Summer/Fall 2009 -- All the news on Access-A-Ride -- Volume 8
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By Thomas J. Charles, Vice President, Paratransit Division
As the number of riders and requests for trips continues to rise, Paratransit works diligently to maintain a zero-trip-denial rate. Paratransit secures various resources to meet the demand for service.
One recent activity was to establish new contracts with private transportation firms and increase contract terms to ten years. Paratransit and New York City Transit’s Procurement Division worked for approximately 18 months to identify and establish contracts with sixteen carriers.
The result is six new Access-A-Ride Carriers, and eleven carriers with previous AAR service experience. Paratransit staff focused strongly on the start-up of the new carriers. Currently, the eleven experienced carriers and six new ones (highlighted below) provide service for approximately 130,000 customers throughout New York City and across the New York City borderline to nearby areas of Nassau and Westchester Counties.
The carriers include:
Atlantic Paratransit, Inc. (ATL)
PTM Management Corp. (PTC)
Columbus Transit LLC (COT)
Empire Paratransit Corp. (EPC)
GVC II LLC (GVC)
Maggies Paratransit Corp. (MAG)
MV Transportation, Inc. (MVT)
Dedicated Services, Inc. (DED)
MV Public (MVP)
Premier Paratransit (PRE)
Star Cruiser Transportation, Inc. (STC)
Advance Transit (ADV)
All Transit, LLC (ITA)
CBT Para Transit (CBT)
Progress Transit, Inc. (PRG)
TC Paratransit (TCP)
Paratransit has studied trip patterns and determined that approximately 60 percent of trips are local (within a borough) and 40 percent are inter-borough. Therefore, representation in boroughs was a consideration in choosing carriers and strategic locations.
Carriers GVC and ADV are located in the Bronx, which has experienced a growth in Access-A-Ride (AAR) customers and requests for trips.
Now that long-term contracts are in place, Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring (AVLM) devices will be installed on 100 percent of our fleet by the end of the year.
By Michael Levy, Director, Travel Training
Most of us would agree with Azzlee Blackwood, “It’s no fun being stuck in the house.” That’s why Ms. Blackwood, who uses a walker, began traveling around the city via Access-A-Ride. Soon she was volunteering as a sewing instructor at Independence Care System (ICS) in Manhattan.
Ms. Blackwood wondered whether she could board a Transit bus with her walker. Would she be able to maneuver the walker onto the bus lift? Would it be safe? She enrolled in Transit’s travel training program and discovered that the answer to both questions was “yes.”
Her trainer showed her how to position her walker on the lift when boarding and leaving the bus. In a few weeks, Ms. Blackwood skillfully and confidently boarded the B15 bus, transferred to the M103 bus on 125th Street and Lexington Avenue and completed her trip to a fabric store in Spanish Harlem. She explained, “If you’re serious about sewing, you need to work with good quality material.”
Since completing the training in 2007, Ms. Blackwood has used her travel skills to learn additional bus routes to other stores and to the movies.
Her experience reminds us that many Access-A-Ride users can ride Transit buses after some training, and that the bus lift is for anyone who cannot board the bus via the steps because
of a disability related to mobility, balance or endurance.
As summer turns to autumn, think of the places to which you could travel by bus or subway. To apply for travel training or for more information, call Michael Levy at 718-393-4148.
Fares are collected prior to the vehicle’s departure, and may be collected prior to boarding. AAR drivers are not required to transport anyone who does not pay the fare.
If you travel in a wheelchair or scooter, your safety is at risk unless the driver secures your seatbelt/shoulder harness.
This is true even if your wheelchair or scooter has its own seatbelt. Seatbelts provided by manufacturers of wheelchairs or scooters are designed to keep you from falling out of your mobility device during your daily activities, whether within buildings or outside on streets, park lanes, roads and other places. However, those seatbelts will not restrain you if you travel in a motor vehicle that swerves or stops suddenly, or is involved in an accident.
Just as customers riding in passenger seats have to wear seatbelts, customers who use wheelchairs or scooters must wear seatbelt/shoulder harnesses too.
When you reserve a trip and indicate you will be traveling with a PCA, that person is expected to provide you with whatever assistance you require to get to and from the AAR vehicle; this includes carrying two bags/parcels weighing a total of 40 lbs. PCAs travel free of charge because they are supposed to assist you. If the person traveling with you is unable to perform these tasks, then you must make a reservation for him/her as your guest.
AAR drivers are not required to help customers with the aforementioned tasks when customers are accompanied by a PCA. However, drivers will assist you onto the lift and secure your seatbelt, if you require it, and will secure your wheelchair or scooter and the seatbelt/shoulder harness.
