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Valley Transit Service Reductions Hit Disabled Hard

July 24, 2010 • Darrell Shandrow

This enterprise story was recently published on a local Phoenix-area news website.

Going to work, getting an education, visiting friends and relatives and other activities could be severely cut for disabled valley residents when July transit services reductions go into effect.

Transit officials said the service cuts are necessary due to declining city sales tax revenue and a loss of state funding.

“The state Legislature repealed the Local Transportation Assistance Funds in March,” said Bryan Jungwirth, chief of staff with the Regional Public Transportation Authority. “We’ve become one of five states that no longer provide funding for public transportation at the state level. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii.”

Susan Tierney, RPTA’s public information officer, said the loss of the $22 million from the state funds, which came from lottery proceeds, hits some Valley communities particularly hard.

“The state took away a funding source we had for 30 years,” Tierney said. “So, what happens is that anyone who was using these funds for operations is impacted immediately. The city of Chandler doesn’t have a dedicated funding source, so they were relying on this money to support transit.”

“We’re concerned that cities like Chandler and rural communities like Yuma may be forced to completely shut down their transit services due to the loss of these funds,” Tierney said.

Tierney said the service cuts include fewer bus and light rail trips each day, reduced service hours for the entire transit system, the elimination of some bus routes and significant restrictions on the availability of Dial-A-Ride, a paratransit system that transports people with disabilities and senior citizens who are not able to ride the bus.

She said Dial-A-Ride served nearly 11,500 Maricopa County residents with disabilities in 2009.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that we provide door-to-door transportation to people who are unable to ride the bus whenever they live within three quarters of a mile of an existing route,” Tierney said. “We must respond to funding cuts by readjusting Dial-A-Ride as our other services are reduced.”

According to a 2009 transit performance report, providing Dial-A-Ride service comes at a steep price. Each trip taken on Dial-A-Ride costs $36.44 as compared to $4.49 for a ride on the bus.

David Carey, advocacy specialist with Arizona Bridge to Independent Living, said Phoenix will implement cuts and restrictions to Dial-A-Ride on July 26.

“We’re losing two hours of service from 10 p.m. to midnight,” Carey said. “Senior citizens without disabilities are no longer able to use Dial-A-Ride and we’re also no longer allowed to choose to go somewhere whenever we want because we must now make reservations at least 24 hours in advance.”

Carey said using Dial-A-Ride is challenging enough without these new cuts.

“Suppose you have a doctor’s appointment, but they’re behind schedule and you’re not seen for a couple of hours,” Carey said. “You allowed two and a half hours for this appointment, but your ride arrives before you are finished. Now, either you have to leave before your business is done or you’re just stuck without a ride home. You can’t just call Dial-A-Ride and ask them to pick you up later.”

Donna Powers, senior program coordinator with the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, said the reductions in bus and light rail service will greatly extend her daily work commute and aggravate a spinal cord injury that makes it dangerous for her to travel long distances outdoors.

“Part of the spinal cord injury is the inability to control internal body temperature,” she said. “When it’s over 100 degrees, it becomes a life-threatening event to have to travel a far distance.”

She said three seemingly minor changes will turn her 50-minute commute from Tempe to her office near 50th and Washington streets in Phoenix into a trip lasting at least an hour and a half.

“They’re proposing changing the frequency of the No. 81 from 15 minutes to 20 minutes, but it’s not exactly the most timely route so it’ll probably be more like 30 minutes,” Powers said. “This is going to delay my transfer to the light rail, which is also reducing in frequency from 10 to 12 minutes. If I’m really lucky and I make every connection, I have an 8-minute wait to catch my last bus. That’s going to blow everything out of the water because they’re proposing that the frequency of the No. 1 change from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.”

She said the presence of the light-rail route alongside the No. 1 doesn’t help because the stops are too far apart.

She said she wouldn’t trust Dial-A-Ride as an alternative to make it to work on time.

“In this case it’s not consistent,” Powers said. “I may get to work on time one day, be 25 minutes late the next day and get there 30 minutes early the next.”

Tierney said a good public transit system is a key part of any vital metropolitan area.

“Only about 25 percent of the funding for transit, on average, comes out of the fare box,” she said. “The rest of it is subsidized by local sales taxes and state funding just like other critical services such as the fire and police departments. You may never use it, but many in the community need it in order to get to jobs, school and medical appointments.”

Phoenix Area Dial-A-Ride Fares Increase on July 1, 2009

May 26, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow

We have been asked by a Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) official to post the following important announcement concerning fare increases for Dial-A-Ride customers in the greater Phoenix area.

  • 602.253.5000
  • TTY 602.261.8208

Due to tax revenue shortfalls and increased operating costs, fares will increase on July 1. The new fare structure is designed to maintain transit service at levels that Valley residents need, although service cuts may continue to occur with the ongoing decline in sales tax revenues. Sales taxes provide a majority of the funding for bus and light rail service.

New East Valley ADA Paratransit Fares



Why have fares increased?

Valley Metro’s funding is based primarily on sales tax revenue. Since people are not buying as much in this economy, sales tax revenues for transit have declined by millions of dollars. At the same time, the cost to provide transit service is continuously rising.

How does this affect Dial-a-Ride fares?

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Paratransit Dial-a-Ride fares must keep pace with the bus/light rail fares. In the East Valley, the ADA Dial-a-Ride fares are $2.50 beginning July 1, 2009 with an increase of $.50 each July 1 thereafter until the ADA fare reaches $3.50. Please note that non-ADA fares for East Valley Dial-a-Ride are not increasing. In Phoenix, ADA Paratransit Dial-a-Ride fares will be two times the local bus fare or $3.50. For seniors and persons with disabilities using non-ADA services, fares are changing as follows: $1.50 to $2.50 for same day/first zone fare and $.50 to $1.50 for same day/each additional zone. For other city Dial-a-Ride fares, please contact your local Dial-a-Ride provider for specific changes to their fares. For your local Dial-a-Ride provider, visit or call 602.253.5000.

