LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For more than a decade, Stephon Gilkey has had to re-learn how to get around.
"With my vision being what it is, I can't drive a car at all," he said. "I can't see the lights. I can't see nothing."
Cancer robbed his eyes of most of his vision, but that hasn't stopped Gilkey from living his life. He still goes to work, shops for groceries, meets up with friends and attends church - all with some help from TARC3.
"It's a lifeline for me if you really want to know because it gives me an opportunity to do things I really want to do," he said.
Gilkey has used TARC's para-transit service for years, which services people who have disabilities and need some extra assistance with transportation. When a TARC bus is not available to pick up clients, a cab driver subcontracted by TARC will be dispatched to help.
Gilkey said this weekend, his scheduled ride home from work never showed up. He said he waited two hours at work before he was told there was no car coming to get him.
"This is the first time I've ever not been able to get a ride home," he said. "Normally they take pretty good care of us."
He said he ended up having to take a regular TARC bus, which dropped him off a mile away from his house. He then had to walk home, which he said was a very dangerous trek.
"I thought I was getting back on the sidewalk and I was actually on the side of the street," he said. "I was struggling, I'm going to tell the truth, because I'm a triple amputee and so I have balance issues too."
Gilkey said the same thing happened again Monday. He said he learned some of the TARC3 cab drivers did not show up to work due to a pay dispute.
TARC is switching contractors for its TARC3 program, moving from First Transit to MV Transportation, which will be taking over April 1.
According to a release from TARC, the transportation company and its partners, MV Transportation and zTrip, are attributing the drop in service to "a communication and labor issue that is currently being assessed" and they expect the issue to resolved in a matter of days.
"As a facilitator of the TARC3 service, TARC is working full-time to resolve the issues with our paratransitservices due to the recent transition," Executive Director and CEO for TARC Ferninand L. Risco Jr. said in the release. "We are doing everything we can to minimize the inconveniences felt by all customers."
According to TARC, drivers are being brought in from other markets to help with the scheduled pickups. TARC is also working with the Louisville Urban League to hire additional drivers.
Gilkey said he hopes the drivers are paid appropriately, but wants those in charge to know this dispute is affecting a lot of pepole like him who rely on the program to live independently.
"This morning I had a lady tell me that one of her family members had come all the way from Shelbyville to pick them up to take them home," he said. "Their situations are way worse than mine. I know how they must feel being stranded somewhere and not knowing how to get home."
WHAS11 has reached out to MV Transportation and zTrip and have not heard back. The president of the local union representing TARC drivers said he did not have any comment at this time.