Wednesday, March 31, 2010

C-Tran shuts down today, many riders to be left stranded

Posted By on Wed, Mar 31, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Mary-Middlebrooks-C-Tran-cease-opeartions

Meet Mary Middlebrooks. Thanks to a car accident two years ago, the 54-year-old Clayton County resident walks slowly with a cane. And because she experiences blackout seizures, she can't drive a car.

Twice a month, Middlebrooks catches a C-Tran bus to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Once there she walks straight to the MARTA station, pays her fare, and rides the train to Grady Hospital to see her doctors for check-ups and prescription refills. Some mornings she has to look for pennies to fund the trip. When she's not taking the train to Atlanta, she relies on C-Tran to get her to the grocery store or assistance centers.

"It's all I have," Middlebrooks said on Friday as the train coasted into the East Point MARTA  station.

After today, Middlebrooks will be without a ride. Thanks to the county's tight budget (and county commissioners reluctance to find other sources of cash), C-Tran will cease operations. An estimated 8,500 riders, many of whom live on low-incomes and don't own a car, will be stranded.

"Clayton County's making a huge mistake," she said. "People are gonna lose their jobs, their homes. And if they don't have a job, how are are they gonna pay Clayton County taxes? [The county] thinks they're saving money, but they're losing money."

For Middlebrooks, who says she's earned a paycheck since the age of 14 doing everything from cleaning schools to making pencil lead, to not have transportation is a "hard pill to swallow."

Middlebrooks doesn't know how she'll travel to her doctor appointments or visit her family. Her daughter, who lives in Atlanta, owns a car. But she's between jobs and might get called for an interview, Middlebrooks says. She's considered finding a way to Atlanta the night before her doctor appointments, staying at her daughter's house, and then taking the bus to Grady in the morning. But how she'll get home from there is unclear.

"I base my life in God and the Holy Spirit," Middlebrooks says. "I just gotta keep the faith and pray we find a way to get through this."

The AJC's Ariel Hart has listed some options for stranded C-Tran riders. Clayton County Chairman Eldrin Bell and Commissioner Wole Ralph will appear on 11 Alive tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss the cuts. Bell was the sole commissioner to vote against ending the service.

(Photo by Thomas Wheatley)

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