Dial-A-Ride: Melissa – The right way to do business!

April 3, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow
April 3, 2008
Dear Christine,
This message has been copied to Gary Bretz (RPTA), Karen Shandrow and Karl Stephens (city of Tempe ADA coordinator) for their review.  It represents an example of a happy contrast to the incident that took place on Easter Sunday.
At 11:23 this morning, I contacted your call center to arrange and cancel several trips for Karen and myself.  Melissa took the call.  Her attitude was professional and respectful throughout the transaction.  She was accomodating and empathetic, exploring options and making some practical adjustments for a couple of pickup times that were particularly adverse.  Melissa was accountable and proficient, admitting a couple of times her trainee status and asking questions of others, resulting in a couple of actions that delivered us a better experience than we might have had otherwise.  We couldn’t get everything exactly the way we would have liked to have it, but, frankly, that’s not exactly the point.  The important factor is that Melissa performed her job to the best of her ability, asked questions of co-workers when she needed assistance and took actions in the customer’s best interests whenever doing so was practical.  Karen has just arrived at home, and she agrees regarding Melissa’s professionalism.
Whenever we do business with anyone, including East Valley Dial-A-Ride, we expect the people to act in accountable and professional ways at all times.  The job performance of people like Alecia and Melissa, among others, represent solid examples of the things that are right about Dial-A-Ride.  We’d just like to see your organization doing more of these good things, and less of the bad.  Providing needed support, ensuring all employees receive and understand solid customer service oriented training, reinforcing positive actions and stamping out negative behaviors would go a very long way toward reaching a goal of accountable, courteous, dignified and professional service toward the taxpaying citizens with disabilities of the cities in the East Valley Dial-A-Ride coverage area.  It isn’t necessarily a matter of just “getting our way” but rather one of empathizing with the needs of your customers and treating them with respect and professionalism during all transactions.  I will always accept nothing less than this kind of treatment from anyone on your staff.
Best regards,
Darrell Shandrow
Accessibility Evangelist
Categories: Dial-a-Ride, Paratransit

Dial-A-Ride: Donna – "My job is not worth satisfying you"…

March 23, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow
March 23, 2008
Dear Christine:
Copies of this electronic correspondence have been shared with Karen Shandrow (my wife and the passenger about which the call in question was made), Gary Bretz (RPTA), Karl Stephens (City of Tempe ADA Coordinator) and the readers of the Blind Access Journal.
I called your reservations center at approximately 10:30 this morning, March 23.  After a couple of disconnected attempts, Donna picked up the line.  Karen had just found out that they wanted people to leave a half hour earlier today for Easter.  The purpose of my call was to find out what options may be available to have her picked up at 5:00 instead of 5:30 given the situation at hand.
Donna placed me on hold, came back and indicated there were no options for making this change.  In accordance with past dealings with Donna (she’s relatively new and her attitude and competency are definitely on the low end of the scale), I asked to speak with the dispatcher.  Failing that, I asked to speak with Donna’s supervisor.  In both instances, Donna said she was unwilling to connect me with dispatch.  When asking for a person who was in direct supervision of her activities today, she cold transferred me to the customer advocate’s voice mail.  I called Donna back.  She indicated that there were only two reservationists and one dispatcher in the office today.  I asked Donna who was dispatching today and, after some hesitancy, she indicated it was Alecia.  Since there was obviously nobody in charge of her today, I asked once again to communicate with dispatch, since that’s apparently the closest resource on hand to a manager.  Donna refused once again by making the following statement:
“My job is not worth satisfying you”…
After this, I put the phone system to resourceful use by directly reaching Alecia.  Alecia indicated to me that, in fact, she had not told Donna there were no options at all.  Instead, she said she’d had trouble changing things with Pony Express in the past, that sometimes it resulted in no pickup at all and that she’d told Donna to schedule Karen for a 5:00 demand pickup on a regular Dial-A-Ride van.  Of course, this makes sense, and it makes sense that the new reservation would be a demand trip in accordance with RPTA policies, but, no, Donna couldn’t be bothered to execute this part of her job at all.
There are four points below, each of which I expect to receive a clear answer:
1. Why is there no direct supervision of staff on evenings and weekends?
2. What is going to be done about the statement: “My job is not worth satisfying you”?
3. What are the consequences for a reservationist’s lying about the available options from dispatch and failing to complete the job?
4. Why would it be acceptable to cold transfer a customer to someone else, claiming it is a manager when it is just the customer advocate who is obviously off duty?
I anticipate an appropriate written response to this letter on the part of someone in a management capacity at RPTA and/or Veolia Transportation no later than the end of business on Wednesday, March 26.  A telephone call is always welcome as well, so long as it is properly accompanied by the requested written response.  The activities of Veolia’s employees are clearly at issue this time.  A statement like “my job is not worth satisfying you” clearly speaks to an employee attitude that negatively impacts the quality of service Dial-A-Ride provides to its customers and, ultimately, to the taxpayers of the cities within its coverage area.
Best regards and happy Easter,
Darrell Shandrow – Accessibility Evangelist
Categories: Dial-a-Ride, Paratransit

Alert: Maricopa County Regional Dial-A-Ride Online Survey

January 24, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow

We urge all blind and visually impaired people living in Maricopa County to complete this Dial-a-Ride Paratransit Study online survey right away. There may be important policy changes made to Dial-a-Ride based on this ongoing study. As consumers and taxpayers, we must provide the critical input necessary to protect the services we need to receive in order to fully participate in society on terms of equality with the sighted.

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