A Sept. 21 hearing held to discuss proposed changes to public transit services for people with disabilities received sharp criticism from a Forest Park advocacy group. Fare increases, reduced scheduling, and other aspects of Pace’s suburban Paratransit program will be implemented regardless of the public’s response, according to the Progress Center for Independent Living.

“They have already decided what they are going to do. These hearings are simply a waste of their riders’ time,” Larry Biondi, a wheelchair-bound advocate at the center, said of the meeting held at the Howard Mohr Community Center.

A spokesman for Pace confirmed that the Regional Transportation Authority has a great deal of control over Pace’s operations, and that board voted Aug. 20 to raise fares to $3, up from $2.25. Further, riders will see a reduction in the hours during which they can arrange for transportation. Reservations will only be taken between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to Pace spokesperson Scott Wilmot. Changes to the monthly pass program and transfer rates between the city and suburbs are also expected.

The Pace board is expected to vote Oct. 14 on when the changes would take effect. According to Wilmot, the likely start date will be in early November.

“It’s deeply troubling for us to be out there delivering this message,” Wilmot said.