Subscription trips are automatically cancelled on the following holidays. If you will be traveling on any of these holidays, you MUST call to reserve a trip:
New Year’s Eve Day; New Year’s Day; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents’ Day; Good Friday; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day; Day after Thanksgiving; Christmas Eve Day; Christmas Day.
The material in this article summarizes reports from AAR staff and addresses questions asked by PAC members at meetings held between July 15, 2008 and March 24, 2009.
July 15, 2008
In Tom Charles’ absence, Carol Zwick and Beverly Morris presented the AAR report. The number of AAR customers and the number of AAR trips continues to grow. As of June 30, 2008, 115,884 customers were registered with AAR.
A discussion of the application process followed. Those applying and re-applying must call for an application. They receive a letter with the date, time and location of their interviews. Unfortunately, 40 percent of applicants do not appear for their scheduled appointment.
Since April 2008, AAR has made eligibility determinations within 21 days of the receipt of an application, as mandated by the ADA. AAR first notifies applicants who have been denied service; next, we contact applicants granted conditional eligibility so they may appeal the decision if they choose; finally, AAR responds to those applicants who have been given full eligibility. Only five percent of applicants are denied service.
AAR reviews written appeals within seven days of receiving them. In-person appeals are heard within two weeks, whenever possible. A significant number of appeals involve customers who have recovered from an accident or illness and now meet either fewer paratransit eligibility criteria or none at all.
Ken Stuart of Customer Relations reported on complaints and commendations. AAR’s complaint management system is one of the largest in the nation, and is now computer-based. Approximately 13.5 percent of incidents reported are commendations.
The PAC requested that the actual number of complaints AAR receives should be included in PAC AAR reports.
The PAC will be asked to sit in on sensitivity training of old and new carrier trainers.
November 18, 2008
The PAC welcomed new members Doris Seligman and Monica Sanabria. There are still two vacancies.
Tom Charles reported that the number of AAR registrants increased 1.3% to 118,000, surpassing predictions.
Customers are taking more trips, in part, perhaps because of improved AAR service. Complaints per thousand boardings have declined. On-time performance was maintained.
The increase in taxi and voucher authorizations is a measured and managed process. Paratransit must monitor the commitment by the car service to our customers.
As the commitment and performance become reliable and consistent, there is a corresponding increase in taxi and voucher authorizations.
As an internal control to limit the potential for fraudulent claims, customers who reserve the use of taxis or vouchers for more than 50 percent of their trips during a given month will have all of their reserved trips performed by AAR in the following month.
The re-assignment of vehicles from carriers who did not receive a contract award to new carriers delayed the installation of Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring (AVLM) equipment. However, 50 percent of AAR vehicles now use AVLM.
The PAC discussed its concerns about the upgrading of AAR’s phone system, the location of designated bus stops and the maintenance of a comfortable, accessible environment at assessment centers.
January 27, 2009
Paratransit is working to maintain and improve designated bus stops such as the AAR stops at Penn Station and the Javits Center. A stop may become inoperable because of construction.
The growing rate of registrants has consistently exceeded forecasts. Paratransit incorporates this trend in its planning. By the fall of 2009, all carriers will be capable of transporting customers anywhere in the city.
Paratransit is working to reduce delays that may occur in picking up wheelchair users.
Preliminary 2008 statistics indicate that completed trips increased more than 20 percent. We had 121,976 registrants, and the number of registrants continues to grow.
AAR currently has 2,040 vehicles; the number will increase to 2,222 by the end of the year.
AVLM will be installed in all vehicles by the end of 2009, including those used by six new carriers. If a vehicle has AVLM, AAR can pinpoint where the vehicle is traveling as well as where it has been during past trips.
Transit Control staff is being trained to provide customers with realistic arrival times when a vehicle is late. Customers are encouraged to commend Transit Control when they have had a good experience.
Problems have occurred when passengers who need PCAs travel via AAR unattended. PAC members were encouraged to educate parents about the difference between “special transportation,” which provides matrons, and AAR, which does not.
There were delays in upgrading the phone system. Initial problems, such as missed calls and busy lines, have now been solved.
The PAC discussed cold weather challenges. Shortening the
30-minute pick-up period during the winter isn’t possible at this time. Customers must wait where they can see vehicles (if the customers are not visually impaired), and drivers can see them as well.
March 24, 2009
The number of early cancellations increased, while late cancellations decreased. This was a result of the November 2008 change in the late cancellation policy.
During 2008, ridership increased by 22.5 percent, including an increase in weekend trips and trips per day.
Chuck Stebbins from the National Safety Council presented a film used to train drivers who work with passengers with disabilities. This film will be incorporated into the 80-hour initial training all AAR drivers receive.
To get information about applying to serve on the PAC, to share suggestions, or to ask about AAR policy, please contact Stephanie L. White, chair, c/o Denise Ann McQuade, 130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, or e-mail Denise.McQuade@nyct.com.
