Lextran passenger Karen Devin says the agency's board of directors needs to hear from passengers.
They don't know what it's like, she said, to walk nearly a mile to the nearest bus stop, or to spend three hours on a bus to work four hours at a part-time job.
In addition to giving kudos to caring drivers, Devin, a registered nurse who attends Lextran board meetings almost every month, said she and other people have weighed in on topics such as route changes and bus stops, safety and accessibility for disabled passengers.
Some of those comments have resulted in changes, such as the addition of new bus stops on Rojay Drive and the creation of a passenger advisory committee, Devin said.
"I'm there because I care about the public transportation system in this city," she said. "This is the company that makes decisions about how I get to where I'm going and how long it's going to take."
But a recent change to Lextran policy has left Devin and others thinking maybe the board doesn't like what it has been hearing.
The Lextran board voted Aug. 20 to restrict public comment only to items that are on the meeting agenda.
People who want to bring up anything that is not on the agenda may submit their comments in writing or request to have the topic put on the agenda.
Community activist Don Pratt said he attended a meeting of the board in July and raised some questions about an allegation of theft of Lextran property by a staff member.
At the next meeting, the new rules regarding public comments were adopted.
"It's wrong," Pratt said. "These regulations deny opportunity for criticism, and I think that's intentional."
Pratt said the change also raises questions about what the board might be "covering up."
"It makes me a whole lot more suspicious of the board," said Devin, who has attended the meetings regularly since July 2013 and serves on the passenger advisory committee. "I do think there's a tremendous lack of transparency."
Devin said the new policy is "a roadblock to public feedback and comment."
Limiting comments to what is on the agenda is problematic in part, she said, because some passengers wouldn't go to the trouble to put comments in writing or contact Lextran ahead of time to try to get a topic put on the agenda.
"The agenda is the board's agenda," she said. "We need to have our voice heard."
David Sams, who works in maintenance at Lextran, said few people attend board meetings as it is, and the new policy might make the number even fewer.
"They come to speak their mind," he said. If they can only talk about agenda items, the feeling might be, "Why should I come? There's no one there to talk to."
As a result of the response, Lextran general manager Rocky Burke said the topic of public comment will be brought before the board for discussion again at its Oct. 15 meeting.
"We are going to reconsider," he said.
Burke said the change was made after a review of the bylaws and is intended to make the policy for board meetings "consistent with the guidelines for our work sessions."
By requiring comments that are not related to agenda items to be submitted in writing, Lextran staff will be able to research the topic and "provide a more informed answer," Burke said.
He said it was not the board's intention to hamper communication with the public. "We wanted the public to be able to ask us questions," he said.
Jon Fleischaker, a Louisville attorney with extensive knowledge of open meetings law, said the board's new policy is legal.
"There is nothing in the open-meetings law that requires them to have a time for people to speak," he said.
Fleischaker said board policies on public comments vary.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council allows time at the beginning of its meetings and work sessions for public comment on agenda items. People may sign up to speak about topics that are not on the agenda at the end of each meeting.
Devin has complained to Mayor Jim Gray about the Lextran board's policy change.
The mayor's office appoints the members of the board, but the mayor doesn't have control over the way the group's meetings are structured, government spokeswoman Brenna Angel said.
Lextran has an annual operating budget of about $23 million, with revenues from a mix of local taxes, rider fees and federal money.