Connecticut Post (Sunday)

CT transit? There’s nothing fair about humiliatio­n

- JAMES WALKER “Please show your ID.” James Walker is the host of the podcast, Real talk, Real people. Listen at jameswalke­ He can be reached at 203- 605- 1859 or at realtalkre­ @ thelieonro­ars on Twitter

“Please show your ID.” Three years ago, I wrote a column that the golden years for senior citizens had turned into a cruel reality, with seniors needing help to get everything from food to medication.

It really ticked me off that so many hard- working seniors were getting to the end of their lives and finding the reward was a dead end — and a tin cup awaited them for their efforts.

I didn’t realize how true those words were until I left the workforce and attempted to take advantage of programs and discounts for seniors to ease the burden of financial retirement.

What I came face- toface with was the grim reality that many seniors were not only expected to swallow their pride, but also accept embarrassm­ent and discrimina­tion in order to save a few bucks.

That is a hard pill to swallow for those who grew up with the generation that believed in hard work, not charity.

But embarrassm­ent and discrimina­tion is exactly what senior citizens and people with disabiliti­es can expect when they take advantage of CTtransit’s reduced- fare program.

That is the announceme­nt loudly broadcast across the PA system when senior citizens board a city bus when using the reduced- fare program.

And worse, it also is what every passenger on the bus hears, whether they are sitting in the front or in the rear.

For the life of me, I cannot explain why CTtransit does not see this as the discrimina­tory action it is, or for that matter, how it is able to get away with it.

It blatantly singles out certain passengers as charity cases and publicly announces what should be private informatio­n.

I don’t understand it; there is no need for anyone except the driver and the passenger to know whether a reduced fare is being paid.

The first time I heard the announceme­nt was when I was on a bus headed to the New Haven Register, which then was located on Sargent Drive. It was 2013 and I had just been hired as the newspaper’s metro editor.

A man and woman boarded the bus one morning and as each was paying their fare, I heard, “Please show your ID,” which they did.

I thought it was strange to be singled out like that but I had noticed that some of the men and women were substancea­buse users, clearly evidenced by the deep nods they went into during the ride.

Since they got off the bus with me on Sargent Drive, I asked a coworker about it and was advised that a methadone clinic was about a block away.

So, I associated that announceme­nt with people who were receiving financial assistance through the clinic. That is until last November when I purchased a monthly reduced- fare ticket and, I, too, was asked to show my ID.

I was stunned but pulled out my driver’s license to prove I had indeed reached the senior years. But I was then informed by the driver it wasn’t good enough; I needed the state ID issued to all people using the program.

I was told I would have to submit an applicatio­n to the state along with a photo, $ 5 and verifying documents in order to receive the acceptable ID.

I was allowed to ride that day but was informed that, without the state ID, I would have to pay full fare. I said OK and the next thing I heard was “Please show your ID.”

I cannot adequately express the embarrassm­ent of walking down the aisle after that announceme­nt has alerted every passenger on the bus that I did not pay the full fare.

And that is when I got really upset; I don’t do programs and I don’t do anything that singles me out as a charity case in need of government help.

While I will accept a hand up, I will never accept a handout.

The reduced- fare program is promoted as a “service of the Connecticu­t Department of Transporta­tion” on the DOT’s website.

For me, they can keep it.

For the past five months, I have been paying full fare to avoid being publicly humiliated and discrimina­ted against.

Just because it is operated by the state does not give the DOT the “legal” right to host a program that not only discrimina­tes against the people who use it, but blatantly calls them out for doing so.

I put in a call to the reduced- fare program to get answers but did not receive a response.

But then again, what could their response be, except an acknowledg­ment that the program does discrimina­te?

I don’t believe for a minute that the DOT’s intentions are to discrimina­te or cause riders to be embarrasse­d. But I do believe its reduced- fare program is insensitiv­e to seniors and people with disabiliti­es by announcing they’re paying half- fare.

If anything, the program should actually be a reward for senior citizens. It should be one of the little gold watches, like Meals on Wheels, that seniors get when they retire.

But it shouldn’t come with a lump of humiliatio­n that is hard to swallow. “Please show your ID.”

No thanks, CTtransit. I prefer my pride.

CTtransit? There’s nothing fair about humiliatio­n.

 ?? Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo ?? A CT transit bus waits to pull away from a bus stop on Chapel Street in New Haven on Nov. 21, 2019.
Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo A CT transit bus waits to pull away from a bus stop on Chapel Street in New Haven on Nov. 21, 2019.
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