MBTA DECIDES TO KEEP NEW FIRM AS PROVIDER OF SERVICE TO DISABLED
Despite complaints about the poor service provided by the new operator of The Ride, a door-to-door van service for disabled people, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has decided to retain the firm.
Ten days ago, MBTA general manager James O'Leary said he would give the Transportation Services Management Inc. -- which has operated the service since July 1 -- until yesterday to improve its service or seek another company to run the Ride.
Yesterday, the MBTA announced it "has seen enough improvement over the past 10 days to warrant continued operation," said Peter Dimond, a spokesman for the authority.
Since Transportation Services began operating the service, there have been six vehicle accidents, five reported hospitalizations, and hundreds of complaints of canceled trips, said Nate Thayer, transportation coordinator for the state Office of Handicapped Affairs.
But Dimond said that more recently "there has been a 14 percent increase in daily trips, a decrease in trips denied to passengers, and a decline in complaints." He said the reports of daily trips had risen from 632 to 722, and those of unavailable trips had dropped from 184 to 102.
"We were not satisfied with the performance, but we believe these improvements will continue," he said.
Dimond added that the firm was planning additional training for drivers and changes in management and staffing, and that it would beef up the Brewster Ambulance Service, one of the services with few complaints.
Thayer said, however, that the report of improved service "goes against anything we have seen or heard here," and added that he is still receiving a stream of complaints from passengers.
"I am extremely skeptical that that is true," he continued, saying the new providers "have said they would improve before."
Thayer said various groups will rally at noon tomorrow at City Hall to protest the service.
"It's utterly unbelievable," said Carrie Dearborn, who was injured last week when a driver dropped her off a wheelchair lift from a height of four feet. Dearborn, who refuses to use the Ride, has been taking buses since her fall. "It takes longer, but hell, at least I know they are not going to drop me. It cuts down my mobility, but I value my life more than my mobility."
Ralph Steele, a Ride user who is president of the Brookline Group for the Handicapped Inc., waited an hour for a van to pick him up from work yesterday. "Talk about frustration and fear," Steele said. "I am left stranded when a 6-inch curb is worse than Mt. Everest. It's traumatic."
He added that he will attend the demonstration, "if I can get there."