Spring/Summer 2008 -- All the news on Access-A-Ride -- Volume 6
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By Thomas Charles, vice president,
The year 2007 showed us how destructive Mother Nature can be. An April Nor’easter and floods in August disrupted transportation, left thousands of homes and businesses without power, and caused millions of dollars in property damage.
Under the leadership of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), MTA New York City Transit’s Access-A-Ride service and many other city agencies are organizing their resources to cope with future weather emergencies. We must consider the possibility that individuals in areas prone to flooding may need to evacuate.
Evacuation plans are based on advance warning of an approaching storm that allows enough time to complete an evacuation before the storm arrives. As we gather information, more questions will arise as to how to evacuate our customers successfully. Before any plan is finalized, we’ll test it to make sure that it works. We’ll update you about the evacuation plan in future issues of On The Move.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to pay attention to weather forecasts on the radio, television and Internet. You might also want to arrange to stay with family or friends in case of a weather emergency.
We hope that New York City will be spared the ravages of hurricanes and powerful coastal storms. Nevertheless, we must plan as a community and as individuals to cope with weather emergencies should they occur.
Where’s My Vehicle? AVLM Finds the Answer
by Bobby Samuel,P.E.,director AVLM,Division of Paratransit
The summer 2007 On The Move introduced you to the Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring System (AVLM). AVLM lets Access-A-Ride (AAR) staff tell our customers EXACTLY where their vehicles are without having to contact the driver. By May 2008, more than 900 of our 1,700 AAR vehicles were equipped with AVLM.
To show you how AVLM works, join me on an imaginary AAR trip. You have been scheduled to be picked up at 10:00 a.m. in Brooklyn for an AAR trip to Manhattan. At 10:10, you call AAR’s Transit Control and ask when your vehicle will arrive.
The Customer Information Agent (CIA) enters your AAR ID Number and quickly identifies your AAR Carrier and Vehicle. He/she then determines where your vehicle is right now, without the need to contact your vehicle’s operator. There it is, on Herzl Street between Lott Avenue and Newport Street.
In normal traffic, your vehicle is expected to arrive in four minutes. Vehicle location information is updated every two minutes so that Command Center Transit Control staff can provide reliable estimated arrival times. Staff also has the option of viewing many AAR vehicles at the same time. There are icons of vehicles, showing the general location of AAR vehicles on the geographic areas that are displayed. CIAs can “zoom in” and get details, including the Passenger List, and estimated arrival time of each vehicle.
Your driver can use AVLM’s Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) to find the best route to your pick-up or drop-off location. The MDT’s navigational system and mapping capabilities keep drivers on the correct route and help AAR to stay on schedule.
The picture above shows an on-screen map as a driver would see it. The map has a beginning point and a destination point. As the driver proceeds towards the destination, directions such as “turn left in 1.2 miles” appear at the bottom of the screen, and a voice announces directions.
Other AVLM Features
AVLM lets the carrier or staff at Transit Control send drivers a text message if there is a problem. Drivers can send “canned messages” via the MDT to dispatchers and the Command Center about anything that may affect their route. If a driver and you miss each other at a pick-up location, AAR staff can now “re-play” the driver’s route to determine what happened. AVLM records the time at which a driver arrives to pick you up.
We anticipate that all our vehicles will be equipped with AVLM by the fall of 2008. We are proud that, with AVLM, we’re responding to your question “Where’s my vehicle?” more quickly and accurately than ever before.
Get Me to the Church on Time — How AAR staff schedules your trips
by Thomas Chin, command center officer, Paratransit Division
I couldn’t resist the temptation to take this article’s title from the famous song in My Fair Lady. Just remember—we transport customers of all denominations to their preferred house of worship in the five boroughs, as well as any other places our customers want to go!
The goal of our schedulers is to bring you to your destination on time. They review individual trips and routes, look into trips that are too long or out-of-the-way, check addresses where drivers and customers often miss each other, and investigate repeated late trips.
Here’s what happens when you request your trip to church. Suppose services begin on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
…AAR’s scheduling system
has mapping software
that measures distance
and gives estimated
2. The reservationist asks you to hold, and then enters your trip request into the scheduling software to find out if a vehicle is available to transport you to your destination.AAR’s scheduling system has mapping software that measures the distance and gives the estimated travel time of your trip. In less than a minute, the reservationist will receive one of the following answers from the software:
1) There is an available vehicle. The reservationist will then confirm your reservation with you.
