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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Letter: Delays and Discrimination

By Charlene Obernauer

While delays in bus service for disabled riders is disheartening, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is also a violation of federal law. The Bus Riders’ Union has gotten many reports from disabled riders who rely on fixed-route buses, stating that the wheelchair lift was broken and that they had to wait over an hour for another bus to arrive to pick them up.

According to the ADA, NICE Bus is required to provide spare accessible vehicles incase a wheelchair lift is not working; and in that scenario, the maximum wait time for a disabled rider is 30 minutes.

NICE bus is legally mandated to ensure that buses are being routinely inspected, and that they are giving drivers enough time to check the wheelchair lift before they begin their trip. Additionally, if a wheelchair lift is broken, the bus must be taken off the road by the next service day. The agency may not put a bus with a broken lift back into service.

It has become apparent that many disabled riders are being left behind, both because lifts regularly break down and because sometimes buses are overcrowded and disabled riders are being told to wait for the next bus. Given the high price of Able-Ride, there is an increasing need for fixed-route service to be disability accessible; and without routinely maintaining the buses, this is becoming more and more difficult.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Paratransit Riders Face Challenges on Long Island

by Sam Handler, Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Mobilizing the Region Blog

Notification of April bus bay changes in Hempstead; Nassau County's Able-Ride service has seen changes as well.
In recent weeks, paratransit riders on Long Island have reportedly encountered significant challenges, as one county transit operator has made substantial changes to its paratransit service while another seriously considered a fare hike.
According toNewsday,Veolia, which took over Nassau County’s bus operations on January 1, has not implemented formal cuts to the Able-Ride program, but a May 1 efficiency measure has taken a toll on the paratransit service. Since that date, the company has sought to combine Able-Ride customers’ trips when possible, and the impact has been significant: “[w]ith passengers now waiting for fellow riders to get picked up and dropped off, trips have become far less direct, and much longer,” reports Alfonso Castillo. Castillo’s article also points out that the Americans with Disabilities Act “calls for paratransit trips to take about the same amount of time as it would door-to-door for a fixed bus route customer.”
In late 2011, when Nassau signed a contract with Veolia to privatize the county’s bus system, a memorandum of understanding held that the new bus operator would maintain service levels to areas served by Able-Ride for at least three years. While Veolia is right to seek efficiencies, they should not be achieved at the expense of rider convenience or the agreement between Veolia and Nassau County from late last year.
After initial blowback from elected officials and paratransit advocates, Veolia has reportedly worked to improve the situation and has “pulled back” a bit from the changes. It is unclear how the company will adapt service provisions moving forward, however.
Meanwhile, in Suffolk, Suffolk County Accessible Transportation (SCAT) paratransit riders narrowly escaped a proposed $1 fare hike after the legislature tabled the measure yesterday. The fare hike was being considered as a way to mitigate the county’s $530 million deficit and the change would have amounted to an increase of over $500 per year for weekday round trip commuters. The fare increase would have hit riders particularly hard, since many SCAT customers live on limited, fixed incomes.