Streams

 

Paratransit

Transportation Nation

Strike Could Halt D.C.'s Paratransit Service

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WAMU

MetroAccess may be on the verge of its first strike, potentially stranding the hundreds of disabled residents who rely on the service for their daily appointments.

Read More

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

MetroAccess Tries To Deliver Despite Financial Woes

Thursday, September 29, 2011

MetroAccess vehicles, which provide para-transit services to disabled D.C. residents (photo by Joshua Davis via Flickr)

(Jim Hilgen -- WAMU, Washington, DC) For nearly 20 years, the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority has offered a program called MetroAccess, a door-to-door ride for people who can’t use other forms of public transportation. The problem the service faces, however, is that it's not cheap. And for what Metro spends on the program, it's still fraught with issues.

"If you are going some place the very beginning of the day, and they get you there early, and the place isn’t open yet, and you’re standing outside waiting," says Anne Timley, a vision-impaired D.C. resident who uses MetroAccess as her main means of getting around. "And that has happened to me a couple times. You know you don’t feel safe just standing out there on the street just waiting for some building to open. "

It’s not a surprising story to Patrick Wojahn, chairman of the 'Access For All' committee at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). He says customer service on MetroAccess has long been a bone of contention. "Missed appointments, having to wait for hours after they schedule an appointment for somebody to actually come and pick them up, for terrible customer service through the paratransit system," he says, ticking off the issues.

MetroAccess was created in 1994, after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act -- which required public transit systems across the country to make improvements to their services for disabled riders. Christian Kent, who heads Metro's Office of Accessibility, acknowledges the service is not perfect, but also notes that MetroAccess was never intended to be a permanent transit solution.

He also throws out some statistics: the service works approximately 92 percent of the time for the 2.4 million customers who utilize it every year, he says.

"I do think that there were many people who felt that if we got to that point in time where bus and rail were fully accessible, paratransit would become much less needed," says Kent. "But that has not proven to be the case."

According to WMATA's 2012 budget, MetroAccess will cost $116 million -- or 8% of the transit authority's operating budget (pdf). Revenue from fare-paying passengers is projected to be $6.3 million. Earlier this year, WMATA raised fares on the service to twice the amount of a comparable Metrorail or bus trip to a maximum of $7, up from the base fare of $2.50 charged in 2010.

Timley is one of those for whom bus and rail are not real options, at least at the moment. She lives in Fairfax County, and the layout of the suburbs can make it hard to get to bus stops. And that is often an issue that lies beyond Metro’s control.

"Once the bus stop is put in, Metro does not take charge of it," says Timley. "The county then has to make sure there’s a sidewalk leading to it, make sure it has the curb cut. As pedestrians, you are also competing with the money needed for new roads and for fixing roads and maintenance of roads."

In an era when transit agencies and local governments are already scrounging for funds, riders hoping for substantial changes to MetroAccess may be cooling their heels for quite a while.

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

UPDATE: Metro Committee Approves Contract, Despite Ethics Questions

Friday, April 15, 2011

(Washington D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) Metro is moving forward with a $200 million contract extension for the company that operates its MetroAccess transit service for people with disabilities -- despite some questions about whether the contractor may have engaged in unethical lobbying.

Documents obtained by Transportation Nation partner, WAMU, show the contractor, MV Transportation, hired a lobbyist who until recently served as one of Metro's top executives and a member of its Board of Directors. The lobbyist, Emeka Moneme, sent emails to several of the advisers to the Metro Board requesting meetings to talk about MV, just nine months after he left the agency. Metro's ethics rules prohibit its executives from working on Metro-related business for at least a year after they leave.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter

One of the advisers who received an email from Moneme forwarded it to WAMU. Through a public records request, WAMU has obtained a copy of a second email sent from Moneme's office to another Metro Board adviser. The second email also requests a meeting to discuss MV, and is almost identical to the first.

WAMU has contacted all the advisers to the Metro Board, but almost half have not responded. Of those who did, all -- including the two who received emails from Moneme -- say they did not agree to a meeting with him nor with anyone representing MV Transportation.

Moneme has refused to discuss the matter. MV says it hired him to do "community outreach," not to lobby his former co-workers.

Metro's General Manager Richard Sarles says he believes its contracting process has not been compromised, and a formal investigation has not been launched. Sarles says the advisers to Metro's Board of Directors serve in a voluntary capacity not on Metro's payroll. Therefore, Sarles says, Metro's ethics rules do not govern them.

Sarles acknowledges that, in government contracting, sometimes the mere appearance of impropriety can be as damaging as actual impropriety itself. “I’m always concerned that we have the appearance of proceeding the way we should with regards to our procurement rules," he says.

But Sarles says, because none of the advisers agreed to meet with Moneme, he's confident Metro's ethics procedures are being followed. "To my knowledge" he says, "thus far, those procedures have not been violated.”

MV Transportation's contract extension is scheduled to come up before the Metro Board for a final vote later this month.

(To see a copy of the email Moneme sent, visit WAMU's website.)

Read More

Comment

Transportation Nation

The Revolving Door: Despite Ethics Rules, Former Metro Executive Now Lobbying On Behalf Of Metro Contractor

Monday, March 21, 2011

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/waba/2511198017/

(Washington D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) A private email obtained by WAMU shows that Emeka Moneme, a former top executive at D.C.'s Metro, may have violated ethics rules by lobbying his former coworkers on behalf of one of Metro's largest contractors.

Metro says it still believes in the integrity of its contracting process.

Read More

Comment