try to simplify things.”

Suhor is also excited about the recent decision to allow more disability organizations to join the CDTA Disability Advisory Committee.

“Previously, it seemed that CDTA only wanted agencies on the Disability Advisory Committee and not people with disabilities or those that advocate for them, and that’s a shame,” Suhor said. “So I’m very happy that they’re welcoming disability advocacy organizations.”

Both Suhor and Figueroa said that this is only one part of their overall goals in advocating for those with disabilities. They both point to the current nursing home issue in Albany County as one that will have a major impact on those with disabilities.

—Cecelia Martinez

For more information on CDCAT or the ILCHV, visit or For more information on STAR, visit

Not on Our Watch

Photo: Kathryn Geurin

Environmental advocacy group Save the Pine Bush held a press conference on the steps of Albany City Hall Tuesday to announce that they have filed suit against the city of Albany and the Department of Environmental Conservation. The lawsuit, filed this week in New York State Supreme Court, challenges the legality of permits for expansion of the Rapp Road Landfill on grounds ranging from failure to comply with current environmental regulations to the constitutionality of the city’s bonding of the mitigation fees. The group is also filing for an injunction to stop construction of the expansion until the suit is resolved. Councilman and mayoral candidate Corey Ellis (Ward 3) and Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) have filed affidavits in support of the injunction. According to Calsolaro, the city has consistently and flagrantly failed to enforce the permit requirements from the 1990 expansion. “The DEC,” he said, “should not have granted the expansion until the city can prove it is going to comply with the permit conditions.”




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