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EPVA AWARDS BUS OPERATORS FOR EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE TO ELDERLY AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

NEWARK, NJ, November 6, 2002 – NJ TRANSIT and the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) teamed up today to honor 15 NJ TRANSIT bus operators for exceptional service and sensitivity to senior citizens and passengers with disabilities.

Each bus operator — recognized by their passengers for demonstrating exceptional courtesy and professionalism to senior citizens and persons with disabilities — was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a special lapel pin by NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George D. Warrington, EPVA Associate Executive Director John Del Colle and NJ TRANSIT Acting Vice President/General Manager of Bus Operations Jim Gigantino. The name of each operator was then entered into a random drawing for a color television donated by EPVA (winner list attached).

“NJ TRANSIT is committed to providing quality transportation services for everyone, including senior citizens and customers with disabilities,” said Warrington. “No one should be prevented from using public transportation because of a disability. I applaud each of these operators for their extraordinary effort to ensure that NJ TRANSIT provides the best service to all our customers.”

Del Colle commended NJ TRANSIT for its continued efforts to serve senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.

“EPVA is once again proud to participate in NJ TRANSIT’s Bus Operator Awards Ceremony. These operators have gone out of their way to ensure that people with disabilities are able to use their bus and to be able to move around like everyone else,” Del Colle said. “It’s important to recognize these efforts and the importance of mass transit in our area. We commend these operators as well as NJ TRANSIT for putting excellent service and staff out on the streets everyday.”

In October, bilingual posters with tear-off nomination forms were displayed on all NJ TRANSIT buses so passengers could nominate operators for the annual award. More than 1,200 nominations were received from customers throughout the state.

Since 1988, NJ TRANSIT has trained its bus drivers to be sensitive to the needs of senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. Through operator sensitivity training, NJ TRANSIT provides its employees with the technical skills needed to operate mobility equipment as well as interpersonal skills essential to serving riders who have difficulty boarding and exiting vehicles. The training program begins with a discussion of operators’ past experiences and a role-playing exercise in which trainees “become” the senior citizens and individuals with disabilities they serve.

In 1997, the agency upgraded its training program by adding an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bus operators certification program. Operators are required to be certified in the use of all the accessibility equipment available at their bus garage. In addition, they are instructed in procedures for boarding and deboarding mobility-impaired passengers, announcing stops for visually-impaired passengers, collecting reduced fares for persons with disabilities customer service and the legal obligations under ADA. Operators must score 100 percent on a standardized test to receive their certification from the agency.

The EPVA — the largest chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America — was founded in 1946 to serve the needs of paralyzed veterans residing in New Jersey, New York and eastern Pennsylvania. EPVA has fought successfully for tax benefits to help businesses remove barriers to the disabled in existing facilities and for new laws mandating accessibility and barrier-free design in new construction. In addition, EPVA provides support for ongoing medical research and sponsors several wheelchair sports teams.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 752,600 daily trips on 238 bus routes, two light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 160 rail stations, 28 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

EPVA AWARD WINNERS

Willie Easter

Mary Lytch

James Harris

Fermonides Fernandez

Carmen Michaels

Walter Archambo

Bob Kaiser

Malika Johnson

Alfred Quaicoe

Brenda Aiello

Michael Blasberg

Natividad Sierra

James Devaney

Pauline Pearce

Cory Noble