Para-transit user attempts to fix ramp malfunction, loses riding pass

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Guam – Having a safe and reliable means of transportation is a struggle for many local residents, most especially those who rely on public transportation. And, unlike vehicle owners, those who utilize the Guam Regional Transit Authority’s services are at the whim of those running the operation. This appears to be the case for one para-transit rider whose riding pass was suspended after her attempt to solve a problem with a GRTA vehicle.

Evelyn Duenas has been a transit rider with the Guam Regional Transit Authority for over a decade. In all her years she has never had her pass revoked, until a recent incident during which she touched a piece of equipment on the transport vehicle when the ramp jammed.

Duenas tells PNC that she was picked up at the Micronesia Mall around 4 PM to be transported to the Church in Yona. Though that leg of the journey went without a hitch, a problem arose around 6 PM regarding the van’s ramp. Duenas says the platform utilized to lift wheelchair-bound riders in and out of the vehicle had jammed. In an attempt to fix the problem, Duenas touched the passenger control button, a mechanism intended to allow passengers to be more independent. However, GRTA’s policy prohibits passengers from touching any of the equipment.

Because she touched the switch, Duenas was blamed for the malfunction. For nearly two hours Duenas had to wait in the vehicle before she was physically removed. But the unassuming passenger knew more than she let on, revealing to PNC that she had been present during the vans’ unveiling to the community. During the presentation Duenas learned from Fukuda Enterprise how to operate the ramp manually. Unfortunately when she tried to put her knowledge to use, she was met with hostility.

Duenas also says there were no signs indicating “do not press the button.” GRTA’s response was that she should’ve known. Without due process, the public transportation provider slapped their faithful traveler with a week-long suspension for tampering with a government vehicle.

But a broken-down ramp isn’t the only issue faced by GRTA. Duenas says the system as a whole is broken and that she has been requesting information from GRTA through the Freedom of Information Act. The longtime commuter believes that her suspension was pre-meditated and connected to her queries to the institution. Duenas tells PNC that she had been warned in the past that she would be suspended — prior to her button-pushing incident. To top it off, she was never provided the opportunity to appeal the suspension.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.