PORTLAND, Ore. — Jack Smith, a partial quadriplegic who relies on paratransit to get to and from appointments, has been waiting for his ride since 5 p.m. last night, and it is now 7 a.m.
“I’m tryin’ to see the bright side of a real rough situation,” huffed Smith, downing another cup of coffee. “I had another ride scheduled for eight this morning so, I don’t know, I guess they’re technically early now? I know they think wheelchair users have nothing else to do, but why would we need a ride if we didn’t have somewhere to be?”
Angela Jones, a paratransit driver now on the 16th hour of her shift, was noticeably frazzled when she arrived at 7:30 a.m. to a visibly angry Smith.
“In my own defense, we’re severely underfunded,” said Jones, trying to apologize to Smith. “God knows no paratransit program has ever had sufficient funds, anywhere, ever. We’re stretched thin, and people keep quitting, and I’m due for a break, like, yesterday.”
We asked Smith and Jones to comment further, but both had drifted off to sleep.