Category: Access-a-Ride

Tale of the Forgotten Cell Phone

On Wednesday, May 16, 2012, I realized after I had boarded my train that I left my cell phone at home.

I immediately jumped up, thinking I could catch my husband before he got too far…but to what aim? What could he do? He couldn’t go home and retrieve it before the train left, so I sat back down. Realization set in: I would be without communication until I reached work. Then panic set in. What was I going to do without my phone?

Now, this may seem like a minor dilemma, but I’ve come to rely so heavily on my phone that doing without it could nearly leave me stranded.

Let’s not focus on the fact that my phone is my entertainment for my one hour and fifteen minute train ride into Brooklyn. Not having my music and Twitter meant I was left looking dejectedly out the window until I eventually fell asleep.

Most important is what happens when I reach Brooklyn. The first thing I do is call the Access-A-Ride (AAR) service to get vehicle information for my ride to work, otherwise I can only guess at who or what may be picking me up. Sometimes the drivers call me first, which is even better. But without my phone, they wouldn’t be able to reach me. Maybe they’d even leave me! I needed to get to a phone.

Well, I tried using the payphones available at the station, figuring I wouldn’t need change for a toll free call. Wrong! No dial tone on any of the phones, and no change in my purse. And try getting change of $5 at a LIRR ticket window. “Sorry, no change, honey.” My frustration level is rising.

I had no other choice but to take a chance and see if I could figure out which vehicle was there for me. I went upstairs, went outside, and stood looking around to see if there were any cars or vans just sitting. After a few minutes, I noticed a green van sitting at the traffic light that didn’t move when the light turned green. I did my slow walk to the van, and asked before stepping off of the curb, “Are you Access-A-Ride?” He said yes. Yay!

Ok, this story is getting old fast. Long story short, the rest of the day went better. With a bit of foresight and planning, I was able to make arrangements for handling my afternoon ride and for meeting my husband. I will say that I spent part of the day sulking and depressed because I missed my phone. I missed my phone! I missed an inanimate object that has somehow become an extension of who I am, of how I stay connected, of how I stay informed, of how I communicate, of how I stay entertained, of how, apparently, I live my life. For an oldie like me, even as tech savvy as I think I am, this still amazes me.

Today I did NOT forget my cell phone. How do you think I’m writing this post? (With Pandora playing in the background).

Latest on the AAR Front

For those who know me in twittertopia, my dealings with New York City’s Access-A-Ride (AAR) service are legendary. Or at least well known. And it’s been sometime since I’ve blogged about my exploits. Things had settled somewhat, once I decided to have them take me between the Atlantic Avenue LIRR terminal in Brooklyn and my job in Manhattan.

Since my last post, AAR has done a few more things that are….indescribable. Why they make it so difficult for people with disabilities is unfathomable. I can’t even decide which adjectives to use to explain some of the things they’ve done.

AAR usually uses private paratransit bus companies with vehicles that are clearly marked as Access-A-Ride. Sometime either late last year or early this year, AAR contracted with a few limousine companies to provide service for AAR passengers. So, rather than AAR scheduling your trip with the paratransit company, YOU would have to schedule your trip with the limousine company.

Initially this worked out fine, because these companies were usually more reliable than the paratransit companies. However, somewhere along the way, AAR probably overburdened the limousine companies, who could no longer handle the load, and the service severely degraded. When I would call one company for a trip, they would say they were totally booked and couldn’t pick me up. Another company would schedule the trip, but then would be late, in two instances over an hour late, causing me to miss important meetings at work.

I guess they figured out the service wasn’t working after they got the results of a phone poll….I gave them extremely poor marks, and I guess everyone else did, too. They started making changes soon aftwards, but things still aren’t fantastic. On one extremely rainy night, I waited at my job TWO HOURS for a car that never showed. I eventually had to stand out in the rain, trying to catch a cab, which is extremely difficult near my job. Suffice it to say, I no longer use limousine service when it’s offered.

Things settled down for a short time, until about four months ago when AAR implemented their feeder service. That’s what they call it. Feeder service. Which really means: we’ll take you to a bus stop using the paratransit service, THEN, you have to take a bus to wherever you need to go. And by the way, we don’t really care where the bus stop is or how dark and lonely it is and whether you can walk the distance from where the bus lets you off to where you have to go……as long as we don’t use the paratransit service to take you where you need to go. And just so you know, you only have to pay one fare. We’re not monsters, after all.

