People with disabilities protest bus stop parking zones

You might think parking at a GET bus stop is illegal but at half the stops in Bakersfield it's not. People with disabilities say parked cars at those stops prohibit them from riding the bus.

Advocates say they've been working to make all the bus stops no parking zones since 2010.

In 2011 the city passed an ordinance giving them the flexibility to designate bus stops no parking zones, but for the community of disabled people that's not enough. They want all the stops to have red curbs.

"If there is no signage and no red curb yeah actually people can park there," said Gina Hayden, Spokesperson for the Golden Empire Transit District.

"It prevents us people with disabilities from getting on and off the bus in a safe way," said Brandi Midkiff, Community Advocate for the Independent Living Center for Kern County.

Midkiff says when cars park on the curb the bus stops in the street, forcing passengers to walk out to board the bus.  For passengers with visual impairments like Midkiff it's a risk. For passengers in wheelchairs like Brian Rathfelder it may be impossible.

"If the bus doesn't have a chance to pull up to the curb and if the bus doesn't have an opportunity to pull up to the curb it can't let out it's ramp for me to have access to it," said Rathfelder.

According to a city memom cars can park at more than 50 percent of the bus stops in Bakersfield.

"By only allowing them 50 percent access to any and all stops it says that they are only 50 percent human. They're only allowed 50 percent of their rights," said Shawn Kennemer Director of Client Services for New Advances for People with Disabilities. "That's ridiculous."

The city, who's in charge of parking regulations at bus stops, sees it in a different way. They say designating no parking zones at all bus stops would take away valuable street parking for homeowners and businesses.

"We have to balance everyone's needs in government," said Russell Johnson, Bakersfield City Councilmember for Ward 4. "We have to look at a situation and think how can we resolve it by keeping everyone's needs satisfied and that's exactly what we need to do."

If a bus stop is designated a no parking zones, drivers can't park next to at least 130 feet of curb. But the city agrees that some stops need to be looked at. Johnson's plan is to get a list of all the bus stops you can park at and evaluate each one.

"We need to deal with it on a case by case basis," said Johnson.

"Our argument is why should our access be decided on a case by case basis," said Midkiff. "We want to get on at all bus stops."

"It's public transportation," said Rathfelder. "Are we not members of the public? Are we being discriminated against? I just don't understand."

This story was originally reported on Channel 17-KGET TV on March 25, 2013.  The printed story and video report is available here:  http://www.kget.com/news/local/story/People-with-disabilities-protest-bus-stop-parking/B_hZ9ZYQL0iIsIYf-6s1zg.cspx