Update on “the Ride” issues

I wanted to let you know that I am a long-time ride user. It is used by many people with disabilities for more than just medical appointments. It is used for transportation to both paid and volunteer work, transportation to the polls, grocery shopping, exercise classes, family visits (I especially like it when one elderly disabled person uses the ride to visit another elderly disabled person!)The door to door service model has enabled many people with disabilities to participate very actively in their communities. Two things that I would like to know include: How many people were “kicked off” the ride system due to the recent recertifications for ride use? I believe that there are not a lot of “ride fakers” i.e., people who are not disabled but use the ride because it is “inexpensive” but I would like to know how many people were terminated from the service. Also, I have often suspected that a lot of the money spent for the ride goes to the top administrators at the companies, rather than to the drivers, but I do not know how to prove that. Most elderly and people with disabilities live on a fixed income. Some have now limited their “social” rides, and stopped going to church for example. I know that gas prices have gone up, but I think some kind of monitoring is needed.

5 replies on “Update on “the Ride” issues”

  1. Just FYI, on the RIDE, some very old vans in the 1400 series were taken off the road and they needed to be taken off. I do not know exactly how many vans were in this group, but no new ones have been purchased to replace these. The people who need ride service increase as people become elderly and disabled through the aging process. This has resulted in new RIDE policies such as: You must stay at each location a minimum of 2 hours. (This used to be one hour) and there must be 3 hours between your next pick up. (It used to be one hour). Additionally, drivers are picking up passengers from more distant locations, and this means longer times on the bus. When will the MBTA purchase new, and safe vans? I would like to know. The current policies make it impossible to do a “quick trip” to the store, the doctor, the bank, etc.

  2. We have received the following information from MassDOT in response to your original questions. I will find out about the prospect for new vans and post later on that.

    The Authority, after a lengthy public process and Board approval, launched THE RIDE Eligibility Center (TREC) in December of 2012. The MBTA was the last major transit authority in the country to convert from paper applications to in-person because, simply put, there is no way to accurately assess a customer’s ability to use fixed route via a paper application. Indeed, overwhelming evidence indicates that a well-run in person process enhances customer service; improves the accuracy of determinations and adherence to federal law; and increases the sustainability of ADA paratransit programs. By going this route the MBTA can affirm an applicant’s ability to be independent while channeling resources to the people who need them.

    Overview of Progress
    As of Sept. 2013, TREC has fielded over 100,000 phone calls and issued close to 10,000 determinations. More than 98% of applicants have received some form of RIDE eligibility. A little less than half of the determinations were related to new applicants and the rest were customers who were recertifying. It should be noted that with over 70,000 registered RIDE users recertifications under the new process will be conducted over the next three years in accordance with expiring eligibilities. The comments from individuals who have experienced the in-person process have been very positive, praising the staff at TREC for their professionalism and compassion, and remarking that the application is now much easier to complete than the paper-based process. TREC works diligently with applicants and their caregivers to ensure access to the eligibility process. Of course, an appeal process is a standard offering for anyone wishing to contest their eligibility determination.

    Key Customer Service Benefit
    The in-person process significantly improves customer awareness regarding their own ability to use transit. The MBTA has invested $100s of millions of dollars in their subways, buses and trains over the past decade thereby allowing full independence for nearly all our customers. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability, advanced age, or driving ability does not guarantee ADA paratransit eligibility; rather it is based upon an individual customer’s ability to access and use our fixed route system. Accordingly we now offer both a travel orientation process and a more intense travel training program to assist customers that are new to the MBTA’s fixed route.

    Additional Benefits
    We have also introduced an offering not manageable under the old system called ‘Medical Necessity’ which is short term eligibility for immediate service until an in-person interview can be conducted. Medical Necessity is requested by doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities. (Spaulding and MGH are huge supporters of the program. Over 1000 customers, have taken advantage of this new offering, allowing customers to immediately start critical health treatments such as dialysis, cancer treatments and other medical emergencies such as Marathon survivors to list a few.

    RIDE Costs and Performance
    Drivers for all three RIDE contractors are represented by unions that have successfully negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreements with their private employers for various wage rates and benefits. The MBTA is not involved in employment matters of these firms. With that said, THE RIDE is an inherently expensive service due to its broad geographic service area and its near 24/7/365 availability. Significant cost drivers for these contracts are derived from insurance, fuel, and facilities, in addition to labor. The MBTA is proud to significantly exceed the ADA requirements that are limited to ¾ miles from a fixed route. THE RIDE provides over two million trips per year with an on time rate of 94% within 15 minutes and 99% within 30 minutes, both some of the highest rates in the country despite our difficult traffic patterns and vast service area (a customer could take a trip from Hingham to Topsfield).

    RIDE Fares
    In regards to the fare increase mentioned by your constituent, RIDE fares increased from $2 to $4 or $5 in July then October of 2012. Under the federal ADA regulations, the MBTA is allowed to charge twice the price of the standard fare on the fixed route. For many trips, particularly those that involve transfers or are beyond the fixed route, these fares could far exceed $5 but the MBTA intentionally provides a significant subsidy to RIDE trips. Including fixed expenses, a single RIDE trip costs the MBTA over $40. Again, a large portion of this cost is due to the intentional and important decision to exceed ADA regulations in terms of geographic area served. For example, the MBTA could have terminated services when trip origins and/or destinations are greater than ¾ miles from a bus or subway and outside of our core area or when bus routes do not run on a Saturday or Sunday. Instead, we heard from our customers that RIDE service provides a lifeline to many and instead of cutting the service and running the minimum ADA requirements we opted to offer a $5 premium fare for those who had been using THE RIDE and require services beyond the ¾ mile regulation. The MBTA fare structure as compared to our peers across the country is running in the middle for both our ADA fare and our Premium fare.

    As you know the Legislature mandated that the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the MA Office on Disability conduct a fare increase study to assess the impacts the MBTA fare increase had on seniors and persons with disabilities. The study was released in early September and the MBTA is working alongside these two agencies on several recommendations in the report, such as automatic issuance of reduced fare cards, subsidized taxi service, and expanded travel training.

    Barbara Miranda
    Chief of Staff to Senator Brownsberger

  3. Below is information we have received from MassDOT about new van purchases. We hope it is helpful.

    Due to the financial crisis at the MBTA we have been unable to purchase any new vehicles until recently. No new vehicles (sedans or vans) are an addition to the fleet count but are meant to replace vehicles whose life cycle has been exceeded. 104 sedans at $2.4M went into service Jan 2013. Sedans have a useful life of 6yrs 3 mos. 216 vans at $12.5M will not be delivered or see service until 1Q14+. They have a useful life cycle of 7yrs 3 mos…and again these are not additional vehicles but much needed replacements.

    Barbara Miranda
    Chief of Staff

  4. Good news for The Ride users! Yesterday (12/11/13), the MBTA announced a $1 fare decrease for users of The Ride, fares were doubled last year from $2 to $4.

    This announcement comes on the heels of a report that was released in September by Executive Office of Elder Affairs and the Office of Disability studying the impacts of the July 2012 fare increases on seniors and persons with disabilities. The study found that the fare increase negatively impacted quality of life for many ride users and particularly for individuals with lower incomes. The study was authorized by an amendment to the FY2013 budget sponsored by Senator Brownsberger. You can read his post on the amendment here.

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

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