So this led me to figure out another way to outsmart MTA. Although it wasn’t the best decision, it’s kept me from having to use public tranportation. Since they weren’t offering feeder service in the morning, I could still go to Brooklyn, but in the afternoons, I now go to Jamaica Queens to get the LIRR. Yes, this adds another one or more hours to my commute, but at least I’m not taking the bus.

But how long can she keep this up, you’re probably asking? Same question I asked myself. So, I finally gave in and wrote a long complaint to MTA. Figuring it was more of a rant than anything else, I felt better but didn’t expect any response, or at least I thought I’d get a standard response that wouldn’t go anywhere.

So I was extremely surprised when I received a phone call from Esther Oh of MTA Customer Service. Long story short, she helped me get things straightened out, and I finally had my recertification appointment on August 4th. Within a few weeks I hopefully won’t have anymore problems with AAR. </Hopefully. I’ll let you know how it goes.

NYC Access-A-Ride Kicks Disabled to the Curb!

Read this first before continuing, which explains the cuts that New York City Transit is instituting to their paratransit service: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/11/12/access-a-ride-cuts-affect-passengers/#comment-79591

According to this article, the Access-A-Ride (AAR) paratransit service cuts affect EVERYONE who uses the service who they have deemed to be “not disabled enough”. I have been using AAR service with no problems for 3 years, until I received a phone call on Wednesday, Nov. 11, on my way home from work. Prior to that date, I was on subscription service, where everyday I was picked up at the same time and location in Manhattan and taken directly to my place of work in Manhattan. Every afternoon, I would be picked up from work at the same time and taken back to where I started from.

As of Monday, Nov. 15, I will no longer have subscription service, AND, because my starting and ending points are within 5 blocks of an “accessible bus route”, I will probably have to begin taking a regular city bus. The problem, of course, is that I CANNOT WALK more than 5 blocks. AAR CLAIMS they looked at each person’s condition to make their determination, but they did not look at our CURRENT conditions to make these changes. Using old data obtained when people first applied for the service, they arbitrarily decided to enforce their “conditional eligibility” rules, without first determining whether our conditions had worsened since first obtaining the service. In addition, they did it with less than a week’s advance notice, and with no written communication. All we received was (1) a message on the AAR phone line, which didn’t indicate specifically who would be affected; and (2) a phone call from an uncaring person who basically said, “Don’t look for your ride on Monday because it won’t be there.”

If they had given us advance notice, I’m sure we would have at least had time to determine if we needed to be reassessed to determine if this change would be detrimental to us, however, they INTENTIONALLY did not inform us so they wouldn’t have to accommodate the many people who they essentially threw out of their system. I rely on the service to get to work, and now I may not be able to get to work because they have basically pulled the rug out from under me.

Here is a link to an AAR site that tries to justify their reasoning behind this change: http://www.mta.info/nyct/paratran/onthemove.htm. All this says to me is that their actions are APPALLING, and if Mayor Bloomberg is behind this so-called money-saving exercise, then I think he should expect a class action lawsuit because this action is against the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), regardless of AAR saying they are following its intent. Section 12143 of the ADA says the following about paratransit service:

“Sec. 12143. Paratransit as a complement to fixed route service

(a) General rule

It shall be considered discrimination for purposes of section 12132 of this title and section 794 of title 29 for a public entity which operates a fixed route system (other than a system which provides solely commuter bus service) to fail to provide with respect to the operations of its fixed route system, in accordance with this section, paratransit and other special transportation services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs that are sufficient to provide to such individuals a level of service

(1) which is comparable to the level of designated public transportation services provided to individuals without disabilities using such system; or

(2) in the case of response time, which is comparable, to the extent practicable, to the level of designated public transportation services provided to individuals without disabilities using such system.” Source: http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm#12141 (Bolded words are mine).

In New York City, public bus service is NOT comparable to the service provided by AAR. Has anyone ridden a New York City bus lately? I have, and it is HORRENDOUS.  It is unmanageable for anyone with a disability. Then add the compounded problems of walking to the bus, long waits with nowhere to sit, possibly not getting a seat once you are on the bus…this does not compare to paratransit service.

I would like to understand how AAR feels it can essentially eliminate service for disabled people in this way. Do they think they can get away with it? Are there any attorneys out there who would be willing to determine if the city can do what it is doing? Please help us out!!

Expect to see me shuffling along the streets of New York until the city decides to repeal this ridiculous policy. They can run the program less expensively without putting it on the backs of the disabled who use the service!