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PSTA should just give woman a ride

This is the kind of senseless bickering that gives bureaucrats a bad name.

Carrie Kohl, 27, of Largo is legally blind and uses a wheelchair. If she wants to go to the grocery, a bar or countless other places, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's service-on-demand program will take her there. But Kohl needs transportation to her rehabilitation programs, where she learns skills like sewing, cooking and typing.

Sorry, the PSTA says. The transit authority refuses to take her to the Pinellas Center for the Visually Impaired off Bryan Dairy Road in Largo because the center is not on any regular service routes. The non-profit center used to have a van to pick up clients like Kohl who can't use a taxi, but the center says it gave the van back to the state after the PSTA agreed to transport those clients.

Caught in the middle of this unproductive finger-pointing are Kohl and others like her. She is trying to do the right thing by learning skills that will make her more independent and reduce the possibility that she will one day have to depend on taxpayers and charities. Public agencies should be helping her meet her goals, not preventing her from achieving them.

The Pinellas Center for the Visually Impaired is not without fault. Perhaps it was too quick to give back the van to the state without a firm agreement from PSTA to transport the clients to the center.

Even so, the PSTA should transport clients to the center and offers no good reason for refusing to do it. In fact, the transit authority had been picking up clients who cannot use a taxi and taking them to the center until those clients dropped out of the program. The Federal Transit Administration has warned the transit authority that it is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to take disabled people to social services agencies.

The PSTA's point that the clients whom the center wants it to pick up are new is irrelevant. The transit authority's fear that there will be an enormous demand for this service from clients from other social services agencies in Pinellas is unsubstantiated. That potential problem _ too many clients who are unable to use taxis but still want training to better themselves _ would be a good one for society and can be addressed if it occurs.

Until then, the transit authority needs to drive Carrie Kohl to her rehabilitation program.

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