SCRANTON -- Riding the public bus in Lackawanna County is getting easier for people with disabilities. The County of Lackawanna Transit System, COLTS, unveiled a new system for restraining wheelchairs in their buses.
If you ride COLTS buses, you've likely seen some brand new buses in the rotation. They include a new restraint system, but as COLTS buys new buses over the next few years, they will all include the new system. It's designed to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to ride the bus.
Keith Williams helps people like him for a living as the director for the Center of Independent Living in Scranton. He was the first to try a new wheelchair restraint system on a Lackawanna County COLTS bus. It's called a "Q'Straint" and is meant to make it easier and quicker for a person in a wheelchair to get situated on a public bus.
"My first impression after I maneuvered myself into the spot, into the location for wheelchairs, is that it's very accessible. It's an improvement over the current system. I'm able to face forward," Williams said.
COLTS bus drivers are being trained on the Q'Straint system this week.
"The bus driver, themselves, does not have to do bend down and do a lot more work than he used to. Before, there was a lot more work," said Bob Fiume, COLTS executive director.
COLTS will integrate the new system as it upgrades its fleet to buses that run on compressed natural gas.
As the buses become more environmentally friendly, Williams says they're also becoming more progressive, easing anxieties for many people with disabilities who may have avoided public transit in the past.
"Some people feel very self-conscious, not for the fact that they need an accessible location, that's fine, but if the bus happens to have other passengers on it and there's this perception that they're holding things up," Williams said.
COLTS driver Bob Lesh showed us the old restraints. He says it could take a driver 10 to 12 minutes to secure a passenger, a time saver that's been a long time coming.
"When I first started here, they had nothing. We couldn't even get a wheelchair on here," Lesh said.
There are three of the new buses on the road now, another six are expected this summer. COLTS officials say eventually every bus will have the new restraint system.