Remember to keep your cell phone charged, and activate it before and during your trips. When you want a trip update or to cancel a same-day trip or report a same-day problem, call 877-337-2017; press #1 for English or #2 for Spanish; then press #5 to be connected to Transit Control.
Annual Highway Travel Permit
Every October 1, the New York City Department of Transportation Authorized Parking and Permits Division issues its Annual Highway Travel Permit for vans and buses, including AAR. This permit indicates highways that vans and buses may travel on, and those where travel will be restricted for the next year.
Until September 30, 2009, AAR vans are not allowed on the Belt Parkway between exit (9) Knapp Street through exit (13) Rockaway Parkway, East and Westbound. Vans may travel on all other highways. However, drivers must observe all posted weight and height restrictions.
A Trip’s Maximum Ride Time is Based on Trip Distance
The chart below indicates the time a customer can anticipate traveling in a vehicle.
Miles Maximum Ride Time
0 to 3 miles 50 minutes
3 to 6 miles 1 hour 5 minutes
6 to 9 miles 1 hour 35 minutes
9 to 12 miles 1 hour 55 minutes
12 to 14 miles 2 hours 15 minutes
Greater than 14 miles 2 hours 35 minutes
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” please let us know by calling 877-337-2017 and pressing #1 for English and #1 again for Customer Information/Eligibility.
Customer no-show –when the vehicle arrives at the pick-up location within the 30-minute pickup window, waits the required five minutes, and the customer does not board the vehicle.
Carrier no-show – when the vehicle does not arrive at the customer’s pick-up location within or after the 30-minute waiting period and circumstances are within the carrier’s control.
No-fault no-show – when the vehicle doesn’t arrive at the customer’s pick-up location within the 30-minute waiting period, and it’s due to circumstances beyond the carrier’s control.
Late pick-up – when the vehicle arrives after the 30-minute waiting period.
Late cancellation – when a customer cancels a trip less than three hours before the scheduled trip.
Cancelling a Trip
Please remember to cancel trips by calling 877-337-2017 or 718-393-4999 (customers who are deaf call through the relay), pressing #1 for English or #2 for Spanish, and then pressing #4 to speak with a reservationist.
To cancel a same-day trip, customers should press #1 for English or #2 for Spanish and then press #5 to speak to a customer information agent.
If you reserve seven or more trips within any month and “no-show” and/or “late cancel” 40 percent or more of those scheduled trips you are in danger of suspension.
A first suspension is for two months. Suspensions last for longer periods each time you no-show and/or late cancel seven or more trips within a month; the longest suspension is for three years. Subscription customers not only lose their subscription service but also cannot reapply until four months after the end of their suspension period.
The AAR stop is located on 126th Street at the BullPen Gate in the Passenger Loading Zone directly in front of the ticket windows. Customers have shelter and a clear sight line of 126th Street from BullPen Gate.
Currently, there are 114 AAR Designated Pick-up Locations throughout the five boroughs. Centrally located at large, encompassing, active venues such as hospitals, ball parks and transportation hubs, these stops have AAR identification signs to ensure a successful connection.
Visit the MTA website at www.mta.info for the most updated AAR information. Click on this icon on the Homepage, then click on Paratransit Services,
scroll down, and click on Access-A-Ride New York City Transit Paratransit Division.
If your organization has 15 or more people interested in learning more about AAR service, please call Russell Schmid at 718-393-4130, or Donna Fredericksen at 718-393-4147 to arrange for a presentation.
Guide to Access-A-Ride
Drivers and Customers Can Make Everyone’s Ride Better
Telephone Directory for Customers with Disabilities
Access-A-Ride Quick-and-Easy Phone
On The Move (additional copies)
NYC Transit Customer Services
2 Broadway, 11th Floor, Room D11.03
New York, NY 10004
Tel. 718-330-3322 or TTY 718-596-8273
Request On The Move in Braille or on cassette by calling Michael Levy at 718-393-4148, or you may download it at the MTA website www.mta.info
Subway Map for Customers with Disabilities
Request copies of the Subway Map for Customers with Disabilities by calling 212-878-7483.
Your questions and comments are welcome. Please send them to:
On The Move
MTA NYC Transit Paratransit Division
130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Call 877-337-2017 toll-free from
area codes 212, 718, 347, 516, 631, 646, 914, and 845. From other area codes, dial 718-393-4999. Customers who are deaf call through the relay.
Press 1 for English, or press 2 for Spanish then:
Press 1: Customer Information/Eligibility/application
Press 2: Reservations
Press 3: Change reservation
Press 4: Cancel reservation by 5 p.m.the day before your trip
Press 5: Cancel same-day trip less than three hours before scheduled pick-up or for help with same-day problems
Press 6: Subscription service