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Serious Woes with the East Valley Dial-A-Ride Paratransit Service in Arizona!

June 22, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The most frustrating and upsetting aspect to all these incidents is the complete lack of accountability shown by the provider of the service to customers and taxpayers. The attitude seems to be that, since we are disabled, there’s nothing we can do about the issues. All thoughts welcome in text format or by way of a call to the comment line at 206-350-6925.

June 22, 2005

Dear Rose, Annette, Andrew and Gary,

This afternoon, June 22, I had an ADA pick up from work booked for 14:00. As we all know, the allowable time window for ADA trips is 30 minutes, in this case running from 14:00 to 14:30. I wasn’t picked up till 14:51! That’s 21 minutes outside the allowable time window for ADA, and, actually, 6 minutes outside the 45 minute time window allowed for demand trips.

Calling your office at 14:07, Linda indicated the ETA was 14:30. Warning that it was the end of the time window, she refused to check with dispatch, saying only that EVDAR has the right to pick me up at the end of the time window. Fine…

At approx 14:34, I called back and got Linda again. At this point, I’m
feeling a bit upset. Karen had called at around 13:45 to get a 14:20 ETA. After that, I called at 14:07, so, in my mind, there was fair warning of the impending violation. I let Linda know that I would only pay the $1 rate for a demand trip, since the ADA time window and probably the demand time window was being violated. I was told that I would need to take it up with the driver and with Rose, the customer advocate. After I indicated that this approach does no good and Karen Hughes (my fiance) and I are still awaiting
tickets for the past five reported incidents, Linda told me it would be “another ten minutes” and proceeded to hang up on me.

At around 14:43, I called back and spoke with Debbie, who, finally checked with dispatch. It would be yet “another ten minutes”! She indicated that Rose was in the office, then transferred me to her voice mail. Calling back at around 14:50, I got Yvonne. Driver 214 pulled up at that time so we ended the call.

Getting on the van, I hand the driver only a $1 fare. She stands there for a minute or so (I could tell since I have a very minimal amount of sight) so I let her know that I am willing to pay only the demand fare for this trip, given that it was an ADA that was 21 minutes outside the time window and even 6 minutes outside that allowed for a demand trip.

As we rode home, the trip was mostly quiet, except that I attempted to probe the driver for some answers as to why I was picked up so late. She said “there was traffic and I was busy”. Asking for a bit more detail, such as the approximate location of her last drop off, (there’s always traffic and we’re all “busy”) she rudely said she wasn’t allowed to provide any details. The name of this driver now comes to mind. Her name is Cherry. She has always been relatively unfriendly toward customers, and, while working in the office last year due to some sort of injury, she was incredibly discourteous and incompetent.

After that unsuccessful conversation, Cherry apparently decided to talk about me on the radio. She called Jim Jackson, but decided better of it and told him to never mind, that the question was regarding the previous call. Apparently, Cherry’s computer terminal wasn’t working, as she seemed to be working from a printed manifest and was clearly using your old public UHF radio system.

I arrived home at around 15:10. Feeling a little suspicious, I decided to turn on the radio, where I hear the following conversation take place between Cherry (driver 214) and Jim Jackson:

Driver:

Please make a note that the passenger paid only $1.

Jim:

That was a $2 fare, Cherry.

Driver:

If you only knew what he was doing. Weren’t you listening?

Jim:

No. There’s no way we could hear anything. Why didn’t you turn on your camera?

Driver:

I couldn’t easily get to it; The passenger was still on the van.

Jim:

Darrell Shandrow is sight impaired, so he wouldn’t have known the
difference.

Driver:

Yes. He would have. He knows what he is doing.

There was no further response from Jim or Cherry. I did listen for
approximately another ten minutes.

There are a number of serious problems here, starting with the root cause of the incident.

  1. I was picked up 21 minutes outside the ADA time window. Seeking some sort of accountability in the form of payment of only the demand fare, I was turned down. I paid only $1 anyhow, but the situation turned a bit ugly.
  2. Realizing that the ETA was nearly out of bounds, no attempts were made to work proactively toward any possible resolution until my pick up was almost 45 minutes late. There was no proactive communication with dispatch and all requests for answers were outright refused.
  3. Linda was rude on the phone. I thought we got past this with the transition from Atlantic Paratransit to MV Transit. As the former customer advocate, she could be reasonably expected to know better. There’s absolutely no excuse for rudeness.
  4. The radio conversation between the driver and the dispatcher discussing and recommending a way to surreptitiously take advantage of my blindness was totally inappropriate and way over the lines of any sense of professionalism or common decency.

