Friday, July 15, 2011

CITY SHOCKER: Assistant city manager says Dinner Train a "mistake"; protest planned

COLUMBIA, 7/15/11  (Beat Byte) --  Disability advocates planning to protest a city-subsidized "dinner train" this Friday now have a potent mea culpa in their arguments against the train's non-compliance with ADA requirements. 
The Columbia Star Dinner Train's inaccessibility to people with disabilities is a "mistake" that should never happen again, Assistant Columbia City Manager Tony St. Romaine said at a meeting last Thursday between city leaders and critics of some $65,000 in public subsidies the Columbia City Council earlier provided.   KOMU News reported St. Romaine's near apology. 
As a restored antique, the train is exempt from the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  But disability advocates have consistently maintained that regardless, it should never have received subsidies from taxes everyone must pay.  On the train's opening day, July 15, they plan to protest.  
"I think it’s important that if the city is going to spend thousands and thousands of dollar supporting a business to come to town, that it be useable for all of our citizens," said Mid-Missouri Advocacy Coalition Troy Balthazor. 
"We are not discriminating against anyone," said train manager Greg Weber.  "Frankly, these issues aren’t brought up very often because of the way the cars were built in the '30's and '40's.  They are limited on access and we don’t have any choice on that."
Despite his "mistake" comments, St. Romaine defended the subsidy, speaking like the dinner train's banker.  In so doing, he may have unwittingly opened yet another proverbial can of worms:  City Hall attempting to pick winners and losers in the high-risk restaurant business, using taxpayer money that other restaurant owners also pay. 
"We know how new businesses come and go, especially restaurants," St. Romaine said.  "So you know they would obviously like to see how they do for the first year or so before they invest major funding into aquiring a car and making it truly accessible for everybody."


  1. Mike if you read the Federal Transportation Administration Title 37 and the ADA Guidelines of accessibility in their context you will plainly see this Dinner Train is NOT EXEMPT as Greg Weber and company claim.

    The fact is they had to modify a Mail Car into a Kitchen Car thus modifying the interior and in doing do lost their EXEMPT status.

    Also Greg Weber admitted at the meeting at City Hall on July 7th 2011 that neither the Train Company nor the City Of Columbia have a written letter from the Federal Transportation Administration or the Department of Justice.

    All of that City Of Columbia Tax Payer Funding payed in by the Non Disabled and the Disabled Citizen alike into the City Of Columbia Coffers yet this business in the beginning refused to comply to ADA and FTA Title 37 Guidelines until the Disability Community stood up and yes some even went so far as to file official complaints with the Department of Justice.

    What is pathetic IMHO about all of this is the City of Columbia can build a $13 million dollar "Garagezilla" that is not even full nor was built to correct vehicle height standards but is fully ADA Accessible and is forecast to not be able to pay for itself in the allotted time it was originally drawn up for but then turn right around and blow $65k on a Dinner Train that isn't as fully ADA Accessible as "Garagezilla" is.

    Can ya see the total hypocrisy out of our City Government in all of this? I sure can.

    I think Ron White was 100% correct when he said "You cannot fix stupid".

  2. The train with the bright exterior lights that illuminate peoples homes, yards and personal space is an invasion of privacy. The Patrons on the train stare at you and take pictures while they go by---invading the privacy of our personal space. The train should turn OFF the lights and ban cameras. They want to talk about the ride and feel of the past era, well I don't recall trains having enoungh lighting to light up a football field 40-60 years ago. The Train is wrong on so many levels--Privacy, ADA, Safety and mis use of tax payer funds.

  3. So far the City Of Columbia Disability Commission has received NO OFFICIAL DATE NOR TIME when this accessible car will be delivered and ready for this train. This after the Manager of the Columbia Dinner Train said in front of a group that met over this issue that he would have something available with in one month of that meeting. Tony St Romaine was totally 100% correct ethically and politically when he said this train was a mistake.

  4. First Chuck Dudley Jr THE TRAIN IS EXEMPT, the kitchen car is not open to the general public so I needed need to be made ADA accessible and each car on that train it's own vehicle and falling under it's own exemption. "The train with the bright exterior lights that illuminate peoples homes" To bad I can see your house on Google people have rights to take photos of almost anything. DON'T LIKE IT build a higher fence.

  5. The train is not exempt.