Marva Samuel couldn't come up with enough cash for a paratransit bus ride to her doctor's appointment. Instead of making her doctor's appointment in Palo Alto, she spent the day sitting in her wheelchair at the Orinda BART station, left there by East Bay Paratransit, the company that was supposed to take the Antioch woman to the other side of the bay.
"I said, 'I'm not getting off this bus.' She said, 'Well, they have to call the police,'" Samuel recalled. Samuel is a former San Francisco Muni bus driver who's had nine operations on her left leg. She made arrangements for her Palo Alto trip with an Antioch paratransit service a week ago. That company then arranged all the transfers and picked her up for the first leg of her journey from Antioch to Orinda early Tuesday morning.
There was never any mention of an additional fare at the transfer point in Orinda. That is, until the East Bay Paratransit bus arrived and the driver asked Samuel for $9 in cash. "I said, '$9? They didn't tell me this.' I said, 'I have my credit card. I can give you my credit card or my disabled card that has that link, the new system,' and she says, 'No, we can't accept that,'" Samuel said.
Samuel scraped up $5 from her purse. The bus driver said that wasn't enough and ordered her off the bus. She missed her Palo Alto doctors' appointment. "That appointment says if you cancel or don't show, it's $500. I don't have $500," she said.
ABC7 News contacted East Bay Paratransit for comment on what happened to Samuel. A spokesperson said their employees were only following policies established by the company they contract with, Veolia Transportation. Veolia Transportation General Manager Mark Weinstein released a statement saying, "All of our riders have to pay a fare. We conveyed what the fare was. The rider did not have the fare at the pickup. We tried to resolve the situation and unfortunately by the time it was resolved, the vehicle we were meeting with for her final leg of the journey to Palo Alto was no longer available."
When ABC7 News found Samuel, she had been sitting on the curb for more than two hours waiting for a bus sent by the Antioch service to pick her up. When it did, she paid $4 and headed back home.