OR2) There is nothing available right now. The reservationist will inform you that your request is being put on “call-back,” and that you will be called later with a trip confirmation and a pick-up time that will get you to the church by 9:15 a.m. If you do not receive a call back by 7 p.m., please call 877-337-2017; press #1 for English or #2 for Spanish, and then press #5 for Transit Control.
Some customers are able to travel by taxi/car service. NYC Transit has a limited number of taxi/car service authorizations and vouchers that it issues daily. If you are able to pay for a taxi/car service, you may be authorized to take a taxi/car service of your choice and later request reimbursement for it. NYC Transit contracts with a few black car services to transport customers who pay the same fare as for an AAR vehicle. This is known as our voucher program.
3) A taxi/car service authorization is available. If you accept, the reservationist gives you a Taxi Authorization number. You make travel arrangements with the taxi/car service, pay for a taxi and mail the receipt, your ID number and the Taxi Authorization number to AAR for reimbursement. If you reject this option, a voucher may be available.
OR4) A voucher is available. If you accept, the reservationist gives you telephone numbers for two car service companies and tells you to call either company. You make travel arrangements with one of the companies.And, yes—you, the passenger can help AAR get you to the church or any other destination on time. Just be outside and ready to travel at the time of your scheduled pick-up. Leave Your Cell Phone On
Missed trips can be avoided if the carrier’s dispatcher can contact you before the AAR vehicle leaves.
Exact Fare, Please!
AAR Drivers Do Not Provide Change
Exact fare is collected prior to the vehicle’s departure, and may be collected prior to boarding. AAR drivers are not required to transport any persons who do not pay the fare.
Have You Been To An Assessment Center At Least 21 Days Ago But Haven’t Heard From Us?
Call Eligibility at 877-337-2017. Press #1 for English and then press #1 again for Eligibility and ask for your status.
Have You Moved, Or Changed Your Telephone Or Cell Number?
Please call and provide your new contact information to eligibility staff at 877-337-2017.
No Trip Priorities On AAR
AAR is not medical transportation. It is complementary mass transit service. Just as there are no trip priorities on buses and subways, there are no trip priorities on AAR.
Subscription Trips Are Automatically Cancelled On:
Memorial Day, Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Good Friday.
Paratransit Advisory Committee (PAC)
By Denise Ann McQuade, public information coordinator
For AAR, 2007 was a year of transition, training and technology. Vice President Thomas Charles and AAR staff updated the PAC and addressed the PAC's concerns in each of these areas during meetings on January 16, March 20, May 15, July 24, September 18 and November 20.
Transition—the New Application and Recertification Process
Throughout 2007, Beverly Morris, eligibility and planning officer, and other AAR staff, explained the new application procedure and its effects on the eligibility determination process. In February 2007, AAR notified hundreds of agencies and advocacy groups about the new procedure, which began in March.
Under the new system, every customer applying or recertifying for AAR brings a completed application to his/her interview at an assessment center. For a step-by-step guide to the application process, request AAR's brochure, Applying or Recertifying for Access-A-Ride Paratransit Service.
An assessment usually lasts about 30 minutes. However, an applicant should schedule pick-up and return trips so that he/she can remain at the assessment center for 90 minutes.
The centers assess applicants with a wide variety of disabilities. Assessors may be physical or occupational therapists, nurses, doctors or psychologists. Customers (except those given temporary eligibility) now recertify every five years, instead of every three years.
As of October 31, 2007, the average application processing time was 29 days; customers typically received their ID cards a month after that. AAR continues to test technology that may decrease processing time.
Customers whose disabilities prevent them from using the bus and subway and whose conditions will not improve may receive “Continuing Eligibility.” Such customers need not recertify in five years. They simply update their contact information via mail. The number of customers with “continuing eligibility” rose from almost 2,000 in March 2007 to nearly 11,000 at the end of October.
Tom Charles reassured the PAC that eligibility decisions are based not only on application information but also on assessor observations and reports. Carol Zwick stated that Customer Relations would work with seniors and other groups who are concerned about visiting assessment centers.
AAR monitors assessment center services to ensure that they provide a comfortable, accessible environment and sufficient staff coverage. All center staff receive refresher training annually.
Beverly Morris reported in September that AAR will conduct monthly unannounced visits to check on the timeliness and quality of interviews. Starting in October 2007, AAR staff visited centers to observe assessments first-hand.
