The Tuesday, March 2 Greensboro City Council meeting began with some good news.
The City Council plans to start holding its meetings in April in the council chambers in city hall. Or at least the City Council will be in the council chambers along with staff, but the public will participate virtually. However, if the COVID-19 numbers keep going down, it’s possible the City Council will hold an actual meeting by the third week in April.
The last meeting the council held in the council chambers was March 31, 2020. Three councilmembers participated by phone and, while the media was allowed to attend, the public was not. The April 14, 2020 meeting was the first virtual meeting of the City Council and the public was not allowed to speak virtually during the public comment period.
The meeting on the first Tuesday of the month is the public forum meeting where the main purpose is to hear from the public, and since October, when the public was first allowed to speak virtually at a public forum meeting, the number of virtual speakers has been growing. A total of 19 people signed up to speak, but for whatever reason they didn’t all sign on to the meeting.
One topic that a number of speakers spoke about was the hardship that was being caused by the change in service that went into effect on Monday, March 1 for riders of the Greensboro para-transit system, Access GSO, which was formerly known as SCAT.
The city is only required to provide para-transit service within three-quarters of a mile of the regular Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA) bus routes. Transportation outside of that area is considered premium service and GTA announced it would no longer provide Access GSO service in the premium service areas on weekends or after 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Those that use the Access GSO service would have to use the Access I-Ride service, which is more like an Uber service with a minimum charge of $6, which increases with the length of the trip and whether the provider has to be wheelchair-capable. The fare for Access GSO is $1.50
The speakers mainly expressed concern about the increased cost. One speaker said her son made $32 working on Saturdays, but the cost of Access I-Ride for him to get to and from work would cost him $24.
She also said that being unable to use Access GSO on nights and weekends would mean he would have no social life and no independence.
Other speakers noted the lack of any public hearing where this change in service was discussed and the lack of notice to riders.