This afternoon I received a call from Rose, who transferred me to Andrew Higuera, the quality assurance manager. Andrew and I had a conversation lasting over half an hour about this incident. He promised me that the incident would be fully investigated and that he would contact me on Thursday or Friday at the very latest. I asked Andrew an interesting question, and got a worrisome answer. I asked him for the SLA (service level agreement) between customers and East Valley Dial-A-Ride. One part of a SLA covers the amount of time the company has to respond to a customer’s complaint and to completely close the incident. Andrew told me that East Valley Dial-A-Ride may take up to 24 hours to make an initial response and up to ten days to completely resolve and close the complaint! This SLA is the same as that for the Valley Metro fixed route bus system. Given the differences in the two services, I strongly feel that this SLA is not sufficiently strict, especially given the apparent attitude of RPTA’s outsourcing partner (MV Transit) when it comes to serving people with disabilities in a dignified professional manner.

As part of a thread of e-mail correspondence between Karen, myself and
Annette fritz, the following language was used by your former operations manager, Joe Stanley:

I apologize for getting you to work late today. We work at providing the best transportation service possible to our customers. We are fully aware of the effect we have on the quality of life for our passengers. The MV slogan “We Provide Freedom” illustrates this. Your assessment of this morning’s ride is correct. We did have our driver going back and forth rather than driving an efficient route. We recognize that “shared ride” can tend to increase trip duration and have already “tweaked” some of the system parameters to battle this. We will continue this process until we find the correct set that allows our scheduling system to do what we and our passengers need.
An early step in that process is to begin work on the Subscription (Standing Ride) Templates. These Templates provide the base for all rides. The change in the base location dictates a massive re-tooling of these Templates. We were reluctant to do this large project right at the changeover because we wanted to keep the transition as smooth as possible. Your situation shows we cannot wait any longer.
I spoke with you today and you agreed to the plan that I think will get you to work on time. We will monitor this grouping closely to be sure it is working for you. If not, we will immediately make adjustments to fix the problem. Our contract with Valley Metro RPTA is performance based so it is in our best interest to be on time as much as our passengers. We will send 96 tickets for these past two incidents. We are confident, however, that this type of incident will rarely, if ever, happen again. As I mentioned above, we have already made some changes to the scheduling parameters and will make more. We feel the changes will have a positive effect on people’s experience with the East Valley Dial-A-Ride. We already have done training classes on Customer Service and plan to have more. We are also looking to raise the skills of our dispatchers and reservationists. We have in place report cards for our reservationists and a phone monitoring system that measures both the number of calls in the queue and how long. The reservationists are aware of our goals and will be reminded often. We will continue to improve our service. We want everyone’s experience with East Valley Dial-A-Ride to be a good one. We need input from everyone to improve our service. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.

Respectfully,

Joe Stanley

Dial A Ride Operations Manager

Unfortunately, over the six months since MV Transit has been running East Valley Dial-A-Ride, our true experience has been that things are no different than the past contractors. An apparent poor attitude seems to exist, in general, toward the customers (people with disabilities and senior citizens) concerning our needs to be treated with the same dignity, respect and overall professionalism as those who do not require specialized paratransit service. We are both customers and taxpayers. We help fund the service both by paying our fares and through the sales taxes levied on most local purchases. We expect a level of treatment that is consistent with our status as full human beings and first class citizens, possessing all the rights and obligations that status entails. We do understand that things aren’t always going to be perfect. In those cases, all we ask is that you hold yourselves reasonably accountable to us and provide intelligent answers and explanations for any issues. An incident like this will result anytime we are not receiving this reasonable level of treatment.

Sincerely,

Darrell Shandrow – Shandrow Communications!

Technology consultant/instructor, network/systems administrator!

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One opinion on “Serious Woes with the East Valley Dial-A-Ride Paratransit Service in Arizona!

  1. I agree with you hole heartedly darrel. This is exactly why i stopped using phoenix dail a ride. It was too trouble some and they offten showed up late at outragous times and when you called in to complain. no one got held accountable for anything. thanks for fighting the fight for all blind, it is appreciated.

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