…AAR monitors assessment
center services to ensure
they provide a comfortable
accessible environment and
sufficient staff coverage…
In March, Mr. Charles described improvements in driver training. Each carrier can now effectively plan training for new drivers and refresher training for veteran drivers, because the carrier receives a plan of how many new vehicles they will receive over the 12-month calendar year. Generally, new vehicles will be distributed every two months to allow the carrier to address all administrative and operating requirements inclusive of training drivers.
New drivers now are trained on routes while riding with veteran drivers. NYC Transit’s Standards and Compliance Unit provides additional training for drivers who must improve in the areas of customer assistance, policies and safety tips.
The number of drivers enrolled in refresher trainings rose from 5% in March 2007 to 20% in July 2007. At the September meeting the PAC suggested that PAC members with disabilities be involved in training drivers.
At the May meeting, Bobby Samuel, director of the Automatic Vehicle Location Monitoring System (AVLM) demonstrated how AVLM enables Command Center staff to locate AAR vehicles and to exchange information with drivers and dispatchers. In July, the PAC learned that carriers would begin installing AVLM on July 29. Plans call for AVLM to be installed on all vehicles by the fall of 2008.
Tom Charles also discussed the vehicle known as Standard Taxi, which he had seen in Michigan. He reported that it was well built, and might be suitable as an AAR vehicle if it passes required tests.
Responding to concerns about the quietness of "hybrid" vehicles, Tom stated that he would consider adding a component to make hybrid vehicles audible to pedestrians who are blind.At the November 2007 meeting, Tom Charles informed the PAC that October 2007 was the first month in which AAR completed more than 400,000 trips. As of November 20, AAR had assigned 1,766 vehicles to 14 carriers.
…He reported that it was
well built, and might be
suitable as an AAR vehicle if
it passes required tests…
When new AAR designated bus stops are identified, requests for installing these stops are submitted to the NYC Department of Transportation. Matt Sapolin, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, recommended that customers contact their local police precincts if vehicles park illegally in AAR bus stops.
The PAC expressed interest in a central dispatching system to improve AAR service. Tom Charles responded that an enormous amount of financial, and other resources would be needed to develop and use such a system. PAC members expressed concern about long hold times on the phone, but noted that waiting time is decreasing.
…We are grateful to
our PAC members
for their service…
To bring issues and concerns to the PAC’s attention, contact Stephanie L. White, Chair, c/o Denise Ann McQuade, 130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 or e-mail Denise.McQuade@nyct.com. And The Transit Humor Contest Winner Is…!
Congratulations to Brendan F. O’Connor of Staten Island, the winner of our first-ever Transit Humor contest. We also congratulate our three runners-up: Ruth Pettie of Brooklyn; and Staten Island's Vera Naiman and Pearl (Pat) Kramer. We thank the nearly 50 budding comedians who submitted jokes, quips, and riddles.
AAR Ready Information
AAR can be called toll-free from area codes
212, 718, 347, 516, 631, 646, 914, 845 by dialing 877-337-2017
From other area codes dial 718-393-4999
TTY Relay 800-662-1220
TTY Reservations 718-393-4257
TTY Transit Control 718-393-4258
• To request On The Move in braille or on audiotape, call Michael Levy at 718-393-4148.
• To download a copy of On The Move, go to the MTA website www.mta.info
• To request braille subway maps, call Denise Ann McQuade at 718-393-4131.
• To arrange for presentations for organizations with 15 or more people, call Russell Schmid at 718-393-4130, or Donna Fredericksen at 718-393-4147.
For copies of the MTA Guide to Accessible Transit or the Subway Map for Customers with Disabilities, please call 212-878-7483.
For the publications listed below, call NYC Transit Customer Information 718-330-3322 or TTY 718-596-8273 or write to:
NYC Transit Customer Services
2 Broadway, 11th Floor, Room D11.03
New York, NY 10004
- On The Move
- Guide to Access-A-Ride
- Applying or Recertifying for Access-A-Ride Paratransit Service
- Drivers and Customers Can Make Everyone’s Ride Better
- Access-A-Ride Quick and Easy Phone Tips
- Telephone Directory for Customers with Disabilities
- Have an Access-A-Ride Commendation or Complaint
- What is Subscription Service
Please write the editors wih your questions and comments:
On The Move, Access-A-Ride, MTA NYC Transit, Paratransit Division,130 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
This is a publication of MTA New York City Transit Howard H. Roberts, Jr. – President
Joseph Smith – senior vice president, department of buses
Thomas J. Charles – vice president, paratransit division
Carol Zwick and Denise Ann Mc Quade – senior editors
Michael Levy and Donna Fredericksen, editors
Ann Feldman – art director